Decorum

bernie and hillary signs (multiple)On the morning of the California primary, I waved my “Hillary” sign at a major intersection during rush hour. When my shift was over, I stopped to chat with two young women on the opposite corner who were holding “Feel the Bern” signs.

“Did you go to the rally last night?” I asked, referring to Bernie’s final get-out-the-vote push in San Francisco.

“Yes! It was so amazing!” they exulted.

“That’s so exciting!” I said, adding before I went off for my morning latte, “As long as we all come together in November.”

Although I meant it sincerely, I must have come across the way every middle-aged mom comes across to children wary of criticism disguised as sweet talk. Their tone darkened immediately: “If we do, Hillary owes us big time.”

I thought of these young women as I watched the Democratic Convention, struck by how young so many attendees were. They had come full of hope and passion, the tears streaming down their faces as their hero Bernie took to the podium. I recognized those rapt faces, those tears. A long time ago that had been me (albeit in my living room, not on any convention floor) soaking in the glory of my hero, George McGovern, incredulous and heartbroken that our noble mission had fallen short.

But I was also myself as I am now: an older woman who felt horrified by the lack of respect and decorum these same young convention-goers showed as they booed and jeered the speakers.

Then I thought of another indecorous young person—my daughter. When Emma was in high school, a classmate’s mother died. My husband and I were away at the time, but when we returned we learned that Emma had attended the memorial service wearing a hot pink wig and a matching sequined mini-skirt that barely covered her privates.

Horrified and ashamed, I lamented my daughter’s inappropriate behavior to a friend.

“Well,” that friend responded. “At least she showed up. That’s what matters.”

Thank you, Bernie supporters, for showing up, with all your passionate, rowdy, heartbroken, idealistic, organized, and chaotic fervor. You have improved the debate, improved the platform, improved Hillary, improved the country. We do owe you big time. I hope you continue to show up.

That’s what will matter, in November and beyond.

Supreme Safety for Women

Supreme Court BuildingIn a major decision upholding a woman’s right to choose, the Supreme Court just overturned a Texas law that imposed severe restrictions on abortion. Under the guise of protecting women’s health, the law’s real aim was to make it much harder to gain access to safe and legal means of terminating a pregnancy. A majority of justices called out this deception in no uncertain terms.

On the same day, the Supreme Court issued a separate ruling that also furthered genuine rather than sham protection of women. By a vote of 6-2, the Court upheld a federal law that bars people with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from owning guns even if their actions are deemed “reckless” instead of “intentional.” The little-known case pitted gun-rights groups against advocates for victims of domestic abuse.

Unlike false claims that abortion clinics compromise women’s health, batterers with guns pose a real threat. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, people with a history of committing domestic violence are five times more likely to subsequently murder an intimate partner when a firearm is in the house.

The Supreme Court’s decision is in sharp contrast with a do-nothing Congress that consistently ignores strong public support for common-sense gun laws. Although the ruling does not mend the spotty and poorly enforced patchwork of state gun laws that leave so many at risk, it blocks an attempt to undercut a 1996 federal law designed to protect victims of domestic abuse. Had the Court decided the other way, states trying to stem the tide of violence by keeping guns out of the hands of abusers would have been stymied.

In upholding a law that actually protects women while overturning one that doesn’t, the Supreme Court decisions stand as a pointed rebuke to predominantly Republican lawmakers who profess to care about women’s safety even as they undermine it.

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Is It Safe?

Earth from space“Do you think I should still go to Israel?” our 25-year-old daughter Ally asks. She’s nervous after the June 8th  shooting deaths in a popular Tel Aviv market.

“Security’s incredibly tight there, so you’re probably safe,” my husband reassures her.

“I confess it makes me nervous,” I chime in, “But who would have thought before this weekend that it was risky going to Orlando, Florida? These things are incredibly scary, but still really rare.”

They don’t seem rare to Ally. She was 8 years old when two teenagers unloaded their lethal anger at Columbine; 10 when the Twin Towers fell; 12 when we went to war against Iraq. Ally was terrified whenever planes flew over her middle school, afraid they’d drop bombs. Mass shootings have unfolded with increasing regularity throughout her life—Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, Newtown. A year after Ally graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara, a disgruntled young man murdered six students on the same streets she had walked along every day during college.This Friday marks the first anniversary of Dylan Roof’s murderous rampage in a South Carolina church. The Planned Parenthood gunman, San Bernardino, Orlando–the list goes on and on, though many more daily gun homicides and suicides never make the news.

“Has it gotten worse?” Ally asks. “Were you scared growing up?”

We recount the threat of nuclear war, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK, the war in Vietnam, Jonestown, the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. These were our times. People just a few years older feared polio. Our parents lived through all this as well as the Great Depression and WWII.

The truth is, though, that I was never scared. Even the possibility of my older brothers and male friends getting drafted seemed abstract. The outside world seemed far away, the violence less random.

But now with news feeds implanted in our brains 24/7, the outside world has broken through.

My family is lucky. We’ve never had to flee a war zone, worry about catching a stray bullet walking in our neighborhood, gone hungry or homeless, been brutalized by police or bullied for being different.  Ally fears an infinitesimally small possibility, not the grinding daily reality too many live.

I remind Ally of a service trip to Mexico she made a few years earlier with a church group. Before they left, the minister tried to assuage parents’ anxiety about drug violence.

“The world is a risky place,” she said. “I worry each time my own children travel to faraway countries. But then I realize that the far greater risk comes from never leaving home.”

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How do you answer the question, “Is it safe?”

 

 

Getting Out the Vote

Bernie and Hillary signsOn Sunday I got lost in the hills of a nearby neighborhood canvassing for my candidate in the Democratic presidential primary. This is not something we Californians normally do, since the contest is usually put to bed by the time we vote in the primary. And since California is the deepest shade of blue among the blue states, hand-to-hand combat with our neighbors in the fall is unnecessary. Mostly we just write checks and work the phones so we can disrupt people’s dinners in swing states.

This year, though, friends and neighbors are passionately divided over Hillary and Bernie, who are neck and neck in the fight for California’s cache of 475 delegates. Victory (or defeat) is of highly symbolic if not mathematical importance.

I have liked both Sanders and Clinton from the beginning. Both have significant and different strengths and vulnerabilities. For a long time I was undecided, and certainly thought I could vote any which way in the primary because it wouldn’t really matter.

I no longer believe that. And I am no longer undecided.

I am proud to be walking neighborhoods and voting for Hillary Clinton. She has greater depth and versatility than Sanders, and would be more effective at governing and moving a centrist country toward progressive solutions.

Bernie has been a valuable spokesman and motivator for the defining issues of our day. At one point I would have loved to vote for him in the primary.

But Republican leaders, in keeping with their damaging “party above country” stance, are now falling all over themselves to support a candidate they know to be unfit and unqualified for any office let alone president. Democrats can no longer afford to stay in their usual favorite formation, the circular firing squad.  I’m all for the primaries playing out, and for Sanders having a big say in the platform and at the convention. But an ongoing two-flank battle for the nomination itself is a foolish pipe dream that only weakens Hillary (who has legitimately won millions more votes and nearly 300 more pledged delegates than Sanders).and strengthens the Republicans for the fall.

I’ve decided to work hard and vote for Hillary now not only because I think she’d make the best President, but so she’s in a strong position to take on Trump.

My friend Ruth used to say, “My heart’s with Bernie, but my head’s with Hillary.” I know many people whose heads and hearts line up for Bernie, and now Ruth and I both count ourselves among the many whose heads AND hearts line up for Hillary. If you are still divided  within yourself, please consider what I am saying, and choose Hillary for California.

Most important, no matter how you vote in the primaries, vote Democratic in November.

Vote Democrat

Baby Blue

Baby BlueWhen I called our insurance company to put our brand new, baby blue car on the policy, the agent asked, “How many miles are you planning to put on it?”

“None,” I confessed. “I’m afraid to drive it.”

Our old car was riddled with dents and scratches. Naturally, I blamed our daughters, who’d learned to drive on it.

Would our pristine Baby Blue suffer the same fate?

“We won’t let them touch this one!” I’d vowed to my husband.

In all honesty, though, I was responsible for at least half the damage to our old car. I had even dented its front left fender while pulling into the garage the very first day we drove it home from the dealer.

The fact that our new baby was all-electric intensified my fears. The car was either eerily quiet or emitting weird beeps. We couldn’t tell if the engine was on or off, or how to work the lights and windshield wipers. And it was so tiny!

My husband and I felt just like we did as new parents coming home from the hospital with our perfect infant. Was she still breathing? What did those strange noises mean? How badly would we mess her up?

Still, there’s no going back. Just as kids can’t remain in a bubble, cars can’t stay in garages forever. Baby Blue just turned a year old, with close to 8,000 miles on it. Our daughters, now in their twenties, have traveled around the world a time or two. So far, everyone’s made it through pretty much unscathed. There’s a ding in the car’s windshield, but I’m happy to report it happened on my husband’s watch. As for the dings our daughters have taken on, it’s anyone’s guess how they got there.

In either case, life bangs you up a bit, but hopefully doesn’t flatten you.

And if anything big goes wrong with Baby Blue–well, that’s what insurance is for!

Too bad it doesn’t cover raising kids!

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That “first ding” fear with cars or kids?

Advice

adviceMy mother dispensed some puzzling advice: “Don’t grow old,” she was fond of saying.

This always brought me up short.  It seemed hard to imagine that the woman who thought I was God’s gift to the universe was advocating my early death.

Less morbid but equally impossible was another one of my mother’s favorite sayings: “Don’t be like me!”

This is like asking a duckling not to imprint on the first living creature it sees. For better or for worse, we women bear the stamp of our mothers.

My advice to my own daughters is more pragmatic:

  • Pay off your credit cards on time and in full every month.
  • If you want to save money, never order alcohol at a restaurant.
  • The secret to delicious cakes, cookies, and brownies is to always under bake them.

What I’m really saying to my daughters, of course, is DO be like me—sober, responsible, with no greater vice than a sweet tooth. That way, assuming your sugar consumption is under control, you’ll be sure to grow old, with a measure of financial security to boot!

My daughters, now in their mid-twenties, roll their eyes at my advice. They find it hilarious that I’ve never had a hangover.

“Have you ever had ANY fun?” they ask.

“I have fun!” I protest. “I hike, go to the movies, listen to NPR . . . “

I’m beginning to see how I sound just as impossible to my daughters as my mother sounded to me. The difference is that she tried to warn me away from the trap of similarity, while I’m inviting them in.

I’ve attempted to heed my mother’s advice not to be like her, determined to escape the black hole of despair she sometimes fell into. Taking to her bed in the middle of the day, my mother tried to fill that void with cigarettes and Agatha Christie novels and Hostess cupcakes. I do not smoke. I do not read mysteries. I never nap. The empty calories I consume come from artisanal breads and flourless chocolate cakes, not the bologna sandwiches and stale baked goods my mother favored.

Still, she pops up within me, having seeped into my pores despite my best efforts. I, too, embarrass my children by chatting up the grocery store clerks in the check-out line or fulminating against those with different political views. Unlike my mother, however, I never hurl ashtrays at the TV screen when politicians I loathe appear. But that’s only because I don’t smoke.

My mother followed her own advice—she did not grow old.  Done in by three packs a day and all those Hostess cupcakes, she barely squeaked past 70. I hope to defy her particular counsel about aging. But I’ve long stopped fighting the fear of becoming her. Now that my mother is gone, I wish I was more like her. For one thing, I realize there’s a whole genre of detective fiction I’ve missed! And how I’d love to hurl invective if not ashtrays right along beside her at various presidential candidates. I’d give anything to tell my mother how glad I am she passed on to me her politics, her humor, her intelligence, her passion for social justice, and her deep, deep love for her children.

My daughters still fear turning into me, just as I once feared turning into my mother. They can’t imagine a worse fate than the dull, safe life I have mapped out for myself and seek to impose on them. They don’t yet know that such a life might be worth emulating.

Since I never co-signed for my daughters’ credit cards, I do not know if they are now paying exorbitant interest and late fees to banks, or how many expensive cocktail bars show up on their statements.

But already they make a mean chocolate cake. I guess there’s hope that they’ve been listening after all.

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What’s the best and worst advice your mother gave you and/or that you’ve given your kids?

 

 

 

Electable Enough?

Bernie and Hillary signsThese are exciting times for those of us who reside in the dark blue bubble of the San Francisco Bay Area. Like the parents of teenagers, we’re used to being ignored by presidential candidates unless we’re being asked for money. But this time, our votes almost matter. That’s an unfamiliar feeling.

We’re also unfamiliar with impassioned disagreements among hitherto like-minded friends and neighbors. Now we get to experience what the good citizens of Ohio routinely practice—living peaceably through constructive persuasion alongside people who hold stupid and wrong different beliefs.

Take, for example, my Friday hiking buddies, who are Feeling the Bern. As for me, all I feel is heartburn at the prospect of any Republican in the White House.

“Okay, I’m officially undecided,” I said to my friends last fall. “The thing I care most about is electability. Persuade me.”

“I don’t give a damn about electability,” responded Gary. “I’m tired of voting for the lesser of two evils!”

“Same here,” chimed in Sharon.

Then Gary decided to turn up the charm on his undecided prospect: “One thing I’ve never liked about you,” he railed at me, “Is how willing you are to compromise your principles.”

Reading my mind before I could even open my mouth, Gary added for good measure, “And I don’t care about the Supreme Court!”

Like I said, this was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Justice Scalia was still alive. The presidential prospects of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were widely viewed as DOA. But as this crazy primary season has unfolded, all bets are off about who’s the most electable.

On most days, it seems like even I could beat Donald Trump. But given Hillary’s earned and unearned negatives, Bernie, pointing to national polls, argues that he’s the better candidate to prevail in the general election.

I’m still not feeling the Bern, though.

I love Bernie. He has assumed the mantle of electoral politics that the Occupy movement unwisely shunned. I am grateful to him—as I am to Occupy—for articulating issues like economic injustice, and for making Hillary a better candidate. I ought to feel as Sharon did when I first asked her if she was supporting Sanders: “He stands for everything I believe in? Why wouldn’t I support him?”

George McGovern stood for everything I believed in back in 1972. I supported him with the fervor so many of my friends now feel for Bernie. Like them, I was convinced that our righteous cause would prevail. How could it not? I still remember the disbelief I felt, the tears I shed the day after Richard Nixon creamed him. Those who lived in the one state McGovern carried coped by affixing bumper stickers that said, “Don’t Blame Me: I’m from Massachusetts.”

I do not want the cold comfort of a bumper sticker that reads, “Don’t Blame Me: I Voted for Bernie.” Because even though polls show that Sanders currently does better than Clinton in the general election, Bernie will likely get creamed once the Republican attack machine gets going. Besides, most of his supporters aren’t willing to pony up the taxes his proposals require. And even if they were, there’s that inconvenient truth known as Congress mucking up the political revolution.

I want a strong and competent Democrat in the White House who will get there with the votes of people more moderate and hawkish than I am. I want incremental progress rather than a failed revolution. I want the balance on the Supreme Court to shift left. I’m ready to skip the high hopes—and crushing disappointment—the candidate of my dreams evokes. Been there, done that.

I want Hillary. She’s highly intelligent, dedicated, a hard worker, and an indefatigable champion of women, children, families, and the middle class. She’s a credible player on the world stage. She knows how to govern. Besides, we need Bernie to remain a potent voice for change, a voice best amplified by remaining an outside critic.

I’m reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s words: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Hillary Clinton can be the foundation upon which Bernie Sanders and the movement he’s sparked can continue to build.

But no political revolution or incremental progress will come about if Hillary and Bernie supporters who are duking it out right now stay home come November. These bumper stickers I saw today say it all:

So whether you’re Ready for Hillary or Feeling the Bern, get out there and vote!

Political Rupture

woman burning in hell (2)At a rally for Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright declared, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” A fierce debate about gender, the generational divide, and feminism in presidential politics ensued. There’s a fundamental psychological dynamic at play as well: the idealization of female solidarity and the corollary difficulties women often experience when differences emerge.

Women are celebrated for their emotional intimacy. Statements like, “We get one another completely”; the sharing of secrets, clothes, and gossip; even jokes about women going en masse to the bathroom make clear how much women prize connection.  This “urge to merge” can be viewed as an aspect of female identity formation and the longed-for return to the blissful state of maternal-infant union. Nothing is quite as delicious.

But it’s also a set up. When women are not supposed to feel, let alone talk, about their differences, there’s no room for conflict, and no vocabulary or practice for resolving it. Difficulties go underground, leaking out in ways that often lead to rupture. Thus differentiation is experienced as betrayal, and standing apart from the group risks social suicide. My daughter discovered this in college when, tired of looking for housing with eight (!) other women, she considered leaving the group. The anger and accusations of disloyalty quickly convinced her otherwise. It turned out that none of the women really wanted to live in such a large household, but no one knew how to say so without hurting anyone’s feelings or being seen as a traitor.

This loyalty/betrayal split is now being played out in presidential politics. Albright’s remarks typify idealized notions of female connection that make no room for difference. She reminds us of the dangers women face if they stray from the fold. (Never mind that the halcyon days of blissful union have never really existed: the very women’s movement Albright exalts was itself torn apart by conflict.)

Predictably, when Albright consigned to hell women who disagree with her, all hell broke loose. As long as those who differ are seen as traitors, with only a narrow range of women’s emotions and choices deemed acceptable, all hell will continue to break loose.

But perhaps there’s hope. As younger women reap the benefits of their foremothers and are able to speak up, speak their minds, and stand apart, strong feelings and disagreements won’t be quite so likely to go underground, then erupt. Instead, polarization might give way to dealing directly and respectfully with the differences that enrich women’s complex and very human experiences.

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What have your experiences been with female solidarity and its discontents?

 

 

Spring in My Step

Calistoga St. Helena Fawn Lily April 2016I’d rather hike than blog, so I’ve been MIA from Shrinkrapped for a bit. But it’s been a fantastic diversion, as decent rainfall in Northern California after four years of drought has left our hills emerald and strewn with wildflowers such that we haven’t seen for awhile. Still, my keyboard fingers are a bit itchy and I’ve been feeling a bit guilty, so here’s a sample of where I’ve been lately to make up for blogging negligence.

While we were in Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, and The Pinnacles,

it was cool and rainy back home. So when we returned, we feasted on the intense green hills in our own backyard during a great hike with friends on the Big Rock Trail in Lucas Valley:

Lucas Valley 3.19.16

 

The day before Easter, we hiked at Point Reyes National Seashore and saw Harlequin flowers and lilies on the Muddy Hollow and Estero trails:

Then on Easter Sunday, we hiked up the Morning Sun Trail into the Marin Headlands above Gerbode Valley, where developers were stopped from putting in housing for 30,000 in the late 1960s. At the same time, our daughter was riding her bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge–it’s so nice to have her nearby instead of in Barcelona!

Just this past weekend, we drove north to hike above Calistoga–the morning fogOat Hill Mine Road, Calistoga morning fog April 2, 2016 was still in the valley as we started up the trail. The old Oat Hill Mine Road connects Calistoga with Aetna Springs Road in Pope Valley, and was used by mercury miners in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. You can still see ruts carved into the rock by heavy wagons in place along the trail. It was hard enough walking on the rocky trail–I would never survive the jostling of those who came west in wagons (not to mention the jostling the mountain bikers who whizzed past us survive in their modern-day spandex–some people are just gluttons for punishment!).

There are wonderful volcanic Calistoga Palisades April 2016rock formations known as the Palisades along the way, and the minerals in the soil, helped by the rain, put on a wonderful display of lupine,  poppies, mimulus, and other wildflowers. (A man we met on the trail directed us to a cache of rare St. Helena Fawn Lilies, pictured at the top of this post.)

Then it was home again. Not too shabby walking around town each morning either!

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What are your favorite springtime outings?

 

St. Patrick’s Day at the Pinnacles

Pinnacles 6We finished up a week in the desert (Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park) with a bit of green for St. Patrick’s Day: a hike at the Pinnacles before returning home. Gorgeous rolling hills, dramatic rocks, splendid wildflowers: It’s a place we discovered 28 years ago, and have gone back to many times. Here, once again, is an essay about one of my favorite places, with a few new pictures.

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It’s a steep haul up the High Peaks Trail, especially when you’re seven months pregnant with your first child. But back then, giddy with promise, my husband Jonathan and I floated past the massive boulders of Pinnacles National Park.

Cresting the summit, baby bulk and all, I relished the double take of the buff, shirtless teenagers loitering atop the rocks. They paused mid-swagger to glance in horror at my swollen belly as I conquered the mountain in my smocked maternity top.

Our family has returned to the Pinnacles again and again, drawn by the massive cliffs, soaring spires, and lush spring wildflowers. Leaving behind the fragmented kaleidoscope of daily life, we are calmed by the reliable sameness of the timeless, indifferent peaks.

Yet even in this constant landscape, change is under way. The fantastic rock formations are the remains of an ancient volcano ravaged by erosion, creeping steadily up the Salinas Valley along the San Andreas Fault. I am grateful that only subtle clues dispel the illusion of permanence. A precariously balanced boulder has fallen from its perch. Spatters of chartreuse and rust lichen toil as alchemists, turning rock to soil. Their magic allows monkey flowers the color of apricots to bloom from dirt pockets hidden in solid stone.Pinnacles, Monkeyflower

Time has worked its alchemist’s magic on us as well. Two years after our initial trip, we camp at the Pinnacles, weighed down by the accoutrements of toddlerhood — diapers, goldfish crackers, juice boxes, a travel crib. Emma, whose in utero view had been obscured, now enjoys the scenery from the baby backpack that digs into our shoulders as we trudge along the dusty trail.

When we return again, the campground has been paved over for more parking. This time, we have two young daughters in tow, barely out of diapers. But Emma and Ally are definitely into sit-down strikes at the prospect of hiking more than a few hundred yards. Not wishing to fight an uphill battle, we content ourselves with the flat path at the base of the mountains so the girls can splash in the creek. Jonathan, impatient with the meandering pace of childhood, sprints to the summit while the girls and I delight in wild bouquets and rocky forts along the valley floor.Pinnacles, Lupine

The next time the Pinnacles beckon, Emma and Ally gamely traverse the High Peaks Trail. They are enchanted by poppies sprouting out of boulders, the rock that looks like a camel. The girls nibble on miner’s lettuce and strategic bribes of chocolate, scampering around the summit while their tired parents lag behind. Rocks and children tame each other: whininess turns to exultation, forbidding stone becomes an infinite playground.Pinnacles, Clematis

Although the incline invites vertigo, the girls clamber up and down, up and down the footholds chiseled into the rock, swinging from the metal banister as if nature and the Park Service had fashioned monkey bars just for them. Jonathan and I must squeeze through the narrow cliff passage in an awkward crouch. But it is just the right size for Emma and Ally, who march through boldly upright, giggling as their crooked parents bump their heads against the rocky overhang.

We are not the only ones who find the Pinnacles a good place for families. Condors, recently reintroduced to the park, build nests in the sheltered crevices. While they teach their young how to catch thermals, we show ours how to catch the shine of buttercups on their chins in the warm sunlight.

Now our daughters have taken flight too, soaring and wavering in their own grown-up landscapes. Alone again, Jonathan and I make our pilgrimage to drink in the riotous wildflowers and steadfast rocks whenever time allows. As always, we stop in Soledad’s Mexican grocery for tortas — soft white rolls dripping with spicy carnitas.Jonathan in Soledad eating torta, March 2016

Soledad, gateway to the Pinnacles, has sprung up even faster than Emma and Ally. Twenty-eight years ago, it consisted of the grocery, a prison, a few dusty streets of dilapidated houses, and a fleabag hotel with a cracked, empty swimming pool. Now the highway billboard reads: “It’s happening in Soledad.”  Vineyards dot the hillsides, and a tony resort lies adjacent to the Pinnacles. Kids from tidy homes with manicured yards swarm the soccer field at the spanking new school. A vast shopping center dwarfs the original Main Street, but we still head to our old Mexican grocery.

Fueled by succulent tortas and memories, Jonathan and I start up the High Peaks Trail once more. Although stiffer and a little creaky, we ascend quickly past the boulders and apricot blooms of monkey flower.

Again and again, we come back to ourselves in the shelter of the enduring cliffs.Pinnacles 3