The Restorative Powers of Getting Away

Gentle Reader, While I’m closeted writing a novel I hope you’ll enjoy reading, it’s been suggested I post pieces from earlier years … years when I was freshly widowed, living in or near L.A. with my dog, waiting for Bill to appear. Do please bear with me!

A View from 15 years ago: Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cakes (my maybe-a-year-and-a-half-old bichon-poodle angel of a rescue) and I just returned from six days on the road.

Our friend Danielle joined us, and we not only had a marvelous time damn near every minute, but to my amazement, when I landed back in LA, I felt an astonishing surge of happiness. It was as though the break blew out all the clouds glooming about in my head. It was the more amazing because I came home to my mother having an anxiety attack and my apartment recuperating from a terrible flood….

Cheery me, neither fazed me. All because I got away.

Last Wednesday, we drove up to Sonoma. For lunch, we stopped in a shady spot along highway 5 and made ham sandwiches French style (Danielle is from French Morocco) … crusty rolls I’d picked up at Emil’s bakery at 9 am … Black Forest ham, sliced cornichons, butter. I can’t be sure, but I may never use mustard instead of butter on a ham sandwich again. We stayed in a little cottage by a pear orchard (it’s called Pomegranate Cottage when, I think, it should be Pear Cottage), had our supper al fresco — Danielle brought a delicious wild rice/vegetable salad and a beet rapée (fine strands of raw peeled young organic beets, mild vinaigrette, minced dill — how come when I love carrot rapée as much as any salad on earth, I’ve never known about making it with beets?), Spanish red wine, and for dessert, my bar cookies (July 22nd entry—they really are longkeeping, delicious).

Thursday, over to Santa Rosa to pick up my cherished friend Norah. We drove up to Healdsburg, picnicked in the town park. We sat on a bench under a gazebo and ate off enameled tin plates dear friends Susan and Bob gave Gene and me a hundred years ago … salad of mixed greens with the rest of the ham and beets, plus niçoise olives, batons of cheddar, small chunks of apple. Dessert was enormous dark cherries from the plushy Sonoma Market. As much as I’ve been in the Sonoma Valley, I’d never been up to Healdsburg. We drove along Dry Creek Road with its carpets of vineyards flung over the hills, small wineries tucked away, banks of wildflowers. Mad for that part of the world.

After returning Norah, we drove to the coast across lush Marin dairyland to delightful Point Reyes Station. Near there, friends have one of the most beautiful houses I’ve ever been in, Japanese-inspired, remote, silent … the kitchen window looks out on wetlands and a creek running to Tomales Bay. Our friends gave us a splendid supper of roast chicken, risotto, and luscious yellow and white peaches splashed with Prosecco….

Next morning, our friends were off for the weekend, we lucky enough to house sit. For lunch came dear Hildy up from Tiburon and I served us Paula Wolfert’s incomparable oven-baked polenta (“The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen” — go thou and do likewise!) topped with a ragout of mushrooms (fresh shiitakes and dried chanterelles, porcini, morels, a thread of truffle oil). Shorty’s produce at Tomales Bay Food Company in Point Reyes Station provided the shiitakes and superb red and red and green heirloom tomatoes I sliced — there is no better way to present them, yes? — as well as organic spinach and basil for a small salad. Cowgirl Creamery’s nettle wrapped St Pat’s cheese (made right there in a corner of the market) and country bread that was warm when Danielle picked it up came before Shorty’s divine Brown Turkey figs for dessert.

For supper, my Coastie grandson Stuart brought us oysters fresh from up the road at Marshall—Hog Island oysters. I can’t remember what else we ate….

Saturday we drove down Shoreline Highway, California Route 1 — as rapturous a drive with its ocean and redwoods and oaks and wildflowers as Big Sur, I think — to Mill Valley to visit my dear sister-in-law and her family. Corinne made us a glorious fresh fruit cup (every fruit she could think of) and a green salad, perfect on a hot summer day. Then back to Point Reyes, this time cutting over the mountain through Mt. Tamalpais State Park and its deep redwood forest. For supper, I’d brought along Trader Joe’s lemon pepper pappardelle and I dressed it with capers (wild organic Mediterranean capers oh my), pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Spanish olive oil. (I find myself reaching for the more robust Spanish and Greek oils these days, rather than delicate French and Italian, interesting how one’s palate changes.) Sweet watermelon for dessert.

Um, Sunday morning we made French toast with the remains of the great bread from the day before … Hildy had brought us raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries and we heaped them over the toast. Then off to visit a friend of Danielle’s for coffee and superb French pastries … on to Soquel and my daughter Dinah’s for dinner and the night. My dear son-in-law Gary made us spaghetti with a creamy scallop and shrimp sauce, roasted asparagus, and twelve minutes later, we fell into bed.

Yesterday, time to come home, but Dinah gave us marvelous Italian coffee in thermi (mine was still hot when I unpacked). For lunch we stopped in San Luis Obispo to meet my Cal Poly grandson Weston … I had a cheeseburger, my first since I came home from India a vegetarian. Then, driving down Highway 101, more of my blessed California, oaks and golden grain and vineyards and dark blue sea, back to the real world.

But, as I say, with the leisure to cook and eat and sit quietly and not answer the phone or turn on the television, to look out the window and soak up some of the most magnificent scenery on the planet, I was ready.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • John Matusik
    June 24, 2024 7:19 pm

    Darling it was the real world. Had we yet met in 2009? I think not.
    I see the real you in those words. I know of many of your gifts in those words.
    “Look out the window and soak up some of the most magnificent scenery on the planet”


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