Camera Chameleon

So, with nothing in particular to do last Sunday, and needing a break from the pixi-ranch, my spouse and I took off for parts slightly known, in hopes of  finding something we hadn’t seen before here in Gold Country.

The foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California are home to a lot of history. Like the town of Placerville, once known as Hangtown because, hangings! Highway 49, the original wagon trail of — you got it — the 49ers. And the Mormon Emigrant Trail, not in fact, spelled wrong because those 19th century pioneers were  actually, like many Californians these days, leaving the state. It was an interesting loop but we were finished by early afternoon, at which time my husband suggested a visit to the Marshall Gold Discovery Park in Coloma.

Coloma is a living time capsule on the banks of the clear, cold American River, complete with working blacksmithy, clapboard bungalows, and mining supplies businesses, plus cute museum with volunteer clerk waiting to take your park entrance fee. I grumbled something about my tax dollars, paid the fee, and ran back to my car to slam the sticker on the inside of my windshield before the state could apply the seven bucks I just forked over, to the company that would tow my car away.

Halfway through my museum tour I sensed my messenger bag to be a bit lighter than it should. And as my hands fumbled through the bag in the half-light of the sluice-box exhibit, I realized, to my ultimate horror, that I’d left my beloved little Nikon L810 CoolPix ON THE HOOD OF MY CAR.

If you love cameras like I love cameras, any camera loss is a tragedy — even little ones that suffer image quality drop-off and vignetting. We hurried out of the museum and back to my car where we saw — nothing, sitting on the hood.

“It’s just that I had some nice pictures on it,” I said to my husband, when I actually wanted to cry like a baby, “My favorite pocket camera — waaaaaa!”

“Well, maybe someone turned it into the lost-and-found,” he said, helpfully.

“Worth a try, I guess,” I sniffed.

Two minutes later he returned, my hero, camera in hand. “Someone gave it into the lost-and-found,” he said, matter-of-factly.

It was only as I turned around to the back seat to slip my camera safely into my bag that I remembered: This whole placed seemed familiar because I had actually visited the museum and gold discovery site many years earlier.

It was a Sunday afternoon in August of 2003, hot and dry as only high summer in the Sierra foothills can be. On our way out of the museum I’d seen a young woman with her Border Collie, desperately seeking the shade of the museum porch and  a cool drink. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out one of those fold up dog dishes, then began filling it at the drinking fountain, as the poor, wilted dog watched, panting heavily.

I looked down at the big pile of ice cubes sitting in the cup from my 16 oz. drink and approached her. “Would you like this ice for your dog’s water?” I asked.

She seemed surprised. “Why, yes!” she said. “Thank you!”

As we wended our way home down Highway 49, I reminded my husband about our previous visit,  how I’d helped a tired dog with a cool drink and how, within just a few feet of the same spot, someone had, in turn, helped me.

“Is it karma?” I asked him.

“Or dogma,” he said.

We laughed at our own silly joke, then drove home in silence, amused by the charming coincidence, and pleased we had actually, in a place we  thought we  knew well, discovered something special: that perhaps every good deed, either sooner, or later, comes back to us — though perhaps not in ways, or in the time, we might expect.

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