What I think about when I am driving

I have spent much more time in cars recently than I usually care to, even since the end of the week when I was being employed to drive. I appreciate the ease it can get you across long distances – though in Europe I always choose the train for such journeys if I can – but it seems such an occluded way to get about the city itself.

Last week saw an overnight excursion to Los Angeles with my friend Yasmina, to attend a workshop given by Kendra, whom I know through Tassajara. I have only spent time in LA once, and driven through it on a couple of occasions, and I can’t say I saw that much of it this time either, but the hours on Interstate 5 were remarkably beautiful. Much of the landscape is flat – at least to the east – though I loved the glimpses of the hills that lurk between the freeway and the coast. Once I took the train across Australia, and one of my fellow passengers remarked disparagingly about the seemingly endless expanse of the Nullarbor Plain that there was ‘nothing to see’ – I could not have disagreed with him more: I found the vast flatness mesmerising. North of LA, the Tejon Pass brought a clarity of light in the mountains that I would have liked to have lingered in. And having crossed the Altamont Pass, what I would call the south east border of the Bay Area, just as the sun was coming up on Tuesday on the way down, we returned over it just as it set on Wednesday, which delighted us even after the hours of driving.

On Sunday I went down to Carmel Valley to collect the prints from my show, and Djinn came to keep me company; we were surprised by some rain down to the south, and there was also snow to be seen on the higher slopes, where clouds were clinging. The hills of the 101, which always typify California for me, were greener than either of us could remember; around Carmel Valley, the oaks were positively dripping with Spanish moss. Coming back up Highway 1, as I had at the beginning of the month, we were buffeted by a strong north-westerly that was whipping up the surf along the coast in a way that brought home the power of the ocean. Among the many things we discussed was the article she had asked me to write, and which appeared in this week’s Zen Center email newsletter (I imagine more virtual traffic is going to be coming this way from that article than the other way around, but still…)

On Monday I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge – another memorable sunset moment to relax into after a stressful beginning to the journey – to San Rafael to give a dharma talk at Dharma Eye Zen Center, located in the fine old buildings of Dominican University. I was very well hosted by Christine, Tom and the rest of the sangha, and we were joined by a dozen or so students, which did alter somewhat the content of the talk I gave. It was lovely to be sitting formally with a group once again, to be doshi for service and also to have a chance to give a talk, which seemed to be well received, and which you can hear here.

Finally on Tuesday I borrowed another City Carshare car for a quick hour to take fifteen prints over to Farley’s to hang my latest show.

After all this it was a relief to have time on Wednesday to ride my bike – I ended up going through San Rafael on my way to China Camp State Park, always a sweet place to ride, with little traffic and big sky views across the north bay. I had set myself a long route as a challenge and to remind my body of what it can do; I watched my mind cycle through various states, from deep enjoyment, to the frustration of getting a third rear-wheel flat in as many rides, curiosity as to how my body would feel on the way back, and finally an acquiescence as I rode south from San Anselmo over roads I have covered so many times, with different levels of fatigue, always managing to get myself home in the end.

California certainly does not lack for scenery:
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The flat expanses of Interstate 5

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Returning north through the Tejon pass

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More normally gold-hued, the hills along the 68 between Salinas and Monterey

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The view at the top of the Cachagua Road south of Carmel Valley – the small dot is a hawk

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We were almost caught out by this wave on Pescadero Beach

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