Roads Less Traveled Lead to Amazing Discoveries by Barbara L. Steinberg
Late Sunday afternoon after a long day chasing images and experiences, I headed north on Interstate 5 from Stockton to Sacramento. Tired and hot, the 50-something freeway miles were wearing thin. Familiar with the calmer back roads, I determined to exit at Peltiier Road and wind my way through orchards and vineyards. A slower drive, but gentler on the senses. At the end of the ramp, I turned right on Peltier Road to the stop sign at Thornton Road and north towards Sacramento. There, at the corner, a sign pointed the way towards Blueberries! I hesitated but a moment before going straight on East Peltier Road towards the promised berries! The odometer registerd at 162.5 miles. I would give it a couple of miles or so; if nothing materialized I would turn back.
I could see into the distance and assumed the berry stand would be somewhere along Peltier Road. Ready to abandon my detour, another sign appeared directing traffic onto North Ray Road. More orchards stretched ahead. I strained to see down the road thinking surely the blueberry stand would soon be in view. In the back of my mind thinking this might be a wild blueberry chase. The road curved left with (and yet) another blueberry arrow pointing down Kile Road. Not faraway there was a large house. Really large! At the end of the drive a blueberry sign...U-pick Berries, Tues - Sat, or by appointment. On the end of the driveway was one more sign, CLOSED!
I sat there stunned for two reasons: (1) U-pick berries was not what I had in mind. No where along the way had any of the other signs indicated U-pick and (2) Closed! That pretty much said it all. There was a phone number under the "by appointment" and as I pulled away (yes, illegally) I dialed. I was calm and polite with the woman on the other end of the line. Explained my position (having driven five miles to her driveway) and said she should take her signs down on days when she's closed. She was apologetic and offered me free berries. I was already down the road, declined to turn around, and asked her if Kile Road would take me back to Thornton Road. It did.
While slightly miffed, I figured these were a few new miles to highlight in my Thomas Bros and so the detour was not a complete loss. Back on Thornton Road I settled into my road rythym. Ahead, another sign came into view. One I had passed many times and, again on this day, continued by. Just a few feet away I stopped and u-turned back. The sign had an arrow pointing the way down Barber Road. Turn right. A grove of walnut trees and another sign, I smiled wondering what Buddha would have made of this.
A short distance down Barber Road and another sign at the end of a driveway...I turned in and stopped in amazement at the view that greeted me. Khánh An Buddhist Monastery. Magical and welcoming. The radio was blaring. I quickly turned it off and embraced the silence of this moment. The sun was glaring. Was this a dream?
Keys out of the ignition, I quietly exited the car. From the building, a small dog came running. No barking. Tail wagging. A little smile on its face -- truly. Coming to me, stretching and waiting to be petted. A name tag on the collar -- Lucky -- another sign that seemed to say it all. A large fig tree shaded Lucky and me; clearly we were friends. This tiny creature loving me unconditionally and without question. I waited to see if anyone would come out. No one did.
Bowls of mangos and other fruits -- offerings to Buddha -- were placed at each station. I went back to my car for my cushion, a saffron-striped shawl, and some money to leave a donation. I lit some incense, kneeled on the ground in front of Buddha and wept.
On this day the signs, leading and misleading, were all pointing in the right direction.