Catherine Kenyon must accept full responsibility for my obsession with the Pacific Ocean. She told me about Pigeon Point Lighthouse some six years ago. At her suggestion, I thoughtlessly rented a car in March of 2015 after a trip to Stanford; and drove over the mountains in search of the Pacific Coast Highway. On that fateful, fearful trip, of which I have elsewhere written, I crested a ridge all of a sudden and gasped at the immenseness of the mother sea.
Since that weekend, I have found myself drawn westward when my thoughts grow dark and dire. The sound of the ocean soothes me. I do not need to linger long; an afternoon, half a morning, an hour. I walk a bit. I find a bench. I throw a few dollars into the local economy and take one or two pictures. I breathe.
Today I drove south from Pacifica down to Santa Cruz. I saw a solitary seagull on a picnic table at Pescadero. I eavesdropped on a first date at Davenport, where a young man told a friendly sort of girl about his daughter. Down the road, I spied the child herself, holding the father’s hand while the date and her dog walked ahead. I took their photograph from my window and smiled for the next few miles.
There comes a point in each coastal sojourn when I know I must leave. I bid farewell to the sea and turn east. Today I went through Bonny Doon. I might have made an easy trip of it, except for a rockslide and an unfortunate detour. My GPS lady sent me in circles before setting a course for home by way of the pigtrail over the hills to the highway. I imagined I could hear my friend Alan White singing his “City and Mountain” song. I know that’s not the title but the lyrics went round and round in my head as I took each dog-leg and hairpin curve. You’re at home in Colorado, hiding out among the pines. I am only home where I can hide among the neon signs. . .Yes I know you love me darlin’, like the sparrow loves the sea. . . But I know you love this mountain more than you ever will love me.
Blast it all — is it “sparrow”? I’ve never seen a sparrow on the coast, not this one, anyway. Maybe my memory has played an enormous trick on me. But I kept hearing that song, over and over, the whole time I was lost in the mountains today. You’re the mistress of the mountains. I’m the master of the streets. I can’t ask you to come with me. You can’t ask me not to leave.
Alan wrote that song in Arkansas, about some woman or other whom he met there, long ago, when we were both impossibly young. Or maybe not. But the real pigtrail does take one over the Ozarks from Fayetteville to Little Rock, through tall pines just like the ones which towered over my tiny adventure coming home from Santa Cruz. I made that trip many times, a lifetime ago. I’ve never once thought of it since, until I got lost in the sun-dappled hills today, east of Bonny Doon and west of San Jose.
I returned to civilization before six; and pulled into my parking space by seven. The sound of the sea rang gentle in my ears. The good salt of the ocean air still burnished my skin. In the quiet of my house, I think about my Pacific. I reckon this sight of her will hold me for another little while.
It’s the second day of the eighty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
There are 35 photos in this gallery. I did not remember to re-size them, so please be patient. Enjoy.