Panning For Gold

Published on by Francesca Quarto

Sometimes, I believe I was born in the wrong corner of history. My love for adventure has often had to take the form of cerebral journeying, with a book in hand as guide and companion and no post cards.

However, I do recall vividly, getting lost at age four, during a solitary expedition.

I was on a beach filled with thousands, when I wandered off to fill my pail with water for my sandcastle. I only had to go a few yards, turn, and go straight back to my family's multi-colored umbrella.

I got my water, inspected some unwary sand crabs, gathered a few shells, and when I turned from one sea, I was staring at another sea...of multi-colored umbrellas.

They thought I was carried away by the waves; I thought the Life Guard was mean when he held me aloft like a prize piglet at a 4 H Fair, to be judged and inspected. Luckily, my parents and assorted siblings heard my shrieks at the indignity of being hoisted up and spotted my dark curls flying like signal flags in the wind.

To this day, I hate getting lost. It's nearly a phobia and I readily admit it to myself. To others, I merely blame it on inheriting a family trait for being directionally challenged.

Fortunately for me, this fear has never curbed my appetite for experiencing the new and exotic, the scary and unimaginable.

And that always takes me back to books!

I've often mentioned an unfulfilled desire to pan for gold just like the fortune seekers during the California Gold Rush days. They were armed with primitive tools and weapons by today's standards, but managed to wrest the yellow treasure out of the hills and mountains and streams that often flowed with their own blood.

Reading about their unimaginable challenges, one might logically conclude they were all mad as "hatters" and dismiss their drive as strictly a lust for wealth. But I for one, would beg to differ.

These men (and some sturdy women) who sifted and strained the sediments of the mountain streams, or hacked away with pick and shovel at mountain walls, searched for more than treasure. It's conceivable that they loved the challenge of a new experience, the adventure of being the first, the memories they could ride, like rafts down the river of time.

I may never know the exhilaration of discovering a gold nugget while the clean air of the mountains washes over me, but I'll always have my adventure when I turn the next page.

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