I needed all of it. I needed the cypress trees at Pfeiffer Beach, the way they stretched, low and dense, a canopy across the sand. I needed the eucalyptus, how it invaded the air and made breathing seem like something entirely new. I needed the sailboats on Monterey Bay and the vastness of the water stretched out before me. I needed the glimpse, in the distance, of the white puff from the whale's blowhole then, briefly, its tail before it disappeared back into the deep. I needed the redwoods towering above me and the strange, ropy patterns in the sandstone along the Pacific Coast Highway. I needed the craggy coastline and the crashing surf and the fog threatening to swallow it all.
I needed every bit of beauty Northern California could serve up to me.
I knew I had needed to make the call to let my cat go, my buddy of 17 years. I knew it wasn't fair to him to play out some fantasy, keeping him alive until I could get to his side. Even though making the decision from 2,500 miles away seemed impossible and surreal.
When I left the redwoods and the ocean and the waves crashing on cliffs behind me and came home, I needed to keep his bowl where it was for the first day, just as I needed to pick it up and put it away the next. I needed to toss out the ratty towel he used to sleep on behind the bathtub. I needed to keep the tuft of his white fur I found resting under my desk chair.
I needed to go out into the garden and pull out the last of this year's tomato plants, sobbing as I did, knowing it was the end of growing season, that we'd done all we could here. The plants were spent.
Later, I needed to be in the kitchen, my hands wet with the juice of the last tomatoes, cutting, roasting, coaxing them into a sauce.
I needed to feel my hands in flour, to cut butter into tiny pieces and pulse it into a dough, marveling how a few ingredients and a little electricity produce such a thing. I needed to peel the apples, toss them with lemon juice and sugar and place them in the dough.
I needed to make things. I needed to have things become, rather than go away.
I needed to cry, a lot. I needed to tell people that he wasn't just any cat. That I got him the last year of my drinking, the darkest and loneliest time in my life. I needed to tell people that he was the first thing I was able to take care of outside of myself, to make amends to. I needed them to know how, when my mother died, he sat with me as I made strange animal howls of grief.
Everything in life comes down to what we need at any given moment. That is how, I think, we get through what we get through - needing from minute to minute.
And that was what I needed, this week.