Friday, December 28, 2012

A True Freedom

Look what I have:  A set of great new CDs to listen to as our friend Craig chauffeurs us on a wine-tasting adventure. 

Live Tedeschi Trucks Band...a GREAT CD!
This was the start of my 50th birthday celebration in November--four days secretly planned out by Dave.

What a great tradition that's taken hold in our three years together:  We create a birthday adventure for the other person. An adventure that we enjoy together.

First stop.
This year's was not only a celebration of my entering a new decade but also of the Mother Lode region of our beloved California.  We started by going to seven (yes, seven!) wineries in Amador County, east of Sacramento.

It's like old Napa there--mainly small, independent wineries; lots of personal attention from the staff; and no charge for wine tasting.



 And, oh yeah, it's beautiful.


Lookin' cool in hard hats.  The equipment is half the fun of ziplining.

Who knew there was a zipline in the middle of the state?  In three years we've ziplined in Alaska, the Santa Cruz mountains, and in Hawaii.  So why not another?  This is just one line, but fast and long--quite impressive!

Mother-Daughter masseuse team
After ziplining, we had a couples massage in the Gold Rush town of Murphy's. 

We spent that night in another Gold Rush town:  Angel's Camp.  I hadn't been there since I was a 17-year-old boogeying to the Doobie Brothers, Toto, and Huey Lewis at Mountain Aire Music Festival.


Moutain Aire 1980, with my friend Nancy

Angel's Camp is a charming one-strip Gold Rush town with a fantastic B&B called Cooper House.


Super Duper Cooper House
Cooper House used to be the home and medical practice of a Gold Rush-era doctor.  It's now owned by Rob and Tey who, in Rob's words, "want it to feel like the home of a relative you've never met before."

Cozy at Cooper House
I'd say it feels like the home of a relative who has great taste.  Tey used to work for Gumps in San Francisco.  He spent years collecting the furnishings that B&B guests now enjoy.  The breakfast was yummy, and round-the-clock you can help yourself to coffee, tea, and wine in the shared living space--where we also enjoyed relaxation and conversation with a Danish family. 

The next day we went here:

Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome in the distance.

Yosemite.  Jewel of California.  It'd been years since I'd been there, but it holds a special place in my heart because it's where my parents met.


Mom and Dad in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
In the 1950s, my mom (who died this year) was a nurse there.  Dad worked there as a tour bus driver one summer during his break from Chico State.  They loved Yosemite.  We spent several vacations there, and once they took us for dinner at the Ahwahnee.

That's where Dave and I had dinner that night, in the stunning Ahwahnee dining room.  Our server told us she's worked at the park for 30 years...and she's only 15th in seniority.  Sounds like some people visit Yosemite and never leave.  I get it.  There's a mystic pull to the place, with its ancient granitic presence.


View of Upper Yosemite Falls from the window of our Ahwahnee suite.

I can't describe Yosemite any better than did Ansel Adams when he said: “Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”

We discovered that Thanksgiving weekend is a great place to visit Yosemite.  The air is crystalline, and the people spare.  Few tourists:  that's rare in Yosemite.  So not only do you get to take popular hikes in virtual solitude, but the staff has time to give you special attention.  In our case, that mean a free upgrade to a suite!

The Library Suite:  Suh-weet!
The morning of my birthday, I luxuriated in opening presents before the fire and eating the most delicious room service breakfast we'd ever had.


View from living room window of the suite.

The Library Suite offers an old-fashioned sense of luxury, with leaded glass windows, golden wood paneling, and books galore.

On our hike that day we saw dozens of nearly-tame deer who all but posed for pictures.


I kept thinking about how grateful I am that our government has protected some of the most life-giving, eternal features of our country.

My 50th year is a hallmark in my life, but a drop in the stream of eternity.  On this trip, my past ghosted through my present.  I stared at Half Dome and thought of my parents, and of the man in my life who loves this world, and me.

I felt both the grandness and the infinitesimal qualities of being human.   As John Muir once wrote, in nature "life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality."

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