I went to that old road again.
Grabbed my camera and a sandwich. I think I just needed a change of scenery. Been moping all week and I felt something calling me out there.
Lord knows I haven’t been down that road in, what, eight or nine years? My gramma used to live back there, in the hills. Oak trees and sycamores lined that road. I remember trying to peek out the window to catch glimpses of the beavers that would build their damns in that reservoir. I didn’t know then that were never any beavers. Just something my dad said to get my imagination running, I suppose.
I pulled in off the side of the road by the telephone pole. Laced my boots up, grabbed my bag and started walking.
It had been almost a decade since I was last through here. Last remnants of family moving or dying, I can’t remember. I had always been buckled in the back seat of whatever car we were driving then, so walking on foot allowed me more time to really take in that dusty, old road.
The cool, sweet sage smell that soaked into the hills was still as strong as it always was. The oaks still as gnarled, the sycamores still as proud. There were more houses shoved in than I remember. People tend to wanna stay just far enough away from civilization to criticize it, but close enough to run to it when they get scared. There had been a small bit of rain a few days prior, so the dirt and asphalt were particularly pungent. The kind of loamy smell that only water can bring out.
There’s a particular section when the finely paved road turns into a one car dirt path. That’s where you truly get to experience the canyon. Massive oaks with their mighty branches reach over to the other end of the road and enormous boulders, split into two under their massive weight, litter the path. It can be a bit treacherous on more sensitive vehicles.
Snapped a few shots of a gorgeous scrub jay that had been following me. I can’t remember where, but I swore I read something that said how the color blue was something that didn’t appear much in nature. Something to do wavelengths and the energy that blue light emits.
My dad used to tell me stories about how there was a secret pirate cave hidden among the gulley where rainwater would run off. Somehow, Long John so-and-so ran off and buried a treasure deep in the hills of Thousand Oaks. Of course that wasn’t true, but my little kid self believed it. I promised to return when I was older to find it. He would laugh, no doubt writing it off as childhood wonder. But a part of me still wonders if there really is some secret hidey-hole waiting to be discovered, and at the bottom is a trove of forgotten treasure.
That’s something that really got me thinking while I was out walking. We tell ourselves or our children stories, but to what purpose? Were I any less naïve, I could have shot down my dad’s story in a heartbeat. But I didn’t because I believed. I had hope in his story. And he could have just as easily told me that he was only joking, too. But he didn’t. Maybe he wanted to me have that hope. That maybe, against all odds, there really was a chance. I reflected on how I still carry that foolish hope even to this day. That even when circumstances are at their bleakest, my stupid heart dares to raise a fist to fate and carry that little flame of hope in the face of certain extinguishment.
I got to the top of the hill where the road ran out. I turned around and looked out over the golden hues of the canyon as the sun set. I felt sad, because I had spent good moments of my childhood in here without ever really being in the canyon. I thought of the stories my dad told me and I thought of you, too. Maybe I’m foolish to believe that I will get to see you again. Maybe I’m foolish to believe that I will get to hear that windchime of a laugh again. Maybe I’m foolish for believing that God has written more for you and I.
But for now, as the sun sets over the canyon, I have hope. Hope for us. Hope for that future we talked about.
It was a long walk back to the car but as I took one last deep breath of oak and sage, I thought of how great of a storyteller I am going to be to my little kids someday. That one day, I can be a ghost of hope for them. That one day, they too can raise their fists against fate and declare their hope in the face of hopelessness.
One day. I can feel it.