Relishing the magic of the outdoors at Shoreline Park in Mountain View, CA

Mountain View city, adjacent to Palo Alto, California holds one of the best lake parks I’ve seen, just around a 15-minute drive from my place. The park is located on a landfill beside the bay, a wide expanse that contains a man-made lake of around 2.4 acres, a golf course, a lakeside bistro fronting a line of sailboats, canoes, paddleboats and kayaks available for rent, and a path leading to the reclaimed bay lands for bikers, runners, joggers and walkers.

That Saturday, the hilly picnic area was fenced off for re-grassing. When the project’s all done, I’d like to go back there just to sit or lie down on the lush grass and feel the cool blades against my skin, or watch gleeful children recklessly roll on the low hills, or listen to picnickers’ laughter as they carouse over their food and games, or just look out to the lake where white sails and colorful windsurfs speckle the surface of the water over shimmers of sunbeams.

That afternoon at Shoreline Park, the first order of the day was to fuel our stomachs for energy. We enjoyed a delightful lunch of fat burgers, soup, salad and fries on the patio of the lakeside café. When we arrived, all tables and chairs were taken by customers. Half of the restaurant’s outdoor area was claimed by a robotics organization. I almost expected to see robots in the vicinity, like R2-D2 moving among the crowd. Instead, I saw children frolicking on the grass, adults standing around with champagne glasses in their hands, and men conferring on the side, likely about their programming triumphs or woes … the tech society and working force of Silicon Valley … very interesting.

Next on the agenda after lunch was the paddleboat, everyone agreed. A queen on a paddleboat. That’s how I felt as I sat leisurely and quite relaxed on a shiny metallic turquoise paddleboat we picked from the dock. My three young companions took turns paddling. They just wanted me to sit pretty – and that’s exactly what I did for an hour on the lake.

My first on a paddleboat in five decades. The very first time was when I was an American Field Service (AFS) high school scholar in Pennsylvania, in one of the excursions with friends and fellow exchange students. I worked hard at paddling that time, so unlike that first, this time I sat quietly relishing the surroundings, taking in the fresh air, gazing at the clear blue sky to look for cottony clouds or traces of cirrus, watched other boats and windsurfers struggling to keep up their sail, and counted the ducks that crossed our path on the water. Most restful and peaceful. I communed with nature like I was the only one in the vicinity, not minding the bass thuds of the paddleboat, or the sudden quacks of ducks in quick flight out of the paths of humans, or occasional interjections of delight about the view from my three companions. One of the best weekend afternoons I had enjoyed outdoors in almost three years since my husband passed. I hoped he was watching me enjoying it all, loving it all, like – (what did I say?) – like a queen on a paddleboat.

After one hour on the lake, we walked to the bay lands, for a purpose – to look for anise seeds from plants growing wildly by the wayside. Anise carries that sweet and sharply spicy aroma. The problem was, no one was sure about the appearance of the plant. So, we ridiculously but happily sniffed some bushes to find anise. It was literally hunting for treasure by the nose. We drove the little birds and insects away with our aggressive sniffing, like foxes on prey. What a funny bunch. Finally, we found it! Tall and fragile-looking bush with thin branches and miniscule seeds projecting in clusters. We grabbed some of the branches with the seeds. At that, we stopped sniffing, and proceeded to pick some pink flowers that looked like masses of unopened buds atop shady bushes.

I asked my three companions to walk ahead to the end of the pathway without me, and I sat on a wooden bench just to relish the surroundings and wander my eyes and thoughts to the exquisite beauty around me. I wanted the enjoyment in silence; but for the cheerful chirps of birds, the soft laps of gentle waves against the embankment, and the subdued whistle of the breeze – all else was magical quiet. It was just nature talking, cajoling, and I absolutely reveled in sitting calmly with my face to the sun. I recall blurting exclamations of delight and deep thanks to the One who created such beauty. Then trudged a swarthy old man who asked if he could sit at the edge of the bench because he was tired and wanted to rest. Of course, I said yes. He was short, gray haired and bent. My wild imagination teased me – he could be a winged angel in strange disguise, there to listen and respond to my mumblings. Then my companions came back, intruded on my fantasy and prodded me off my seat to walk with them, back to the lakeside.

Goodbye old man. Though I didn’t see his wings unfurl — that’s how magical Shoreline was that perfect Saturday afternoon.

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