I can't remember how many times I ate breakfast at the kitchen table in Davis. I want to say, the morning of the first night I was there, wertperch made me a poached egg on toast. What was in the salt shaker? I don't know. Fennel, probably, maybe rosemary, all ground up with rock salt and other herbs, other spices. Faintly spicy, faintly salty, faintly full of the taste of the garden. He wouldn't tell me.

Other things I can't remember - was it the first day, the second, or the third that the three of us walked out to the garden. I did something I hadn't done since childhood - I stripped off the flip-flops they loaned me and walked barefoot on pavement and on grass. I was too full of feeling to say much aside from listen. Too full of shock.

Somewhere in Reno, Matt had his shoelaces taken away, his pockets emptied. He sat in a small room, he was fed medication to stop him from feeling, to stabilize him.

I was shaking at the seams, thinking about him, thinking about what was going on in my head. I was nowhere close to feeling like dying, but somewhere frighteningly close to the home I'd been looking for. Standing on a smooth stone in the garden plot, and I think it was Kevin who poured beer in offering. We talked about Ganesha, who'd been following him. Chris talked about people and elemental affiliations.

That morning, I got up and I drove away from Davis towards Reno in a mess of confusion with books and a card. There was very little snow left in Donner Pass, even just a few days after I'd been there. No chains needed, just sunshine.

Reno was the same wasteland of despair it had been during the storm. Matt's wife welcomed me, and we ate, and we talked, and I can't recall if I stayed the night. I think I did, but the next day, I was back in Davis, and sometime in there, back in San Francisco.

I remember going through the motions, alternately empty of emotion and full of shock and stress, and full of joy and fear. I think I visited the Borderlands book store on Valencia. I suspect I had dinner with my friend in Oakland. I can't remember any of it.

What I do remember are oranges falling from the tree in Davis, the wide expanse of green, and the vaulted ceiling of the house, the squat black stove, and Chris laughing.

I remember she gave me an errand before I left: a pile of canned goods for karma debt and mordel, though she didn't use those names. I'd also somehow forgotten the numerous messages in my inbox from k_d advising me that they had both crash space and wanted to feed me.

Stop in Eugene, grundoon said. Bring them these, she said. Be a dear.

I took the coolers, we hugged, and I drove north, full of confusion.

The central valley of California along I-5 is not much to speak of, though in early April it's green and gorgeous. As I came north, Mount Shasta loomed in my view, growing larger and larger. Still capped with snow, it seemed like it pierced the sky in a way that even the Rockies hadn't. This wasn't a wall, this was obviously volcanic - something I'd never seen before at this close of a distance.

Red Bluff passed and then I was winding up over bridges and through lakes. I've never seen it as beautiful as it was that day, in the dozen or so times I've crossed through Shasta. The water was clear, blue, and still, reflecting back pine trees like pieces of sky made into silver mirrors. The weather was perfect, the towns bucolic.

Somewhere along the line, I got an enthused message from karma debt asking when I'd be into Eugene. I'm doing vegan tacos, it read.

At that point, a strange fear suffused me the fear of oh god, what is happening here. My social anxiety began working overdrive. Still, I had an errand to complete.

I got in shortly after dark and knocked on the door. It opened, and a short, grinning, blond-haired dynamo hugged me, pressed a margarita into my hand, told me she didn't use Internet names in her house when I introduced myself, then had me sit down at the dining table. The husky, Sabrina, shoved her nose onto my knee. mordel asked how my drive had been. Three kids popped up around the table. One pressed a crayon drawing into my hand, her face solemn. At some point I managed to gift them with a bottle of raspberry liqueur.

Somehow another margarita made it into my hands, this time with the raspberry. Or maybe not. I can't recall. Dinner emerged with improbable speed from the tiny kitchen, in deep-fried bowls with something strangely meatlike on top.

I devoured the entire thing. Also the next margarita someone cunningly left next to me. Conversation was whirlwind for me, moving from road trip to k_d's classes to mordel's work, to the kids, to how good dinner was.

For some reason, my brain wasn't letting me relax. It was a strange setting for me - a family dinner, at a table full of friendly people who kept asking politely for the salt or hot sauce. I was at once tremendously comfortable and tremendously frightened of screwing it up.

At some point after yet another margarita and conversation, tipsy, full, anxious, and overwhelmed, I was told there was a bedroom already set up for me and clean towels in the upstairs bathroom if I needed to shower.

Bewildered, scared, and more than slightly drunk, I stumbled upstairs, showered, and collapsed into a strange bed.

I couldn't make sense of anything anymore. Alarmed and overwhelmed, I was very glad of the alcohol in me as I drifted to sleep.