Remembering a drive down the coast from Seattle to Los Angeles

Remembering a drive down the coast from Seattle to Los Angeles July 1, 2023

Mt Shasta
(Sassan Filsoof)

















Last night we arrived at mom’s in Tujunga in Los Angeles, which for all practical purposes means we are home.

This morning after our Empty Moon Zen sitting we’ll return the rental car.

It was a lovely ride down from Seattle following a five day Zen sesshin (intensive Zen meditation retreat). We started the drive on Sunday afternoon, and so all in all, five days. It was largely a driving trip. Although we did stop to poke around here and there. Really like Astoria, where we spent our first night on the trip.

The day between Astoria and Coos Bay was our forty-first wedding anniversary. I feel grateful for those years, and being able to grow both older and a bit deeper with someone. We know each other through thick and thin. And we’ve experienced all those different shades of love. Now we’re turning into old together. I am so lucky. So lucky…

Because of time constraints and deciding it would be wise to skirt the Bay Area (too many friends, too many opportunities to turn a five day trip into a month long pilgrimage), we turned to Interstate 5 from Coos Bay.

Probably the most dramatic and emotional part of the drive for me was the drive through Mt Shasta. I am moderately confident it’s been more than fifty years since I’ve driven that way. I felt mixed emotions about not checking in with the folk at Shasta Abbey about possibly seeing the campus. But didn’t.

The weather was clear all the way, bright, and warm leaning into hot. Except as we approached the town of Weed, which is just north of the town of Shasta, the monastery being between the two of them. Just as we were coming on to Weed a micro storm blew up and it started pouring rain. The temperature dropped possibly twenty degrees. The rain continued until we passed through Shasta. Within a couple of miles it was dry and sunny.

I’m sure one could make up stories about that little event. In truth while there were major negatives in my experiences with the old roshi there, that time was also the foundation for what would become my spiritual life. And really, what would become my life. I am only grateful…

We returned to the coast briefly at Santa Cruz, where we spent the night. And picked up some world famous Donnelly chocolates. Once again California 1 is closed near Big Sur, so we returned to the 101, with a pause at the Steinbeck museum in Salinas. Bought a t-shirt.

We turned toward the coast again at San Luis Obispo, pausing in Cambria to purchase a olallieberry pie, and then again at Cayucos for brown butter cookies. (I fear I’ve gained four pounds on this trip…)

We spent the night in Morro Bay. Actually as we drove into town, I realized this moment was when I felt like we’d returned home. Morro Bay is our occasional escape from the city. We spent the night at our favorite our favorite budget motel. The rock was wrapped in fog, so we didn’t see it.

The drive from there was all the familiar, the Hayashi family farm stand, Oso Flaco Lake, Guadalupe and its wonderful street shrine to Our Lady, a pause for gas in Buellton. And then a turn inland at the southern end of Ventura, to the 118. I love that stretch of road. Once on 118 heading south to Simi Valley, feels more like a return to the Southern California of the 1950s than anywhere else I can think of. Citrus groves and roadside farm stands.

Loved all the transitions from the beautiful Pacific Northwest as we rode down to our golden hills and mountains of Southern California.

So, all in all, a little drive down our edge of the Pacific Rim, a thousand miles and change. A lovely little dance at the edge of the world.

And it is good to be home.

There were no great revelations from the trip. When we arrived in Tujunga, what I call our “nest,” the two rooms we occupy at mom’s house, really felt home. I certainly felt that sense of relief one gets coming back home after a trip when we walked in. So, that was interesting. We are slowly coming to feel that for now we are in Sunland Tujunga rather than Long Beach. And it feels we’ve done a lot of what we need to do of it takes to make it more homelike for us. Maybe the biggest decision for us, was that we agreed, reluctantly, that we should investigate what it would take to rent our condo in Long Beach. We shall see where that leads.

And. That’s pretty much it.

The bigger stuff, the stuff of life and death continues. Accompanying Jan’s mom as she ages is shaping our immediate decisions. Watching our own aging continues. Wanting to be useful yet feels strong. Jan is trying to figure out the best ways to be involved in this hurting world, in this particular corner of it. I feel a need to continue writing. This blog. Books. Glad I’m working on one right now with Shambhala. And shopping another. Jan and I both agree we should find a place near here to put a little sitting group together. I love our zoom group, but there’s a flesh hunger, a need to practice in physical proximity, that we both feel.


Sometimes it is so good it aches…

About James Ishmael Ford
James Ishmael Ford is a blogger and author. James is a senior spiritual director in the Zen tradition as well as a Unitarian minister. His sixth book, "The Intimate Way of Zen" is due from Shambhala Publications in the spring of 2024. You can read more about the author here.

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