Three thoughts from road tripping from Port Townsend, WA to Santa Maria, CA and back again on Highway 101.
1. Sand beneath fingernails is one of the most uncomfortable feelings I know. But I put up with it for the sensation of running my hands through it; hot, dry sand that you pile on top of your bare legs like a blanket.
The beauty of a coastal road trip is that when your back gets tired and your legs begin to cramp, you can pull over almost anywhere and plop yourself down on sand. The sea is often the same color as the sky: blue meets blue, or icy grey meets impenetrable fog. But the sand—whether packed down and cold with water, or soft and warm across your toes, or burning hot beneath the soles of your bare feet—is always a contrast, like the rind to a melon.
2. It feels good to be dirty on a road trip. Three days sans shower and your skin and clothes begin to take on their own smells: bacon leggings from when you cooked those massive strips on the ancient Coleman stove in your jammies; a smokey sweater from bathing in the light of a campfire, reaching in to readjust the logs every now and then; gasoline shorts from when you stopped to refill and got a bit of gas on your hand because you’re clumsy and so you wipe it on your shorts which are also known as Nature’s Napkin.
Sure, there is also the smell of sweat soaked into a few t-shirts (and you will shower eventually when day three hits mostly because your hair has become so unruly you aren’t sure it will ever be controlled again). But every time you kiss the neck of your loved one and taste a bit of salt, you are reminded of the delights of living outdoors, away from the Rules and Regs of your every day life. That’s what makes it fun.
3. Bark is not impenetrable, but when you stroke the side of a massive Sequoia it feels like it is. What makes those trees so special, besides their size and age, is that their bark is relatively fire-resistant. Therefore, those that have been struck by fire become these living caverns—a portion of the inside is hollow, while the outside keeps living and growing.
I don’t have impenetrable skin although I sometimes wish that I did. Strong, scratchy bark that no one can see through. But recently I’ve been exploring the softness of myself—the vulnerable. It feels warm and dark and secret, like standing in the blackened, hollowed-out insides of a giant Sequoia that survived a fire.