It feels unsettling to drive north along nearly empty roads. Other cars are few. Puddles stand in empty pullouts, blocked by a ragtag assembly of orange cones, sandwich boards, sagging yellow caution tape.
Over the last month I have watched the activity along this stretch of coast drop off nearly inconceivably. I make this drive weekly, driving north along Highway 1, bringing essentials to a relative with COPD. Three weekends ago, the beaches were packed to the gills. By last weekend the pullouts had blocked off—yet I still lost count of the cars parked in pullouts, and people down on the beaches, flouting the closures. This Sunday beaches were deserted, the pullouts empty. Not a single car parked, and few on the move. People have finally gotten the message—stay home.
Yet the gulls still wheeled. The cormorants still perched, sentinels, on their rocky islands. Below the bluffs, the sand was unmarred by footsteps. The brilliant orange spires of Indian paintbrush are in full bloom, waving from the shelter of the coyote brush As I waited at a stoplight, looking out to sea for passing whales, I could feel to my bones how most life on this planet is untroubled by the human crisis that has come to seem all consuming.
In a flash, a dream I had years ago tumbles vividly into mind. I was approaching the Golden Gate Bridge on foot. The road was quiet—two-lane tarmac with a sunny yellow line down the middle; bright green grass grew in tufts on the verge. No cars passed. There was no plot to the dream; no climax. It was a moment, and I was happy, at ease.
It is hard to find ease in this moment in time. The emotional weight of a world anxious, suffering, and grieving simultaneously is unprecedented, and most are feeling it keenly. The last weeks have been grown harder for those of us who gain our grounding and solace from being in nature, as our access has—necessarily—been restricted. These days I am finding solace in the most unexpected places: a crow feather under the neighborhood oaks, the joy with which my daughter shows me treasures: lichen, a mushroom, a handful of grass.
And so, behind the wheel, I’m grateful for a sweet moment of understanding that the web of life keeps unspooling its grace throughout all.