26 January, 2009

Woebegone day

For every day spun from the silk of perfection, there is a disporportionately large and opposite disaster. Friday night my sleep was punctuated by waking moments; congestion didn't help, and at 5 AM i slipped quietly from my host's house and began walking. Walking in the predawn was pleasant - surf crashed on lovers' point in Pacific Grove, but as dawn came in Monterey the pack grew heavy. I kept trying to thumb a ride unsuccessfully, and the buses weren't running this early. I did run into Ethan, headed back to Asilomar on his bike for the closing session of Eco-Farm.

Seven heavy miles later i reached Monterey airport. That's when things began to turn: a dour woman behind the Budget Rent-a-Car desk informed me that without a credit card, she couldn't honor my reservation. At Enterprise, next desk over, a young man hooked me up with an Impala - but at over twice the price i'd planned on. Dropping off at a different location carried a hefty $100 fee.

Stinging from the $250 car rental (instead of $108), i drove south on California Highway 1. The Carmel Highlands rose abrupt behind low, clay-tiled roofs, and low clouds cast each fold and peak into relief. I drove until i reached Garrapata State Park. Sage grew between the highway and the rocks, and paintbrush and white alyssum were in bloom. An older fellow on a bicycle - pack, sleeping bag, and all, headed from Tucson to Canada - said he hadn't seen any trailheads. But i found one, and set off up the brushy hills. The air smelled of sage; lupine grew here and there. A few Eschscholzia - California poppies - held their blooms closed, bright egg-yolk-yellow against silver-blue foliage.

Somewhere along the trail i lost my eyeglasses. I didn't know whether i set them down and forgot them, or if they fell out of my pocket. All i knew was they were gone, and i walked up and down a steep stretch of trail three times searching for them without luck. That was just disheartening.

I drove back to Asilomar and picked up Ethan; together we made our way north to Watsonville. The highway past Sand City was lined with fields - thousands of acres of artichokes, strawberries, and bare, dark, earth waiting to be planted. Ethan read aloud the stark poetry of Jimmy Santiago Baca, and we passed the huge smokestacks of the Moss Landing power plant. Finally we found our way to Live Earth Farm.

Our hostess, Taylor, was an apprentice at the farm. With 46 acres, plus additional leased fields around Watsonville, the farm supports a 300 member winter CSA which grows to 700 members during the summer months. Since it was Taylor's birthday, we joined her for a trip to Santa Cruz. Packing a blanket and some beers, we sat on the beach and listened to the waves. Around 9:30 Arminda, a former apprentice from Live Earth, met us for sushi. By then i was poor company; the head cold was at its finest, and all i wanted to do was sleep. My sense of adventure was gone, robbed by weariness, the tension of driving a rental car without glasses and having such difficulty reading directional signs. Arminda, Taylor, and Ethan headed to a lounge for hip-hop, but i bailed and headed back to the farm, blasting the "Slumdog Millionaire" soundtrack to stay alert. Road signs were barely intelligible. I missed the Watsonville exit, and didn't realize it until the towers of Moss Landing rose, studded with lights among the dark fields. I wanted to stop and take a photograph, but exhaustion overcame any sense of journalism. When at last i unrolled the borrowed sleeping bag, i was shivering.