Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day 1: There Are No Bears

[Note: Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting what are basically journal entries from my road-trip-honeymoon with Emily. This series is tentatively titled "Notes on a Honeymoon; or, Notes on Marriage From a Dude Who Got Married About A Month Ago." Enjoy.]

I need to preface this first entry: I am afraid of bears. Two years ago, Emily and I camped in a forest in Florida. The campsite was what they call "primitive": a semi-cleared patch of dirt around a stone fire-pit. No running water, no toilets. It was wet--rainy and foggy and damp--and we couldn't get a fire going. By nightfall, I was so scared of bears that I made us eat dinner in the car, then change our clothes before entering the tent so the dinner-smell wouldn't come with us and attract unwanted attention from animals. I know this sounds insane. It was. I knew it was insane at the time, and I know it now, but it happened. It could happen again.

It's only a few miles drive north of the Golden Gate Bridge before northern California looks like any other rural place in middle America--only the crops are different. Here, people grow wine, and apples. They graze cows. Elsewhere, they grow corn, or cotton, but the land looks basically the same from a car: cleared space and a few trees to mark property lines, a winding two lane road ahead, intermittent service on my phone. For each mile we drove away from San Francisco I felt remoteness gathering around us, like fog, or darkness, which sounds scary, and is not the way a camping vacation is usually conceptualized by anyone sane, but, as I explained earlier, I am afraid of bears. Somewhere in the remoteness, there are always bears.

Over drinks on Friday, John told me that couples sometimes experience a let-down after their marriage. The marriage (and associated receptions, parties, etc) is so intensely euphoric that returning to real life causes minor depression. But, he said, a honeymoon can help as a kind of buffer between the overwhelming happiness of the marriage party and real life. Let's hope so. The party on Saturday after the wedding was surreal, something like the best case scenario of a paranoid dream: everyone is watching you, everyone is talking about you, but it's ok--really, it's unbelievably great--because everyone is saying something earnest and heartfelt and nice about you.

On the drive, we talked. We agreed that Saturday night was the best night of our lives. I commented that the surreal elation of the party had mostly subsided, and that I felt pride in its place. Not just pride to be married to Emily, who is amazing, but pride that I'd made a choice, fully conscious of its difficulties and potential rewards. I felt proud because I knew I was in charge of my own life, and I'd chosen something really exciting. And, of course, Emily chose the same thing.

The campsite tonight was at Sonoma Coast State Beach, snuggled in the sand next to Bodega Bay a few hours north of San Francisco. We took a hike around the bay to find the ocean, but our shoes filled up with sand before we got all the way out to the beach. We only spent a few minutes at the end leaning into the wind, squinting into the sun, absorbing the shining sliver of ocean below the horizon and above the last mile of dunes and shrubs.

We returned to camp. I wondered if I should worry about bears as the scent from the food in our open trunk wafted elsewhere and we pitched the tent in the wind. We had an animal box for our food, but it was secured only with a thin piece of bark through two metal rings; designed to keep out raccoons, obviously, and certainly not sturdy enough to keep out a bear. So, no, I didn't worry about bears. I chose not to worry about bears, because there were no bears.

The night was cold, and windy, but we had a fire. Emily and I took turns reading while we cooked dinner. There were a lot of people staying the night in the camping loop we'd chosen, but our site was isolated. We couldn't see anyone else. The place was ours. Just us; nobody else, and no bears.

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