Thursday, August 1, 2013

In the Pines

I never wanted to miss a month of blogging. Now I've missed three. I could blame it on the usual amalgam of writing, thrift-store shopping, and doing the dishes, but there's really only one reason:

Though she is fast becoming a toddler, I'm so glad that Mallory still fits in the kitchen sink :)

Summer's been alternately domestic (new grill, patio umbrella, plum infusions, kiddie pool) and hectic (chasing after Mallory), but until a few days ago, it was missing a real vacay.

 It was time. We had to get outta dodge. So we climbed into the foothills of the Sierras, to Grass Valley, where we checked into the Holbrooke, the oldest continuously running hotel in California. Our room was painted lavender, with high ceilings, a claw-foot bathtub, and a broken night-stand drawer--the hint of shabbiness that made this once-grand hotel affordable for folks like us.

We put Mallory to bed that night and headed downstairs with our baby monitor and backgammon set, feeling bold and free. After a cutthroat game (usually) and a creme brulee, we stood outside in the warm evening air, imagining the town in its Gold Rush heyday.

The next day we loaded up on pasties (savory pies stuffed with veggies and cheese) and took the Rough and Ready Highway to the south fork of the Yuba River. Mallory plunged into the water like she'd been waiting for it her whole life, fearlessly going in up to her neck, fending off her concerned parents. She learned the word "rock" and made a slew of friends and sang almost the whole drive home.

At dinner that night, Mallory entertained herself with three crayons and a booster seat while we ate peacefully, alternately feeding her bites of spinach ravioli. It was the easiest meal we've had with her. Sun-tired and beat, we crashed shortly after she did that night.

Our getaway was brief, could hardly be called a trip, but it reminded me of how essential it is to switch up my surroundings. Often. There are always the frustrations--the drive back home was almost comically horrendous--but there are always bright moments back-lit with loveliness. An unpicked (why? how could this be?) blackberry bush. Perfectly spiced French toast. Cool, clear river water and warm baths at night. And, after climbing back down into the Central Valley from the sweet mountain pines, the startle of acres upon acres of sunflowers bowing their big regal heads at us.