Charles G. O'Connor
Last day of 2010. It was yesterday morning when the message arrived announcing death of an old friend. It was not unexpected. He was almost 94. Nevertheless, I was saddened by the news. Death of someone close to us reminds us of our own mortality. More than that, it makes us think of others who are suffering from sickness and age-related problems. It is not often that a good life ends in a good death.
I went out for a long walk in the forest. Phleger Estate
was cold; the trails were muddy, churned up in places by horseback riders. A few of them rode past. The creek alongside Miramontes Trail was flowing full and strong. I headed west on Miramontes and thought of the late Charlie O'Connor, master mariner. The years when I worked under him in Kolkata, India, and later of his visits when I had the pleasure of showing him parts of California that I love. Took him to Yosemite National Park and to Lake Tahoe. Did what tourists do in the Monterey Bay area -- the 17-Mile Drive; John Steinbeck's old haunts; drove on Highway 1 to the Central Coast. Stopped to admire Bixby Bridge at Big Sur; took one of the tours at Hearst Castle at San Simeon. And, of course, we walked the streets of San Francisco. Charlie never learned to drive but once he accompanied his brother-in-law on a road trip to the west coast. I remembered that I picked him up at the Burlingame Country Club where they were staying as guests of the Giannini family (founders of the original Bank of America) and brought him home for a few days.
Then I heard voices of children. A group of 8-10 year olds, with two adults, were behind me, chattering happily. I struck up a conversation with one of the supervising adults. He happened to be a resident of San Carlos but originally from Scotland. Said that the trails at Phleger Estate were good for training for the Dipsea
footrace. Told him that I had run the Dipsea and the Double Dipsea. Now there is a Quad Dipsea race! We talked about Lake District in the north of England where I had done some long-distance walking.
We came to the junction of Raymundo and Mount Redondo Trails. They went up Raymundo, and I took Mount Redondo. Soon, I could no longer see or hear the kids. I missed them. The walk made me feel better, lighter.
"And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins."
~ Algernon Charles Swinburne