San Francisco
In the Ancient Britstlecone Pine Forest in 2004 (with Marie in my carrier!)

In the Ancient Britstlecone Pine Forest in 2004 (with Marie in my carrier!)

In the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Today we did what vacations are (also) made for – hanging out. Here in Bodega Bay, the coast is wonderfully wild and mostly empty of tourists. Our cute rental cottage overlooks Salmon Creek, and from there the dunes stretching to beach. If it wasn’t so incredibly windy, we would hike or enjoy our lovely backyard. Instead we spent a lazy morning reading (Marie), writing (Hannah) or even napping (me) in the warm, cosy living-room with the large bay window. Later in the afternoon we drove around, had some clam chowder by the Bodega Bay Marina, and even tried to hike until the fiercely cold wind forced us to turn back.

We are here for four days, the longest stop of our 2.5-week holidays in California. As Marie wrote, we are going back to places we liked during our previous sabbatical eight years ago. We were also blessed to visit with old friends and even to stay at Matthias’ prof Greg and his wife Mary. Matthias had spent seven years in Berkeley before graduating in 1993 and moving to Switzerland. In 2004, he had immensely enjoyed taking us to his favorite forests, beaches, hikes, national parks – and of course introducing us to his friends -, just like I am doing now with the girls.

Would we have come here now with Matthias? Most certainly. I suppose we would have driven the 20 hours from Santa Fe instead of flying to San Francisco, as I chose to do with the girls. But just like we did, we would quite certainly have spent a day in San Francisco, visited Yosemite National Park, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and Mono Lake in the Sierra Nevada, hiked on Point Reyes (my favorite spot eight years ago), and then headed south towards Monterey Bay and Los Angeles, which the girls and I will do tomorrow.

This trip is not just a pilgrimage or to remember happy days. Hannah, Marie and I visit forests or make a detour to birdwatching spots because we too like trees and birds. We also chose to discover new places, not just those that we enjoyed as an intact family. When he left, Matthias entrusted me with our daughters, not only for me to keep them safe and healthy, but so that they keep growing strong, and curious of people and of the world. This is why we’ve travelled all those years.

And finally, this trip is about healing. I believe it prepares us for our next, probably more painful trip, back home, in Switzerland, where so many more people and places will remind us of Matthias. Visiting our old friends John and Jill in Vancouver last month, or Greg and Mary last week was like a dress rehearsal of what it will be to face many other friends and relatives for the first time since last fall.

So let’s take the elephant out of the room: this vacation tastes bittersweet. Sometimes genuinely sweet and almost « normal », sometimes very bitter.  I miss Matthias every minute. Sometimes his absence only hurts at the back of my mind, but mostly it is right there, in plain sight. When we listen to Amy McDonald’s « Life in a beautiful light », his last favorite CD. When we hike between his beloved redwoods. Or when at the turn of the road, we are struck by the amazing beauty of white pelicans feeding on the surf. But, yes, we are doing as fine as possible under the circumstances, and improving almost every day.

A few months ago, I would not have been able to do this trip, here in California. I am filled with hope and feel very grateful that we could take this trip. Time is healing, even if we only realize it when we look back.

Michèle

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