no other heaven

Allison and me toasting on a hilltop in Mount Tamalpais State Park. Not sure what exactly Peter is doing. Photo courtesy of Emily Yurko.
Allison and me toasting on a hilltop in Mount Tamalpais State Park. Not sure what exactly Peter is doing. Photo courtesy of Emily Yurko.
Blades of grass tickled my fingertips as I walked with palms outstretched. Following a narrow trail snaking up more than 2,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, I used rocks embedded into the hillside for leverage and kept my head down to avoid tripping on one of the tiny holes some animal had burrowed into the path – long before my arrival, claiming this site for its home.

When I reached the top of the peak I saw a cluster of rocks shaped into a bench and a plaque now green with age. I set my backpack on the seat and read the marker while pulling out a box of Italian cookies from North Beach and a bottle of wine.

“Give me these hills and the friends I love, I ask no other heaven.”

The plaque was given in honor of Dad O’Rourke – a local hiker who led outings throughout Marin County in the early 1900s – on his 76th birthday in 1927. I smiled upon reading his words and took out my camera to snap one of only four photos I took that day.

“There’s a plaque up here you guys have to read,” I shouted to my friends still making their way up the trail.

Now I will admit it has taken me a long time to get to this point. And I don’t mean to Dad O’Rourke’s bench. That is just a short drive across the Golden Gate and a few miles of winding along Panoramic Highway. I mean to the point where I can call California home and not immediately feel the urge to qualify it with, “But I’m from Boston.” (That now occurs about 35 seconds later.) But that’s just geography. I also mean to the point where I have found folks I can call ‘my people.’ (Most just happen to be East Coast transplants.)

When I first moved to California I told my family I was only going to live on the West Coast for two to three years. Well, it’s been closer to five and I have no plans for punching my return ticket anytime soon.

Sidenote: In the past upon reading that last sentence my mother would have booked her next flight on JetBlue to convince me otherwise. Now she just books a flight and we go to wine country instead.

The truth is, the first three years I spent in tiny newsrooms chasing stories and scraping by on a wage deemed “below poverty” by our county standards. The friends I made were all fellow news reporters and wound up moving across the state for other jobs –some for bigger papers, some leaving the profession altogether, and most I have lost touch with.

The areas I covered were located in suburban or unincorporated pockets of farmland– not exactly places teeming with young single people looking to make new friends. I was fortunate to get dumped over Christmas by my live in boyfriend – an event that forced me to move to San Francisco and start over 18 months ago. And given time, distance and an additional 2,000 feet – I am so thankful for that.

When our group reconvened under the trees I poured the wine into plastic cups and we toasted to a good day where Allison took nearly 500 photos (I’m not being hyperbolic), Emily and I binged on chips and salsa, Peter ate everything else, Sam climbed rocks and Chris – well, Chris fell. And then we went home.

Editor’s note: Watching the sunset over Mount Tamalpais marked the first of a series of weekend outings we are organizing to take advantage of the perks of living in the Bay Area. Namely – proximity to wineries, trails and the beach. To view a lovely photo narrative of our trip compiled by Allison visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/allisonmccarthy/sets/72157620162020926/

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