By Joan Larsen
In time, and with water, everything changes.
Leonardo da Vinci
A long-awaited early December holiday this year – a place we have grown to call “a time away, yet not too far” – has turned out to be an escape not to be believed – and yes, from a world turning faster than we have ever seen it. It was to be a blessing, a breath of fresh sea air, a world alone for the two of us. And yes, a needed respite that more than lived up to our past memories of the most loved piece of California’s coast –the beauty that is the Big Sur Coast. And, forever after we will remember . . . as we believe this to be our piece of heaven.
The weather is perfect as weather gets – warm, sunny, and the ocean a playground for adorable sea otters. Floating on their backs before us just a little way out in the water – cozy inside tangled necklaces of kelp — each seems to be without a single care in the world. Further out on the sea, the occasional Gray whale, heading south, waves its flipper in greeting.
It is as if our turbulent world has bypassed this piece of our planet by.
On our first day, we walk along our continent’s edge, in the midst of the Monterey Cypress Grove – an area considered to be “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world”. The granite cliffs here plunge straight down into the ocean. The last two naturally growing strands of Monterey Cypress still stand precipitously above the abyss, weathered into fantastic forms by the elements it has had to defy. They have a beauty all of their own.
We walk among them.
We felt no hurry to see it all in a single day. Perhaps, it is because we want to wipe our minds free of the deluge of news from the media at home – news that had not reached this completely natural world. But, we slowed down, finding ourselves content to sit on the rocky edge of the Pacific, listening to the waves, feeding the profusion of sea birds that quickly gathered, just begging us to toss the bits and pieces of our picnic-style food up to them.
Their playtime was endless. Our own delight and laughter took over the day.
We vied to spot the next pelican, oystercatcher, and cormorant – and be first to do so. We smiled. We laughed at their antics. We easily greeted strangers – – who soon became friends along the shore. The growing cast of squirrels begged for the leavings from us all. We are two not-so-saintly St. Francis figures. . . but, for the moment, we felt what he must have felt.
On the greens of Carmel – a stone’s throw from the seaside – a group of deer come out from the trees, unafraid in this place they called home. It was we who were the visitors. But they made us feel welcome.
How does one explain the unexplainable? We were laughing with the delight of it all – all this world that lay before us. . . and the feeling of calm that replaced the feeling of the world’s weight on our shoulders.
Directly below us the water was a crystal sort of turquoise edged with a white froth where rock met sea. “The face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look,” is the way author Henry Miller described this scenic wonderland of Big Sur.
As we drove southward on the Coast Highway toward an early dinner at the breathtaking Post Ranch restaurant, perched 500 feet high above the ocean’s mind-boggling sprawl into Forever, I think I was first to say the unspoken words: can it get better than this? A Mozart concerto was playing through our speakers. And high overhead, a falcon floated effortlessly, following our path.
On this day – a first of December day in the year 2016 – we had left the cares of life. And in their place, we had seen the roar and crash of the ocean, watched otters playing in the kelp, and wandered through the bleached bones of Cypress trees on these often fog-shrouded headlands. A myriad of birds – some birds never seen where we live – have been willing to perch on our hands to feed. Floating sea otters, close to shore, have preened for their visitors, totally unafraid. We could watch them forever.
A week away was not enough. It never is.
But we came home with the knowing that such times away are Great Reminders: We thirst for a return to the wild haunts, the great outdoors; journeying to places that offer transcendent views of trees, mountains, oceans and unusual animals. Put into a natural paradise and far away from our urban duties, we open our minds. Like a well run dry, we’re suddenly replenished by a flash flood. The future again stretches out in front of us, and we find it still is filled with promise. The possibilities for doing just about anything seem endless.
But we have found that our personal happiness dramatically increases. The extraordinary qualities of being alive are magnified and reconfirmed.
We have come home. . . but with a return to daily life with a new sense of energy and purpose. For those feelings, we feel blessed.
Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth. But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again. She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”