It was an amazing day. A day of sunshine and verdant spring fields that rolled up toward the azure sky and then swooped down into the slate blue waters of the Pacific. Cows wearing their black and white spotted coats, grazed lazily on the grass that was insanely green from the rain from earlier in the week. A few fields over, a dozen Tule elk stood with their backs to the ocean. They were all lady elk – no antlers in the group – and as we passed, Bella sang “All the Single Ladies” to them.
It was but one of more than a dozen songs she hummed, whistled, and sang throughout our sojourn to San Francisco, a drive up the coast, and then two days at Point Reyes. Walking around in the Mission in the rain (lyrics she doesn’t know, otherwise she’d have been singing them, too) never dulled her enthusiasm. In shop after shop, we stowed our sopping umbrellas in buckets by the front door, and I stood a bit too warm and very soggy, as she tried on clothes. She came out of dressings rooms beaming, laughed at socks with funny artwork, and oohed at beautiful jewelry. While I was impatient with the group of frat bros in front of us at Tartine – a place so popular that even the rain couldn’t keep the line down – who nabbed a table way before it was their turn, Bella said they weren’t so bad; after all, they were singing and might even be part of an acapella group. She was adventurous – game for the Korean spa, amused to have crushed cucumber on her face and an unexpected dousing of milk. She tried pea shoots and dumplings and laughed at the intense smell of pot wafting through Amoeba records. She encouraged me to get new boots, telling me how good they looked and thanked me every night before we went to bed for the day we’d just shared.
I was thrilled that when we arrived up north at Pt. Reyes, we were greeted by blue skies and sunshine. The park graced us not only with elk but with an elephant seal who reared up from a bed of weeds near the parking lot, starling and thrilling us. A bobcat stood in a field and when we slowed the car, he turned and stared at us. On another road, a coyote walked along the shoulder, turning to peer at us before disappearing into the darkening woods.
On our last night in the park, we took a makeshift dinner down to the beach and sat on a dune so that we had a little perch. Bella made her way down to the water and was doing her funny dances and funny walks – she’d been doing this sort of penguin walk throughout the trip and it always made me laugh. The dancing was just a continuation of what she’s been doing since she could walk. Graceful and strong – I love to watch her move. Music lives in her body, whether there’s an actual melody in earshot or the endless soundtrack that pulses through her.
As she moved, I saw the continuation of who she has been on every beach we’ve visited in these fourteen years together. From that first beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida when I was pregnant with Tobey, to a few years later when she and her brother bolted naked onto the beach outside Kathy’s house in Malibu. From the sweet white sands in Michigan where she and her friend Zoe pranced, to Mexico where she bobbed in the warm water before plunging back into the pool with Tobey. Each time more elegant than the last, and yet with a sweet openness to the world and an unabashed silliness that life’s various losses and mean spots have not squelched.
Tears rose suddenly and I gulped for air, the salt water on my cheeks an echo of the sea in front of me. I’ve known this girl, this woman for lifetimes. I’ve felt this way before – that Bella and I are travelers who are meeting not for the first time. In that moment on Limantour Beach, a little before we spied the seals, their black bodies darting through the surf, and before a pod of whales graced the horizon, I was again reminded of this deep knowledge of our ongoing voyage. What a privilege. What a beautiful privilege to share my life with such a grace-filled woman.
People keep telling me with a sense of doom in their voices – Appreciate every moment. She’ll be gone in a blink of an eye. True in a sense, yes, but really, she’ll never leave me and I’ll never leave her. There is an intricate weaving of our two lives that goes on and on, singing into the ultimate future.