Amber had read that there was a botanical garden in Eureka and, after a breakfast peppered with her promises that there would be no winding roads between our room and the garden, I agree that we should visit. Amber had grown a bit agriculturally obsessed since having started a garden of her own and fantasizes about starting her own CSA (community-supported agriculture) back in Red Hook in the coming year, emboldened by her successes in feeding and flowering our wedding with her labors. I can't be certain this whole honeymoon was not an elaborate ruse to take cuttings for future sales.
As with all in Eureka, the garden is shrouded in a dense mist when we arrive. It does not excite me upon first viewing because it seems to be a Home Depot garden center with notions of superiority rather than a place worthy of our paid admission. Still, I wouldn't deny Amber much on our honeymoon, least of all the opportunity to traipse about foliage for a few hours, identifying the subspecies of this and the growing cycle of that, cooing to butterflies on this coast.
Watching her analyze a flower with beelike intimacy, the realization strikes me that she is stuck with me and I am exceedingly lucky. I have dated and loved women who would have made my life far more difficult that Amber, my passionate, silly, clever, warm elfkin, ever will.
The garden is nearly empty today, though it is far vaster than I gave it initial credit. We could wander unnoticed and unimpeded for hours, once we got past the initial plant beds (the antegarden, if you will). Amber is delighted by all of various plants cared for here, flitting between flowers in a way not unlike an earthbound hummingbird and wishing such a place existed in the Hudson Valley so she would not have to invent it.
At the apex of the garden is a mound of raised dirt sectioned off with wooden slats. It is useless, so we understand that it must be art. The premise of this piece is that, if one wishes, one can walk the circle for a half mile in each direction and find that the spirals do not connect.
This is how Amber and I spend the next half hour, before meeting in the middle.
Amber doffs her sweatshirt and proceeds at a lively pace-not close to a run, but a bit more insistent than a walk. When our paths crossed, we kiss to spite the dividers and the notion that we could not meet. We met in real life, despite a few missed opportunities. We won't waste a chance again. Up here, the summer sun has burned away the tenacious fog, allowing up a view of the hills in the distance that reminds me of a thirsty version of home.
We visit an art museum a few blocks from our bed and breakfast. The docent is startled when Amber explains that we are from New York and intentionally came to Eureka, then a bit suspicious of me when Amber tells her this is our honeymoon. Still, she is delighted we are there, patronizing her museum, even if it means I have transported a potential minor across state lines for immoral/matrimonial purposes.
The art is all local to California, which is precisely how Amber would have it. Who needs Expressionist masterpieces of critical veneration when we can witness an enormous, sagging ribbon of Neutrogena wrappers, assembled by the friend of an artist who made soap sculptures and had no use for the boxes?
The art doesn't mean much to me, nor do I think Amber feels much in it, but at least she can approach it with a suitably studied eye. She understands and lives the process of turning dozens of tools into a happy, metal dog via a torch the artist used in her day job.
How could I have gone this long in northern California without telling you of the plight of the noble burl? As far as I can tell, wood tumors are big business here. People spoke of these excrescences with close to awe, in person as well as signage. Polishing one into a four-foot lion's head must have been a transcendent experience for the artist, if the hype around burls holds any water.
The museum's featured exhibit is a collection of photographs of tractor-trailers, accompanied by audio recording of truckers rambling about life on the road. I try the earphones at random, each a different recording, and end up listening to a man explaining to his wife the he frequently beds lot lizards. Not all of them are women. She is curiously unmoved by his bisexual philandering, only saying, "Well, that's okay. I hate that you get so lonesome."
Next, we find the Sequoia Park Zoo. As much as I may express curiosity as to Eureka as a honeymoon destination, I give my full support to any fog-shrouded purgatory that maintains a zoo. It is nothing gloriously vast, but I couldn't expect otherwise. I fidget with my camera, the lens uncooperative because of yesterday's sand, hoping zooming and retreating the lens with push out the grit that jams the mechanism, so I can get close-ups of llamas. Amber wanders between animal enclosures with much the same attention she paid the museum exhibits, trying to coax red pandas and sheep into jovial activity.
A zoo provides an excellent backdrop for love. In the butterfly house, they flutter close to Amber, as though she might be nectar. She intrudes upon the petting zoo to inspect livestock for future agricultural use on some presumptive farm, certain anyone nearby will mistake her for a teenager at a distance, someone who should be coddling a goat to her chest with maternal affection.
We do not stay long, since the entire zoo presently covers only a few acres and several of the cages are being built, reconstructed, or house snoozing occupants who are enjoying the sun too much to be roused.
Amber's final destination of the day is a beach. I am skeptical, since the last beach we stumbled upon was fifty degrees, obscured by fog, and ruined my camera lens. Who we get there, a sign alerts up that we had better remove anything remotely valuable from the car because it will be stolen. Not "may." Will. Perhaps the beach keeps thieves on staff to assure the sign isn't a lie.
We trudge through sand dunes with vegetation that has dared to establish itself despite unkind conditions and a lack of soil. Amber leads us through a bower and finds berries, which we agree are likely edible. If they prove not to be, I am instructed not to bury her under the sand but instead to drag her back to the car-assuming it was not stolen-and drive her to a hospital.
When we crest the wall of dunes that protects the sea's modesty, we witness the ocean as it ought to be: waves of endless azure caressing the beach under a sunny sky. I slide in the sand on the way down to meet it, this beach that may well be a mirage brought on by poisonous sand berries, this proof that northern California is capable of startling loveliness when the fog forgets it.
The water is too chilly to really enjoy and we are not dressed for a swim. More to the point, there are other people standing on the edge of the water, so it would be unbecoming to be undressed for a swim.
Frolicking on this beach, playing with the annoyed crustaceans that scuttle out at us, watching Amber try to make sand angels and bury her legs and then complain that her Bunnygrams are gritty, pulling up her straps as she gathers shells and sea glass in her skirt feels like one of the better moments this trip has yet afforded up. We are playfully in this moment on this summer's day in Northern California, falling in love yet again. If this had been all we had done today, I would have needed nothing else to have it feel full.
Soon in Xenology: Honeymoon!