Paul and I returned to our roots as a couple as well as to Paul’s childhood setting this past summer, which I was describing in the previous post. Our trip began in Mount Hermon, Scotts Valley, and Santa Cruz, California — the genesis of our story decades ago. To continue this mini chronicle, after traveling north on Route 101 for seven beautiful hours, we approached Crescent City, Paul’s home town.
I love this drive where at times I can drink in the the glistening ocean vistas on the west side of the road while on the east side the stunning Redwood mountain range follows us, that is, we follow the range. I snapped pictures of the view at one point along Highway 101 that you see both in the header of my blog and above this paragraph. In these views the green hills cascade directly into the sea. This is Northern California glory.
After staying with dear friends, Wayne and Katie, in Mount Hermon as described in the previous post, we were now headed to Robert and Donna Presler’s home in Paul’s home town of Crescent City. However, the Preslers live on the interior side of town, nearer to the Redwood mountains while Paul grew up near the ocean cliffs above Pebble Beach. The Presler’s large property is outlined in the back with Redwood trees, gaining height year by year so that their back yard has more shade today than it used to have.
Most mornings Paul and I walked to the end of the Presler’s street, admiring the foliage, flowers, and mighty Redwoods that are part of the natural landscape of most of the properties. The morning air was often brisk and misty, for the sun had not yet burned off the ocean fog. Redwood trees, happy in this atmosphere, often grow in clusters, strengthening one another. Humans would do well to learn from them.
At this season (early August), wild blackberries were ripening.
Like eager children, Paul and I cheerfully picked and ate blackberries growing on wild bushes along the street as we took our walk. They became our breakfast fruit. Paul loves to be back home when the wild blackberries are in season.
On Saturday we accompanied the Preslers to the Farmers’ Market. The atmosphere of the market made us feel welcomed and at home in this small community.
Like most farmers’ markets I’ve visited, local people displayed their homegrown produce as well as entrepreneurial arts and crafts, hand sewn or crocheted hats, scarfs, and baby clothes. Woodworkers displayed their clocks, wall hangings, and chairs. Bakers sold tempting goodies. Authentic Mexican, American, and Chinese food offered difficult to choose options. A local guitarist sang classic folk and rock songs with a smooth baritone voice while a petite, willowy older lady swayed and danced to the music in the center of the wide isle. Some would describe all of this as provincial. I would not disagree. Such local markets stir within me the inner longing for belonging to community, and I pray: “Thy kingdom come. . . and may I be in the midst of it.
For two Sundays, we attended church with our friends at Smith River Baptist north of Crescent City near the Oregon border. Near their church, we visited the peaceful grave site of their first born son who died nearing the age of 34 four years ago in a truck accident, just three weeks after our last visit to the Preslers’. Quietly we stood there. Silent. Then talking in low tones. Robert reminisced, chuckled, teared up, and achingly smiled his amazingly broad smile wherein his eyes become crescents. Then meandering the entire cemetery, we studied old inscriptions, considering the tales of many lives.
One afternoon Paul went alone to a different cemetery to visit the resting location of his parents, Florence and LeRoy Olsen, who at the ages of 44 and 45 adopted William Armstrong (Paul Olsen), age two years and three months and a newborn girl who became Karen Louise Olsen. These children born in Edmonton, Alberta grew up in this logging, fishing community of Crescent City. The logging and fishing industries are greatly reduced and do not sustain the community today, but they are their heritage, and they still play an important role in this region.
One evening the Preslers held a BBQ for lots of mutual friends.
We shopped one day and prepared all the next day for the evening gathering. Donna is an amazing hostess — calm, confident, and capable under pressure. I watched her with admiration.
And her rose gardens! Donna and her rose gardens would require an entire descriptive essay!
Many nights we stayed up late (for me, an early bird) to talk with Donna and Robert and several of their children. Their daughter, Hilary and her husband Bryce were just back from their honeymoon. They are missionaries to Peru; he is a missions pilot and airplane mechanic, so Paul and Bryce really enjoyed each other. Maybe someday Paul can do a missions trip to their place in Peru to help Bryce with his responsibilities. I cannot go with him, but I’m pleased to send him and pray at home. Since Paul does regular missions trips (usually church planting trips with e3Partners), why not an aviation trip? After all, his educational and career backgrounds are in aviation.
Much to our pleasure, Hilary and Bryce will be visiting us at our Arizona home at the end of this week in the middle of their trip to visit supporters and supporting churches.
By the way, Paul is going on a missions trip to Cuba after Thanksgiving. Let us know if you want to know more about it!
Visiting with many friends in Northern California, eating at local, seafood and Mexican restaurants, attending the county fair, and cruising to special spots on the beach were topped off by an evening with Paul’s sister, Karen, her two adult daughters, and four of her six grandchildren.
Since we’ve had little contact for many years, this connection was very special — for them as well as us. Karen made spaghetti with a homemade sauce that tasted just like her mother’s. The sense of taste can trigger memories long forgotten.
A few days before leaving, I had an adventure. Yes, Paul was with me, but it was my special adventure. We drove the winding road up to the river, the Smith River which cuts through the Redwood mountains.
Our goal was to swim in the clear, cool river, but this time, we stopped at a spot before Slant Bridge and walked the trail down to the water.
To be continued.
Thanks for sharing Karen. I feel like I went on the trip with you! Can’t wait for the next part!