Home > Dolby

Author: Maryann Jordan

A bead of sweat trickled down Marcia’s spine, disappearing into the waistband of her jeans. She wiggled slightly, scrunched her nose at the uncomfortable sensation of sweat-dampened panties, then hefted her backpack a little higher on her shoulders. The brilliant California sun reflected off the water, chasing the early spring chill as it warmed the sand.
She inhaled deeply, then slowly let the air slide from her lungs, relishing the scent of the distant pine trees, mixed with a salty tang of the ocean as the waves chased each other on the shore before they raced back into the sea.
The physical intensity of the hike had been exhausting, but the emotional stretching of being alone in a remote area had been equally as tiring. Her isolation wasn’t the concern. In truth, she preferred her solitude. Being around others made her nervous as she tried to think of small talk. She wanted to blend into the background, hoping no one noticed her. Preferring to people-watch rather than actually be with people.
But then, she was also more comfortable in her house and not wandering by herself on a long stretch of beach. Out here, she was vulnerable. She was getting stronger, although most would be shocked at how many years she’d worked to get to this point.
Recovery has no timeline. Everyone learns to move forward at their own pace. Give yourself a chance to find your own healing.
The words of her therapist came back to her, although, in truth, they were never very far away. She’d spent sixteen years working to move past the choking fear of being vulnerable with others. And the fear of being in a crowd with people she didn’t know. And the fear of closed-in spaces. Or the fear of the dark. Or the fear of… Stop! Just stop!
Forcing her anxiety back into the mental box she’d determined to place it in, she continued her sojourn toward the small, abandoned lighthouse secluded in the middle of the preservation land. The landmark was now visible in the distance, a beacon sitting on a small hill.
A cloud temporarily blocked the sun, blanketing the beach in shade while sending a slight chill over her skin. She looked around, waiting to see if prickles on the back of her neck were coming, but no sensation of impending danger arrived. Just the sound of seabirds, the waves crashing, and the breathtaking sight of nature all around.
She continued to the lighthouse, her steps lighter as she neared even as her breath was labored from the exertion. It had taken her almost two hours to get there, and the major accomplishment sent a wide smile across her face. A black lantern room topped the white concrete structure. It was short in stature compared to other lighthouses but sat atop a hill next to the coast. There was no keeper’s house. Instead, it was just the beacon.
Due to its remote location, it was rarely visited. Most visitors made the trek in warmer weather, and she’d correctly assumed this would be a good time of year to avoid others. Nearing, she sent a worried glance toward the ocean, seeing the clouds gathering. There was less than thirty percent chance of rain today, but the dark clouds obviously didn’t read weather reports.
Her top teeth worried her bottom lip as she hesitated, then shook her head in derision. If it was going to rain, she hardly had time to turn back now since it would take another couple of hours to get home. She’d come this far and was determined to see the inside of the lighthouse. Even though her legs protested, she hurried over the last part of the trail and made it inside before the first splat of raindrops fell.
Several birds roosting inside caused a flutter as they flew out when she entered, and she squeaked, ducking out of their way. The structure was open on both ends, empty of anything other than bird droppings in one corner and a rusty, spiral iron staircase leading to the lantern room in another corner. But it provided the perfect shelter while she waited for the rain to pass. It was filled with light, not closed off, and offered the ability to stay dry while she watched the ever-changing panorama of clouds and the ocean just outside.
She was surprised the inside of the lighthouse was only about fifteen feet on each side, approximately the size of her dining room. The walls appeared sturdy, although some cracks showed near the doorways, and the window openings had evidence of crumbling concrete.
She sat down carefully on the concrete floor, wincing at her tight leg muscles. She dropped her backpack from her shoulders, immediately feeling the ease move through her body. Reaching in, she dug around until she pulled out her food and water. A simple picnic, but as she breathed in the cool, fresh air and let the wind whip the escaping tendrils of hair about her face, she relished her snack of peanut butter crackers and water.
Even with the rain pouring outside her little open-air hideaway, her shoulders relaxed, her chest eased, and a slow smile curved her lips. She held up her phone and snapped several pictures, then tapped on a dictation app and began to talk. She wanted to commit her senses to memory… the smells, the sounds, the view, the experience.
“The blue hues of the sky and water are ever changing…cerulean, Aegean, azure, beryl. The earth tones of brandy, negroni, and maize. The green of moss, olive, blue spruce.” She had no idea where she might put this description to use but was determined to record the experience to further her imagination.
A sense of accomplishment filled her at her successful solitary hike. She leaned back against the concrete wall, stretched her legs out in front of her, and let the peace of the early afternoon rainstorm envelop her.
Dolby trekked along the California trail toward the coast, hefting his heavy backpack on his shoulders. He’d spent several days hiking along preservation lands in Northern California, pitching a tent each night and avoiding crowded areas as he searched for solitude.
Not that he didn’t enjoy good company, but as the youngest of three boys, he learned to appreciate some alone time at an early age. In fact, he remembered his mother used to require each of them to read quietly at night before they went to bed. “Everyone needs time with their own thoughts,” she used to say.
Privacy was also rare during his years as an Army Ranger, but he wouldn’t have traded anything for the camaraderie. Now, as a Keeper for the elite company of Lighthouse Security Investigations West Coast, he experienced that same solidarity he shared with his birth brothers and then his brothers-in-arms in the military with the best group he could work with.
The forest was thick as he walked along, but eventually, the underbrush became more prevalent, indicating the trees were thinning out as he neared the coast. Douglas fir and redwoods, along with pine and laurel, covered the mountains to the east, and he looked forward to the sight of the beargrass, bentgrass, and oat grass covering the coastal prairies.
He stopped and took a sip of water. Stretching his back, he heard it crack along the vertebrae. At thirty-three, he didn’t often sleep outside anymore and felt the twinges he’d never experienced in his twenties. As much as he loved outdoor recreation, at six feet five inches and two hundred and twenty pounds, his thick, firm, king-sized mattress would be welcome when he finished his trip and returned home. He’d purchased a modest-sized house where he could spend weekends working on it, and he enjoyed inviting his friends, coworkers, and family to visit. But he also relished the times when he could settle on the deck or by the fire with a good book and a whiskey.