Driving west, fleeing the smoky central valley
toward the mist that hugs the California coastline,
putting miles behind us and dehydrated land
long unused to rain—we pray that the brittle grasses
die a natural death, rather than the fiery kind
consuming acreage by the millions of our
once golden state.
We return to the sea seeking solace from
the too-muchness of a year already burning
before the fires came. We gaze upward through
the windshield to watch ash give way to fog
muscling its way inland. We smile—fog!
Wispy coastal fog! Happy to don jackets
when we emerge from the car to the barks
of dock-dwelling sea lions, as we go in search
of chowder and our own fish.
Every time it’s a homecoming, this return.
We claim saltwater as our permanent address
from whence we came, imitated by our tears.
Later we walk oceanside to the point where
huge, stocky pelicans with thin necks and Big Bird
bills preen before compressing themselves
like accordions into sleep. Others stand, stretch,
their giant wings lifting them, powerful flaps propelling
them in the search for food, scooping fish and seawater
into their great pouches, water draining through
the sieve of ballooned throats. Then they return,
bellies full, ready to feed the young, finding
welcome each time they land on rocky outcrops.
Others make space for them as we hope ours will
for us one day when we touch down, unsteady
and unsure, looking for the familiar,
comforted by the possibility of kindness.