Last weekend I left cold New York City and headed for the perpetually sunny climes of San Diego. (Seriously, the cushiest gig around must be that of meteorologist in San Diego.) I went to visit dear friends who had the good sense to Escape from New York some years ago a la Kurt Russell.
It was a whirlwind, but an absolute treat to spend time with friends I hadn’t seen in years. (Hello!) The cherry on top of the sundae that was my trip involved a stop at a dog beach in Del Mar. Dogs! Frolicking! On the beach! Yes, please.
Side note: Reggie has only been to the beach once. The small waves on the Coney Island shore scared the beejezus out of him and he wouldn’t go in the water.
While this trip was rather low-key, a previous visit to San Diego wasn’t as uneventful. That trip was dual purpose: visiting friends and attending a writer’s conference. (Check out Susie Lindau’s eye-opening post on what it’s like to attend one of these conferences.)
We’d had some fun-filled excursions to the Hotel del Coronado, La Jolla and Old Town.
The day before the conference, my last free day, we were going to the San Diego Zoo. I was looking forward to seeing the California condors. Another side note: In 1982, only twenty-two birds remained in the wild, and they were in imminent danger of extinction. The zoo began the first breeding program in the country which has been quite successful. Now 413 birds are in the wild.
That morning I went out for an easy run, winding my way through suburban neighborhoods with no sidewalks. About one mile away from the house, I fell. Not a sort of graceful swaying into a swan dive. Not even a tripping over my own feet Three Stooges style. Nope. To this day, I can’t even tell you how it happened. One moment I was running and the next moment I’d nearly face-planted on the pavement. Somewhere in the primitive part of my brain, where language doesn’t exist, I pushed my hands in front of me and likely managed to save all of my teeth and kept my nose in one piece. What I didn’t save was the skin on the palms of my hands. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say, I was on new, intimate terms with road rash.
I managed to return to the house where my friends helped get me cleaned up. (They were real troopers because the wounds on both of my palms were stomach-churning.) Afterward there seemed to be nothing left to do but go to the zoo. I wasn’t going to let a little thing like deep abrasions and blood stop me from checking out the condors. And they were impressive. These birds have a ten-foot wing span and measure nearly fifty-three inches from beak to tail, but, how should I say this, they aren’t the most attractive species at the park. That award goes to the baby orangutans. You be the judge:
So we stopped by the orangutan enclosure. Some of the babies were playing and the adults were sunning themselves about twenty-five feet from the glass divider. They seemed to be oblivious to the throngs of people snapping photos. Then one orangutan broke away from the group and ambled toward me. We regarded each other through the thick glass. He pressed his hands to the glass and, even though mine were throbbing and bandaged, I did the same. I looked into his eyes and I saw recognition and compassion and understanding. There was a level of depth I’d never seen in another animal’s eyes. There were my eyes looking back at me. I felt like I had connected in that same primitive part of my brain that had reacted without speaking when I fell.
I know this isn’t a National Geographic photo. It’s grainy and out of focus and dark, and you can even see bits of the bandages on my palm, but it represents the beginning of a reorganization of how I viewed myself and the world around me.
Have you had a transformative experience on vacation?
Have a great weekend, everyone!