New Year's Eve

On New Year's Eve I was in Montara, California, 35 minutes south of San Francisco on Highway 1. My family — my mom and stepdad; my sister Sarah and her husband Nathan; my sister Heather and her long-time boyfriend Rob; and me and my husband Brian — gathered together at a lighthouse hostel for five days of post-Christmas holiday time.

The day started with a trip to Muir Woods — the redwood forest just north of San Francisco most famous for its cameo in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. These are the woods where Kim Novak shows Jimmy Stewart her birth and death on the rings of a cross-section of redwood tree, speaking in a dreamy, possessed-by-Carlotta-Valdes voice.

The eight of us hiked a three- or four-mile trail through the woods, up a mountain, and back into the valley next to a creek where salmon migrate. We were surrounded by thousand year-old trees, any one of which could have housed gnomes or fairies if this were another world. Some of these might have been homes to Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. Muir Woods is where George Lucas filmed the Endor scenes.

The greens, the reds, the browns, the age and majesty of these giants left me speechless. It looked like a fairy tale. It was the kind of place that makes you wish you were a little kid or a princess or a little girl pretending to be a princess. It's the kind of place that makes you want to move there and be nearby and walk here often and always and with your children who haven't been born yet or even thought about seriously but if they did exist, or when they do, they need to see this place and this beauty, and so do you. It was the kind of day that makes you wonder about people who don't like to hike or don't like "the outdoors." Is it possible that those people really exist? And if they came here and saw these trees and breathed this air, — the fresh, fragrant, crisp, clean air — would they feel the same?

I enjoy hiking or group-walking like we did that day because it's beautiful and exciting and also because it offers a chance for personal and varied conversation. As we walked, our large group would split into smaller groups and some would lag behind a little and some would pull a little ahead always to reconvene, rearrange, and redisperse. This happened every quarter-mile or so. I loved this because it gave me a chance to have in-depth conversations with my sisters, one at a time and together, and with my mother and with everyone in our party in every permutation without another person in the hearing distance but with everyone in sight. Walking together, in my experience, lends itself to getting past small talk and into meaningful conversations. From reminiscing about old memories to dreams for the future to regrets and hardships, I talked about everything as I walked in the woods that day.

As night fell and midnight approached, we found ourselves back at the lighthouse ready to implement our mildly illicit plan. Ever since we started talking about this trip a year ago, we had talked about ringing in the New Year with a bonfire on the beach. But once we arrived at the hostel, we noticed some prominently rules: (1) You can't be on the beach after dark. (2) You can't have an open fire anywhere on the grounds. (3) You can't have alcohol at any hostel in the United States.

Sarah had some second thoughts. She has some trouble with willfully breaking rules. Luckily the rest of us don't. At 11:20 we gathered our six bottles of champagne and our firewood and walked down to the beach. The fire was ablaze in minutes and the bar was officially opened. We counted down to midnight, toasted, kissed, and sang Auld Lang Syne in harmony. We each shared our best memory of 2006 and some resolutions, if we had them, for 2007. Then we played a moonlit and champagne-lit game of charades before heading to bed.

I have a friend who says that New Year's Day should set the tone for the whole year. She usually goes swimming at Coney Island on New Year's Day when the average temperature in New York City is below freezing. I think the idea is that she wants to spend the rest of the year being brave and adventurous and a little death-defying; not that she wants to spend the whole year in her bathing suit with Russian members of the Polar Bear Club.

I spent New Year's Day from 7 a.m. until after midnight in airports and on airplanes. Needless to say that is not how I want to spend my year. But if I could use my New Year's Eve as my marker for the year to come, it will be a wonderful year full of natural splendor, deep and affectionate conversation, daring and jovial celebrations, and time with loved ones. I could deal with that kind of a year.


Blogger activated charcoal said...

Is Bobby making an ewok-face or is he making a normal Bobby-face?
(Oh god! Are they both the same face?)

10:30 PM  
Blogger activated charcoal said...

Also- spending the year in airports and on airplanes is not necessarily a bad thing.

I was going to say something about what it portends for you- but I suppose you could spend 2007 taking me to and from the airport!

Pre-shoe/hair gel bomber airports were among my favorite places. I like the city-in-a-building feel to them (and the art and architecture each city puts into the only part of it many travelers will ever see) I liked sleeping on floors during ridiculous layovers, talking to the people with whom I shared a destination, carrying luggage, playing cards, but mostly the anticipation.

The tired, sunburnt, hungover return trip is almost as good, feels like accomplishment.

There is also something to be said for the 24-hourishness of them. When I was in high school, my friends and I would drive out to CVG at 3am, simply for lack of any better activity.

Of course, for all of my romanticizing, airports often disappoint when I am actually IN them.

You and Brian should go to Croatia.

10:50 PM  
Blogger The Wifest said...

I think Bobby was making a gnome face actually. He did carry that walking stick around all day. It was no mere prop.


9:21 AM  
Blogger sooprgrll said...

I'm glad you had such a wonderful and meaningful vacation. I also hope that you did thorough and regular tick checks!

11:37 AM  
Blogger activated charcoal said...


6:17 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home