Beautiful Moments

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Twin Peaks

We cross the bridge and wind our way up to the top of the city. Though we’ve all tested negative my mother has warned me that we will still have to keep our distance. But when she opens the gate to greet us she can’t help herself and gathers each of us in her arms. Then it’s my dad’s turn. I wrap my arms around him, and my eyes water. We cross the threshold, and delectable aromas waft toward us from the kitchen. Riley runs down the hall to his toy box and starts chewing on a stuffed bunny. We all talk over one another, excited about being under the same roof again. In the dining room my parents sit at one end of the table behind a “Seniors Only” sign, though they are not even remotely socially distanced from the rest of us. During dinner my dad hangs a spoon from his Roman nose. Having visitors has made my parents loopy. They can’t stop giggling, leaning into each other for support. My dad’s nostrils flare with each snort. Once we’ve eaten we head downstairs to the yoga studio, formerly my childhood playroom. In the guest room off of the studio the kids pile on top of my parents, and we take pictures. Harlan, Wyatt and I throw small rubber balls into the mini hoop my dad has nailed to the rafters. Riley barks and chases after the balls. Ellie and my mom stretch using yoga ropes. Ava observes the chaos. In bed later that night I turn to Harlan: “Family is everything.”

Golden Gate Heights

I haven’t laughed this hard in months. I lean toward my friend and gasp for air. I feel as though I’ve taken a few hits of pot, but I am simply giddy over an evening with dear friends. She and I discuss our hair (hers striking and white, mine, now that I’ve stopped coloring it, a quickly emerging and less striking salt and pepper) as our husbands chat about electric guitars. This is the first time that Harlan and I have had an “adults night out” since the pandemic began. We are on our friends’ patio, on a surprisingly mild San Francisco evening in July, so mild that I haven’t had to don my fleece. The fog is light and the air refreshing rather than shiver-inducing. Dinner is a delightful mix of highbrow and lowbrow foods: a popcorn appetizer followed by cassoulet and a simple green salad. I am in heaven. Our friends’ daughters wander out of the house a couple of times, once to introduce us to their small, scraggly and aggressive new foster dog (who warms slightly to Harlan and me when we offer her small pieces of chicken), and once to help themselves to the salad. Other than those brief visits the adults are alone. The evening is filled with wine (LaCroix for me), laughter, and the ease that comes with spending time with people I’ve known for over half my life. I catch my friend’s eye and can tell that he’s experiencing present-moment nostalgia, one of his specialties. At the end of the evening the four of us exchange virtual hugs and commit to more adult hang outs. As Harlan and I drive back across the Golden Gate, lights reflecting off of the inky black water below, I turn to him in the darkness: “Tonight felt almost normal.”


We don our masks and do our best to circumvent the crowds that fill the beach at the south end of the lake. I marvel at how little distance there is between the groups of people on the sand, and at how carefree everyone appears. The afternoon before our family walked well past the roped off swimming area to find a less crowded spot on the sand. Today our goal is to get as far away from the crowds as possible by hiking to the north side, which can only be reached by foot. It takes awhile to get past the people ambling along the perimeter of the lake. Most are barefaced and make no effort to keep their distance. I notice how grateful I feel each time we pass someone in a mask. I nod my head and try to smile with my eyes, offering a silent acknowledgment of our mutual consideration. Eventually the trail empties and we walk in silence until we reach our destination. We set our backpacks and towels down on the large, flat rocks that line the shore. Huge boulders make perfect launch pads for jumping into the water. We strip down to our bathing suits and leap in. The snowmelt electrifies. I am exquisitely alive. The kids twirl like seals. I swim to the base of the rocks and clamber up the boulders to jump again and again. When I’ve had enough I sit on a rock and let the sun absorb the droplets of water on my skin. I close my eyes and listen to the sound of my girls’ chatter. In this moment it’s hard to believe we are living through a pandemic. The world feels safe and beautiful. I open my eyes and call out to Harlan, lying in the shade of a tree: “I feel free.”


We stare up at a night sky more brilliant than anything I’ve seen since the week I spent backpacking in Yosemite National Park in high school. Stars create a twinkling blanket bisected by the cotton candy arc of the Milky Way. Harlan and I soak in the hot tub, while the girls sit at its edges, circling the bubbles with their feet. “Oooooh. Did you see that one?”, my daughter exclaims as a meteor shoots across our field of vision. I am filled with questions. How is the universe possible? How can space go on forever? How can it not? Crickets chirp and a pack of coyotes howl, keeping us company in the dark. Earlier in the day there was a riot of activity. Lizards, field mice and ground squirrels darted across the property, evading the hawks soaring above. Jackrabbits bounced from shrub to shrub, and dragonflies, hummingbirds and moths whizzed by our heads as we relaxed by the pool. A tarantula hawk stunned its prey and dragged it under a rock to inject it with its eggs. The babies will eat their way out if its abdomen. A bat flew through the TV room, and we found a rattlesnake in the bathroom. But now it is night, and things have quieted. Another meteor shoots across the sky, and the girls gasp. I put my hand under the water and reach for Harlan’s knee: “We are so lucky.”

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