When we first moved back to California from Montreal Eliza and Hazel were six and three. It was a hopeful, happy time: Obama was poised to become president, Kevin was starting a new company, I was about to publish my first book (Living Green with Laura Mamo), and we couldn’t believe our luck to have moved back to such an incredible part of the world.
We’d lived together in San Francisco when we first met and I, Californian born and bred, couldn’t understand Kevin’s relentless need to be outside. I’d constantly find him on the roof of our attic apartment in the Mission district with his shirt off. He couldn’t fathom why there weren’t more restaurants in the city with outside seating. As a Yorkshireman turned Canadian, he’d lived in gray places long enough to treat every sunny day as a celebration. Even when every day was a sunny day.
In 2008, after our five-year stint in Montreal, I could finally relate to this pursuit of sunshine and fresh air. For those first few years after we moved back to California, we spent every weekend finding a beach, forest, or meadow to frolic in. Our favorite place to go was Muir Beach, followed by dinner at Sam’s in Tiburon and then ice cream. Sticky and full, the kids would fall asleep in the car, and Kevin and I would take the long way home, winding our way along the edge of the bay where the mansions were tucked into the trees.
I thought about those days as I twisted along that same road for my swim this morning. The familiar feeling of gratitude washed over me as I glimpsed the beach at Paradise Cove, glistening blue in the sunshine. In the grassy lawn, families picnicked, someone did yoga and a group was setting up for a barbecue.
Arwen, Sheila, Colleen, and I met up in the parking lot and trekked down to the beach where a family was fishing. We saw another group of swimmers at the end of their swim, which is always reassuring when swimming in a new place. The water was a little scummy when we first got in; lots of flotsam and jetsam, including a weird number of ladybugs.
But soon it cleared up and was significantly warmer than the bulb, which was a pleasant surprise. We swam close to the shore and it was fun looking at the huge houses hugging the cliffs. The Richmond bridge was in the distance, Red Rock below it. San Quentin prison was also visible in the distance, which always gives me a bad feeling; it’s hard not to feel uneasy about my freedom to take a leisurely swim on a sunny Sunday while nearly 4,000 souls are locked up just across the water. It’s one of the many strange juxtapositions of the Bay Area that these gazillion-dollar houses share the same bay with a high-security prison.
With the water warmer, we could swim longer, which turned out to be a good thing. At one point Colleen pointed out what the rest of us had failed to notice: the current was quite strong. It took a lot more effort to get back to where we started. We were close enough to shore that there wasn’t anything to worry about and I enjoyed the feeling of swimming hard against the current; enjoyed a longer swim where I didn’t need to be as aware of the cold.