Today, instead of heading down Canyon Acres with Jake and Fergie to climb the big hill, I made a sharp right toward the beach, just like that. No plan. My inner self fed up with my whining about writer’s block had decided to shake things up by taking a different path. I’d consciously developed this habit when I worked in Newport Beach, when I felt desperate about my dead-end job or my insane marriage. Most of the time it was my trip to work I varied, all the way down the canyon to Coast Highway instead of taking the short cut along Cliff Drive, Jamboree instead of MacArthur, Camelback instead of Bison. Parked in front of the building instead of behind—even though it wasn’t allowed. Small changes but it made me feel adventurous and in control. And it always brought about a shift in perspective.
Halfway down to the beach, I found myself turning into that roped-off dirt parking lot next to the Art Affair grounds—the site of a yearly summer art festival—and heading up the barely visible goat pathway that skirts the lighthouse perched on the side of the hill behind the police station. The tower, about ten feet tall, isn’t really an old lighthouse, never was. It was built in 1935 as a vent for the flow of treated sewage, but no longer serves that purpose. Instead it’s a handy landmark for me and the dogs to head toward. And great for the tourists.Every time I take this route, I wonder if this is the day some cop notices us from below, especially since I let the pups off their leashes. We scrambled up quickly, with Fergie leading the way, kicking clods of dirt and stones down on me and Jake. At the top, we charged along the brush crowded path below houses big as hotels with fortified foundations dug into the side of the hill to an opening between two houses, onto Hilledge Drive. At the corner house, Jake and Fergie refreshed themselves from water pooled in the middle of that rock shaped like a beanbag before we snaked up Skyline then down Park Road to the beach.
Half an hour later, Jake charged across the sand toward the ocean dragging me and Fergie along behind. At the water’s edge, Fergie slammed on brakes—she’s still no surfer chick—and I let Jake’s leash go to prevent myself from being torn in two. I let him body surf for a couple of minutes until I spotted a lifeguard headed my way to remind me of the law. I leashed Jake and we made for home.
A straight shot this time. Fergie clomped upstairs to my bed for a nap, Jake settled in his leather chair. And then instead of heading for my computer to sit and agonize over what I wasn’t writing, I found myself following her upstairs. My conscience gave me a sharp prick, but I ignored it and slept for an hour. A record. I don’t allow myself naps. I awoke refreshed and encouraged. Something had shifted in me.