Jim Ott's Blog

This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Warm sand and good words

This column appeared in the Tri-Valley Herald in July 2007.

For the past 15 years, for the week of the Fourth of July, I've loaded up the car with kids and fishing poles and beach chairs and driven to Twain Harte, a small town in the Sierra north of Sonora.

These annual treks into the mountains often yield moments that find their way into this column.

Faithful readers may recall that I taught my youngest daughter how to fly fish on a trip to Twain Harte, and how, in another column, I was "pitched into a rushing river. In an instant, I was downriver from the raft, abducted by brute force from my wife and daughters, my head dunking under from time to time, my mind flooded with thoughts of drowning."

So as we drove last week through Escalon on our way to the Sierra, I asked my wife and daughters to be on the lookout for ideas for my column: "It's not necessary that one of us encounter a near-death experience," I teased, "but if one of you would like to volunteer, it would be good for the column."

Thankfully, no one had to be airlifted from the edge of a cliff, though things got pretty exciting when my eldest daughter found several great books in a used bookstore, and my youngest daughter found the perfect stroke that earned her a free game of peewee golf.

And what my wife and I found was time. Time to sit and read for many hours on the beach at Twain Harte Lake. No e-mail. No computers. No phones. Just warm sand and good words.

One of the books we read, and enjoyed, was Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, subtitled A Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India, and Indonesia.

The book recounts Gilbert's travels as she seeks happiness from life in the aftermath of a difficult divorce. Her writing style is friendly and comfortable.

Gilbert's insights got my wife and me thinking about how great it would be to take a year off, perhaps to travel, to cook more, to write, to rediscover aspects of ourselves we've put on hold.

While we love what we do and the life we have, we know that building a good life means trading away certain freedoms. If only we could clone ourselves and live several lives.

And yet a theme of Gilbert's book is that after the pleasure of food and friendship she enjoys in Italy, and after her spiritual successes in an ashram in India, she discovers love in Indonesia, and, ultimately, the joy of simply living.

Perhaps that's the message from this year's trip to Twain Harte: that good stories need not always be about cliffhangers or near-death experiences.

Sometimes the best story is rediscovering the quiet wisdom of reading, the love of being with family, and simple joy of living the life we have.



she said...

beautiful post; as always!

and once again you shine the light on all the right stuff

the joy of wandering through a good used book store

the face and heart smiles from a winning peewee golf swing

-time- uninterrupted time between husband and wife

time together as a family.

time spent with and in nature.

might not be dramatic.. but it is very powerful!

and that elizabeth gilbert! i'm re-reading eat, pray, love for the THIRD TIME! -and-

hope i can overcome my nerves when we talk about this wonderful book, this phenomenal author, this incredible writing, on your, in a word show

....oh my Good Lord!....

next week!

Melissa said...

I enjoyed this column. I like the pictures you added :)