Got back yesterday afternoon from a few days in the low Sierras. The first two days were pristine, as was the lovely little lake where we were staying: ducks, Canada geese, lily pads, long graceful reeds, even an osprey who soared across the lake once when I was looking. And bats. Lots of bats.
The first evening, my husband and I went out in a rowboat after dinner. Small creatures swooped through the air looking for insects. “Swallows,” he assured me. “Oh,” I said, feeling better. When we got back, one of the other guests asked, “Were the bats out?” My husband looked sheepish. “Well, would you have gone if I’d told you?” I admitted I wouldn’t have, and it had been lovely, but still…
The following afternoon, I was lying in the porch swing reading when I heard a gnawing sound from the rafters overhead. I couldn’t see anything moving, so I called someone over and asked if she heard the noise. Yes, she did, and she couldn’t see anything either. A third woman went upstairs and looked out a bedroom window to see if the creature was on the porch roof. Nothing. Then I noticed the glass coffee table I was sitting by was sprinkled with small little pieces of…yes…bat shit. And so was the rattan mat. Later, our host told me he’d vacuumed up the bat shit from both the table and the mat only the day before. Prolific little beasts. I thought they were supposed to sleep during the day?
At night we woke to the hooting of…freight trains. There’s a railroad track on three sides of the lake. You can’t see it, but at night, the trains toot three times at each of three crossings. Apparently, you get used to it after awhile. I asked one of the people who’d already been there a week, and she couldn’t remember any trains the night before, whereas I’d counted three (that’s twenty-seven toots!). By the third night, I was sleeping through them too out of sheer exhaustion.
The wine and beer flowed briskly. It started around 5 pm, continued through dinner and into the evening. I was one of the big imbibers for many years, and it was a little strange to be the only one of eight people who wasn’t drinking. We went the first year I was sober. I was quite apprehensive beforehand and a few times tempted to join in. I remember trying to move the bottles out of my line of vision, afraid I’d go into automatic pilot and find myself with a glass of wine in my hand. We didn’t make it last year or the year before, and this year I felt quite differently about it–irritated, mostly, as the voices got louder, the faces flushed, the ‘friendly’ arguments more strident. My husband, who rarely drinks much but drank quite a lot the first night, got drunkenly amorous. Now there’s a turn-off! How did he stand it all those years when I was like that? I haven’t asked him. I don’t want to know.
The third day, we woke to a smoke-filled sky and the sound of helicopters. There are huge wildfires burning all over California–someone said it’s the worst year on record–and smoke was blowing our way from one in Mendocino County, near the coast. It was bad enough to make our eyes smart, but no one got triggered into an asthma attack, though I was glad I had my inhaler with me. Everyone had stories about wildfires and high temperatures the last few years. Our hostess said they usually have a week or two of heat, but it had been relentless this summer. She’d gone hiking at 6,500 feet in temperatures in the 100s. Our changing world.
Everyone had brought food, and we ate very well. One curious thing was that I had no craving at all for chocolate, but as soon as I got home, I couldn’t keep my hands off it. Apparently my house is a chocolate trigger–or my usual life is, or something.
Home to fog, very dismal, but today is bright and brilliant, and the kitties were happy to see us.
Overall, I’m glad I went. And I’m very glad to be sober.