Remember the part near the end of the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy closes her eyes, clicks her heels three times and says “There’s no place like home” over and over again. Yeah, who doesn’t right? It’s a classic scene, but I’m not so sure that Dorothy got it right. I think home is over-rated. Now don’t get me wrong, home is an incredible place, I love my home, and am quite comfortable with it, but when all is said and done a home is only a structure, a dwelling, where we can keep our stuff. Sure the longer we live in one particular location the stronger our attachment grows, but the concept of home transcends simply a physical location or “a place to hang our hat,” home is a feeling, an emotional state of mind. Homeyness is not limited to our home location, but can be felt anywhere that we may have a connection or history with, any place we can identify with. I’m a firm believer in the notion “home is where the heart is,” and sometimes my heart is elsewhere.
Take Monday for instance. Monday morning Ray and I got up early and headed north to Paso Robles then on to what I believe to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, Lake Nacimiento. Naci sure feels like home to me! I’ve been going to Naci since I was around sixteen and have some some incredible memories of time spent there. For awhile we were going every summer, sometimes twice, a week in August and three day over the Labor Day weekend.
For the past several years a group of friends, actually sons and daughters of the original group of campers have reestablished the Naci camping tradition. It is no longer a week of tenting or ground camping as in days of old, but our children have become smart campers and now enjoy the luxury of on-site, air conditioned trailers, mobile homes and campground condos. Of course the day camp at the waters edge and the nightly camp fires remain the same. Naci nights are the best! Yeah there was quite a group of us that used to go back in the day. Early on there were probably six or seven families and a shitload of us kids. I have no idea how many of us there were but it seemed that when we arrived we took over the campgrounds! At it’s height there were twice that many campers at least. We were one big, happy camping family!
I’ve been longing to go on the annual camping trip to Naci for a couple of years now but something always seems to comes up and I never make it. Last year my dad was in the hospital at the time, this year we had no one to stay with him for the week. Having Pops living with us has added a new wrinkle to my spontaneous, drop everything and do it nature, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Someone suggested that we drop him off at a retirement facility for the week but we couldn’t do that. He’s quite comfortable here and likes his privacy. My aunt who cared for my grandpa used to leave him at a retirement home for weeks at a time while she went off to Cancun, Hawaii or Vegas and Gramps seemed fine with it, but we just couldn’t do it. Somehow it just doesn’t seem right. So no week of camping at Naci for us this year. Maybe next. And truth be told we don’t actually camp. In fact the last two times we went we smartened up like our kids and stayed in a hotel in town. Not quite in keeping with the camping tradition, but fun none the less.
Last Wednesday my eldest daughter, son-in-law and youngest son made a spur of the moment decision to head up to Naci for five days. They packed up the motor home grabbed the kids the kids and left last Friday. I was really glad they were going, I knew my grandkids would have an absolute blast! I was also a little envious. I really wanted to go. And so go we did! Not for a week, but for just one day. I know it seems a little crazy to drive three and a half hours for just one day but believe me it was well worth it. Not only to spend the day with the kids but just to be back at Naci if only for a little while.
I gotta tell you, driving up to the lake from Paso Robles was awesome! It really hasn’t changed much at all. By the time we got to the lake turn off at Chimney Rock my head was reeling with memories! How many time had I made this journey? How many time had I felt the same excited anticipation that I was currently feeling? I can’t begin to guess. When we reached the turn-off for the campgrounds I knew going up for the day was the right decision. I felt so at ease, so excited, everything seemed so familiar. I felt as though I were about to see an old friend, a very dear old friend. I felt like I was headed home.
When I got my first glimpse of the lake I was in heaven. I’ve been to several places that I would say are extremely beautiful, places like Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Hawaii, Yosemite, the Bahamas, yet Nacimiento continues to be my favorite. The dragon lake is just so majestic. I feel so at home there. I could easily make live there and would if I could, especially now that I’m retired. I can’t think of a better place to live out my golden years except maybe Maui. But for my wife, I’d move to Naci in a heartbeat.
We spent an incredible day there. Most of our time was spent on the water. We went out on Ernie’s boat followed by Alan and Little who were trying out a boat they’re thinking about buying. It felt so incredible to be jetting across the familiar waters of Naci, again the memories of so many good times were filling my head. We made our way to a small cove not far from the Narrows. as we moved slowly into the cove we discovered a small inlet maybe 30 feet across and followed it. It was there that we laid anchor and just hang out, listening to music, enjoying some cold brew and watching the grandkids enjoy the water. It was so worth the drive up. The kids were having the time of their lives!
I believe the highlight of the day came just before we headed back to camp. We were all in the boats when my son decided to turn off his country sounds and put on some Beatles. It was incredible! There we were all together, in our own narrow, little canyon, singing the Beatle anthem ‘Hey Jude’. Everyone was singing, even the grandkids! The music and our voices echoed softly off the walls of stone and sounded so sweet! I’m not quite sure, it was probably a combination of things you know, the lake, the kids, the singing of such a memory packed song, the bald eagle that passed overhead, all I know is it was a beautiful moment! It brought tears to my eye, thankfully hidden behind my extra dark Ray Bans. I can’t remember feeling that good inside in quite some time. Then ‘All You Need is Love’ started to play and it all began again! Yet another incredible moment to add to my Nacimiento treasure trove of memories.
The only thing that would have made the moment any better was if my oldest son and his wife could have been there with us. Their kids would have loved it! It would have been wonderful to have the entire family together there in that little cove, talking, laughing and simple enjoying life. Perhaps next year, God willing, things will work out and we’ll all be together at Nacimiento having fun and making memories. I look forward to it.
You have no idea how much I would have liked to stay there with the kids and get together with the rest of the camping group around a roaring campfire. How badly I would have liked to experience at least one Nacimiento starry, starry night. But that wasn’t to be. I’ll simply have to recall all those starry nights from past trips to Naci my home away from home, and hope that next year I will again get a chance to experience them first hand. We’ll have to just wait and see.
Just a Thought…