Welcome to SLO; Chapter V, The Pieces In Between
The pumpkin display is back. I showed up to work on Saturday morning to sell newspaper subscriptions outside Trader Joes and sitting atop a bed of waist-high hay bales the large family of bright orange pumpkins sat smiling at me, telling me that Fall had arrived; every cafe in town had pumpkin flavored drinks featured on the blackboards with the neon writing, making pumpkin spice the new vanilla. The calendar officially proclaimed Autumn on September twenty-second and I was convinced of this as I drove through Cayucos two days later on a leisurely evening drive, down the road along the beach, where by seven o’ clock it was already dark and deserted and all the funky surf shops and pizza places looked as though they’d been abandoned; as if the swine flu and come and taken everyone. It’s strange when the beaches are empty. It looked like summer had taken off with the tourists. So once again I prepared to settle into the new things that summer had inevitably stirred up.
Summer wasn’t quite what I’d anticipated this year. I didn’t go surfing – not even once – a reality that violates the carefree stereotypical California dream I still keep alive in the back of my mind. I never took a road trip to visit all the nostalgic cities along the coastline. I never met a celebrity; the closest I came, which really wasn’t close at all, was purchasing a three dollar painting from an eccentric couple having a yard sale in Beverly Hills because it was the only thing within a fifty mile radius I could afford and they told me they knew lots of celebrities through the night club circuit. And I never took the plunge; skydiving that is. Something I was so set on doing because I decided I wanted to begin the tradition of doing something completely risky and exhilarating every summer to celebrate the most amazingly risky decision I ever made in buying a one-way ticket to San Luis Obispo in the summer of ’08. A kind of anniversary, if you will.
But this summer, like a 1930s film, was all about love: love for Jesus, love for myself, love for Jon and everybody else in my life. And this time around love didn’t beckon me to run off to far away places and romantic summer getaways like I’d known before. It came quietly; it was subtle. Like a neighbor asking to borrow sugar; and easily turned away, love showed up at my door.
The beginning of summer was violently busy. The Lighthouse began the voyage of moving across town – a process that took about three weeks and thirty-plus friends to accomplish because of the volume of oversized furniture and the infamous mountain-pile that had accumulated in the center of our garage over our year-long stay. We moved across town to a quaint condo complex near Laguna Lake that resembled Disney Land Boulevard, with a unique circular set-up so that each condo faced inward towards a small grassy hill. Above each doorway hung a white ball- the porch light- dangling like a Christmas tree ornament and the London-style floor plans that made the buildings narrow yet four half-stories high. And to make this move even more divine, Jon moved in with three guys in a condo right across the parking lot. Along with the big move, Jenna and I headed off towards Badger, California to accompany over one hundred Jr. high and high school students to Mercy Church’s second ever attempt at youth summer camp. An experience I resisted just as much as I embraced because there’s something about being around sixteen year olds that causes every last insecurity hiding underneath thick layers of psyche to come out thrashing like a wild baboon caught in a hunter’s trap. And upon returning to San Luis I had one day to catch up on everything with Jon before he took a bus to L.A. to board a large cruise ship with his family for seven days of sailing and sun in Mexico. And to conclude the summer, Jon and I traveled up to Evergreen State to soak up some sun while the sun was still there. We visited the family lake cabin and drank diet-root beers with my grandparents while hearing stories about the conquests of retirement and had jumping wars on the trampoline with my little brother. I saw my best friend get married. I had a birthday; I have one every year. Except this time around about fifty of my friends decided to hike a mountain and throw me a dance party at the top. And then the summer was over.
And now I’m back to fall. Standing in front of the pumpkin display. Back to the season where the leaves don’t really turn orange and brown and flake off the trees, but where it’s still mostly green around here. And once again, Autumn is turning out to be a season where the stuff I’ve been dreaming about is finally getting real. It’s not real yet… but it’s getting there.
So I’m going to keep hanging onto hope like I’m halfway off a cliff and it’s my only option. Because if I’m honest, the waiting is sweet and the next chapter should be the most interesting yet. So until then I’ll keep going in circles and dropping hints like breadcrumbs along the path.
Jesus is still faithful.