This holiday season has been a bit more challenging than past years. It is the first year after both Mom and Dad have died. Their absence is felt more this year than ever. Last year, I was able to focus on Dad: decorate his room, visit him over the holidays, and even arrange a small family get-together. Those activities plus my usual minimal decorating plans at home and festivities with friends kept me busy enough to not dwell on missing Mom.
But this year was different. Dad was gone too, so I could not keep myself busy around him. I was down and not really looking forward to Christmas. Even though it is my favorite holiday. I knew I needed to do something to help me embrace the sorrow, reflect on memories, and find a way to adjust to what Christmas will be now. For me, those needs said I better take a nature trip somewhere, anywhere! Nature always helps me reconnect with life, love, spirituality.
It was early December and even though a small rain storm was expected, I decided I would head to the coast. I figured a drive down the Big Sur Coastline with some stops at the beach and in a coastal redwood state park or two would help me get ready for the holidays. I was right.
This specific trip was a drive Dad and I had enjoyed together in the past, so it was like he was with me. Mom too, actually, since she came along on the Nature trips sometimes and would have loved the fall colors and occasional flowers and birds I saw along the way. I brought memories of our good times together home with me from that trip. Mom and Dad—before they moved into the assisted care facility—would come visit me in Bakersfield in early December every year. The rain was even part of the good memories, as Mom and Dad often got stuck in rain on the drive up or back home. But we never let the rain stop us.
Once I got home, I started slowly pulling out not just Mom’s treasured Christmas decorations that I could no long use to decorate her room, but also more of my holiday treasures from past years. Each new box I explored raised more good memories surrounding ornaments and decorations and tangled lights and being tired after fussing with pulling out the boxes.
The trip did its job. Getting Christmas back, even with the sad bittersweet memories of Mom and Dad, started with my Nature Trip. Here are the photos from that trip as my little gift to you. If you need a break from the hustle and bustle, the hectic craziness of the season, take a minute to stroll through nature and remember the good times. Merry Christmas!
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My trip started in the rain, as I cut over to the coast from Bakersfield, California. There were even some flowers for Mom.
My first official stop on this little impromptu trip was to drive up See Canyon Road. This isolated mostly paved road is roughly 13 miles that climb from the very bottom of the canyon all the way to the tip top. It is situated between San Luis Obispo and Avila Beach. This destination was not as desolate and lonely as it had been years ago, but it still gave a feeling of being alone in nature and being on top of the world, gazing out to Morro Bay Rock maybe 20 miles distant. Fall’s muted colors were still lingering even on this mostly gray day.
A stop at Avila Beach was restful. The dense cloud cover meant there would be no wondrous sunset, but the lapping waves and wading birds always put on a good show.
The next day I headed for my favorite stretch of the California Highway System: Highway 1, traveling south from Monterey to enjoy the Big Sur Coastline. There was a bit of rain, lots clouds, and occasional wind gusts, so a good sunset was not expected. But the coastal drive was still mesmerizing.
A short drive through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park offered time for quiet reflection and some good views of coastal redwoods and the Pfeiffer Creek.
Back on the road again, continuing south on Highway 1, I headed from one coastal redwood state park to the next. The sun kept trying to blaze its way through the rain and cloud cover. It was not a typical sunset, but the spotlight effect was pretty dramatic.
Limekiln State Park was my last stop of the day, for a very short visit. It was late in the day and rain was threatening again. And this is a very little state park. Technically, it is no longer part of the state park system due to budget cuts. But the solitude, the beauty, and muted colors of the redwoods and some fall foliage were still priceless.