We’d always intended to move to the country, whatever that meant. Long before we married, Rugged Husband built a small, two-story cabin at Twin Lakes, outside of Bridgeport, off Highway 395. This was his parents’ retirement hideaway. Wes and Eunie spent countless hours fishing off an old MacGregor skiff.
They played Pinochle and baked apple pies. Evenings, the ex-Navy carpenter canoodled with his bride on a reupholstered loveseat. Only one TV channel got reception. Plywood that covered the windows was screwed off in late spring and then screwed back on again before too much snow fell in fall. Wes and Eunie called it “Avalanche Alley” for good reason.We wanted to follow in their footsteps, Rugged Husband and I. Self-employed, we envisioned spending long seasons at Twin Lakes without interruption, delighting in the aspen’s quake and only one show on the Zenith. My man romanced me there, in the forest above Bridgeport. Riding in the passenger seat of his sexy black Jeep, through Mojave, up past Mono Lake, to be with him in the mountains… put me over head over heels for the guy. Hand in hand along the moonlit shores of Upper Twin, he’d whisper the Latin names of all the plants and that was pretty much the best time I could think of. Except for times I won’t discuss.
Painting the deck each summer, we’d talk about the future: our children playing hide and seek between the trees, while I wrote and he consulted. These were only dreams, and one must have many for some to come true. Eventually, the cabin was sold to make a down payment on a house in Culver City. To protect myself from saying goodbye to the place where we first fell in love, others said it for me. There never was a “last” trip to the cabin, only memories of that time outside time.
Our house in Culver City was a few miles from the beach and a few more from a big county park, built around a natural spring that had been turned into a lake.
When our daughter was little, I led scheduled nature walks through the park, keeping interlocked toddlers safely on the concrete path. We were intensively trained for the preschool set and the patient parents who brought their children: “Berries are red so birds can see them,” and “Touch this flower with two fingers. How does it feel?”
By this time, only I could afford to freelance. Rugged Husband had necessarily acquired a real job, with actual benefits and regular pay, leaving not much time for country life. So, we camped in the mountains and up the coast of California. Our girl took us on hikes and we biked to the beach. Sometimes I’d drive an hour or more just to see some trees. Closer to home, we navigated a Nekky kayak around the marina. We had raccoons in our back yard. Once, a blue Heron landed on the telephone pole in front of our house. That heron made me cry. It wasn’t enough. I had to get out of there.
We made a new plan, dreamed a new dream. Once the kid was out of elementary school, we’d bolt out of the city and into the wild. Wanting to bring this dream to life, so anxious to manifest our plans into a parcel of our own, we spent weekends looking at improbable properties from Topanga to Ojai. In 2005 we could have owned ten acres on a dry creek bed for $200K, half-built pad and stuck, rusty loader/grader included. That winter, it flooded. “That’s okay,” we told ourselves. “We’re just looking, just planning for the future. When 5th grade ends, we blow this over-populated popsicle stand.”
What is that saying? I looked it up for accuracy. Probably we could find a version in any language and for any belief system. For now, the Yiddish will do: “Mentsh trakht, Got lakht.” Translation: Man plans, God laughs. It works the same for women, too.