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Happier

THis trip was becoming a disaster and I could not have been happier. 3:00 a.m. and water pelted down hard on the tent. So loud it sounded like someone pummeling REI’s best with a rug-beater, sheets of Sierra rain hit and ran down toward Bass Lake. We were camping, my rugged husband and I, at an age when some people were considering retirement options. Even better, our 5 year old daughter was along. She remained sound asleep between us while the storm above threatened to wash our temporary housing closer to the lake than we ever intended. Like, in it.

Rugged husband, whom most will tell you I barely deserve even on my best days, left the warm tent to dig a safe trench around us. The rain continued while our living situation stabilized. This was 2003 and we were precisely 263 miles from our real home in Culver City. Our family loved camping and torrential precipitation didn’t dull our enthusiasm a bit. Remember, I was not the one digging the trench in pouring rain. Was I the one snuggled up with the lovely red-haired Kindergartner, watching The Sound of Music on our newly purchased portable DVD player? Perhaps, I was.

Clear skies beckoned before long, and the smell of wet forest was intoxicating. This was October: a perfect time of year at Bass Lake, with or without umbrella. For five days we hiked Way of the Mono, swam and floated on the glassy morning water, cooked and napped and watched the sun set at night. Bass Lake and its surrounding areas… we felt like the region was our little slice of heaven.

So, no one was ever surprised when, heading home south, the freeway jammed around Magic Mountain and terrible language slipped out as I navigated the increasingly frustrating traffic into Los Angeles. Every vacation, as we migrated away from the Sierra foothills and back toward immensely crowded city streets, I wailed and moaned, “WHY? Why are we doing this backwards? We go where we LOVE for two weeks of vacation, then go back to the city for the other 50 weeks? It’s insane!” So on, and so forth.

Tired of tall buildings, big crowds and the exhausting, mostly tree-free existence we were “living,” I wondered why we stayed. Was I tied to the neighborhoods where I’d grown up, my friends and family? Yes. Was I overly attached to the “organic” garden I tended in my 50-foot back yard, and the house we had, set precisely between three freeways? Not so much, as it turned out.

Besides my Tourette’s-like rants on the freeway driving away from the mountains into the metropolis, I kept my bad feelings about being in the city mostly to myself for many years. One day, I came across my journal from Marina del Rey Junior High. One entry was written after I’d returned from camping with my family, I was about 16. “When I grow up and have my own place, I am going to live where it’s green… so green and so much nature… I absolutely NEED IT to survive.” I was shocked. What happened to her and how did she end up near Jefferson and Sepulveda?

Three years plus one life and death situation after that rainy campout in 2003, we bought a house in the foothills and switched our lives around completely. I still go nuts when I hit traffic but it doesn’t happen very often. Unless you count 6 cars backed up at a light. Tragedy has a way of clarifying things and after all that’s happened between then and now, most days I still say, “I couldn’t be happier.”

About Kellie Flanagan

One comment

  1. For all of us who, hail, from the fray, this rings true, loud, and clear!

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