When I first moved here to the coast, a new friend I met in town told me I’d like it here but warned me, as if I were a child in a fable, “Be careful going. There’s dark and light. You’ll find out what I mean.” One of my first discoveries of this: I found a place to hike: a certain steep and hilly loop trail, a mysterious place that goes in and out of microclimates—foggy junipers or sunny areas dotted with hummingbirds—and with startling panoramic views of ocean, whales, and several beaches up and down the bay, including the beach where Spanish explorers thought the whole place was theirs by simply bullying their way in. For no conscious reason I always found myself taking the trail loop clockwise. Strangely, although I left room for hikers to pass on the trail without bumping, the hikers coming the other direction would often knock into me as if purposely, say something rude about me as they went away, laugh mockingly or even shake a fist at me as if they wanted me off their darn property. I wondered what I was doing wrong, especially since I saw other hikers walking the same direction I did with no contention, only friendly helloing. It was just me these opposing hikers were so angry about. At first I tried to greet these hikers kindly, to no avail. This continued through the first weeks until instead of greeting others I just bent my head and shrank to a passable size. No change in hikers’ habits. When my new friend asked if I had found that scenic trail I said yes but told her the issue. “Oh,” she said, “you’re meeting up with the dark side. Don’t go clockwise—there’s your problem. Go the other way; that’ll fix it.” I had no idea. That indeed fixed it for all these intervening years, until the pandemic. Now the trail loop has a detour sign saying one way only: clockwise. Disallowing my counterintuitive ways! Several times in the past two months I hiked the quarter mile up to that sign—standing at the place where one needs to decide one’s direction— and tried to continue up clockwise but felt so nauseous that I needed to turn around and hike back down. You’ll find me out on the beach below that hill... until the trail is two-way again—and lighter!
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