Wednesday, November 30, 2011

captain's wife

i recently finished reading Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund and loved being lost in that seafaring world. snuggled by the fire with my cats on these cold november nights, i've also been cabin boy, lighthouse keeper, reluctant whaler, ferryboat passenger and captain's wife.

i love the waterways of the early days of America. in the first half of the 19th century traveling overland for long distances was not considered; you traveled by steamboat! soooo romantic. boats and ships provided every possible link to the world outside america, whether industry, communication, transportation or trade. captains were like god on the sea, the rivers, the lakes, the land. 

traveling by water makes sense to me; you are still connected to the earth, the ebb and flow, directed by the connecting powers of land, sky, and human hand. i wish the world would slow down. i wish we still had to plan out days worth of travel by river to visit long distance friends. i would stitch quilts and watch the water along the way. buoyed by water, floating and flowing and rolling with waves, watched by the moon.
i've always been fascinated by stories of women sailing around the world (like Tania Abei, the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo, read Maiden Voyage)

also...women lighthouse keepers. for years, as a kid, that was my dream job. i didn't realize yet that it was already obsolete.

i used to sit in Point Reyes Lighthouse at the little desk and meditate on living there. it is the windiest point along the pacific coastline. you are in a whirlwind of wind and mist and fog and ocean spray. whales may go by, dolphins or pelicans. if you tended the light, you would polish each delicate panel of the Fresnel lens so it could beam its vibrant light twenty four miles out to sea. you would carry milk in wooden buckets from the dairy farm. you would record the sights and sounds into a massive logbook with miniature lines. you would light oil lamps and wind the clockwork and trim the wicks and climb the wooden stairs, crawling against the wind.

it makes me sad that lighthouses are all automated now. a lost life of connection, strength, endurance, vigor and devotion. not surprising that these are values that we are losing sight of on a larger scale.

woman staring at sea here

big oceans in my heart as the seasons change. colder nights mean daydreaming, hibernating, making plans and storing up. 
the words that fill my soul are driftwood, scrimshaw, rigging, shanty, mermaid, gale.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Grateful, Cozy ...

around these parts, we were especially grateful to spend this one last thanksgiving with old Cream Puff.

we knew his time was near. but he was cozy by the fire and we each took turns snuggling him.
he loves having lots of people around, so i'm sure he thought we were throwing him one last party.

also, i was so grateful to be surrounded by my family. they are so fun, sweet, wise, talkative, and rad.
everyone shared the cooking, we had two tofurkeys and tons of root veggies and stayed up late watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

it was a perfect celebration of home, family, food and love. 

cream puff died this morning, peacefully at home.
we will miss him dreadfully but mostly, we are so thankful for his long and extraordinarily full life and our wonderful times with him.

Monday, November 21, 2011

land of dreams - part three BIG SUR and the wild coast

bright morning, we headed up the california coast to the most enchanted of wild lands: Big Sur. dreamplace of henry miller's rhapsodies and jack kerouac's oceanic trampings. a stretch of coastal lands that deeply haunts our hearts in every season. 
we usually travel north to south; this time we came up from the south so we stopped first to watch the elephant seals of Piedras Blancas have a few arguments, chortle in glee, and then snuggle back in together. 

at Plaskett Creek we found the most cushiony green beautiful camping spot in all the world. 

headed across the bluffs to watch the sunset,

and sighed with joy to know that this is the sound we'd be sleeping to all night.

meanwhile, behind us, the full moon rose over the Santa Lucia Mountains.

back at our camp we put on all our layers and made dinner in the dark and built a fire, the coziest feeling.

next morning we wanted to go out to coffee. little did we know that, coming up from the south end, there is nothing ahead of you but wild ragged coastline until the tiny town of big sur about 30 miles ahead. there was also a new bridge being built and roadwork, so we got used to the long leisurely stops to wait for our turn for the detour. got pretty friendly with the workers there. one guy was feeding bits of a pastry to an eager chipmunk. at least if you're going to be stuck waiting for roadwork, be stuck in the most beautiful place in the world, overlooking the vast sparkling turquoise morning Pacific, with cypress trees and coastal redwoods and chaparral down to the sea.

finally made it up to the big sur bakery for the most perfect espresso ever.

plus the gardens and flora and sunlight made our morning venture well worth it.                                                 

but now we had to head back down the coast (longest coffee run ever) to return to our campsite, pack up our stuff, and go to the beach!

Sand Dollar Beach is right across from Plaskett Creek. the thing about big sur is, there are really not very many beaches, like the lounging-about-in-soft-sand-and-sun variety. it is mostly craggy cliffs and wide vistas of the sea, or creeks and mountainous hikes to breathtaking views. but we have found a couple beaches that are as inviting as a secret caribbean hideaway.

we practically had the entire sweep of beach to ourselves!

wandered the little tidepools, splashed out into the waves a bit, the water was cold but not too cold and the warm sun sparkled down on everything. 

we made friends with this gorgeous fella:

and these little suction cups, so squiggly and shy when you touch them:

it was a day for dancing, twirling and frolicking. i had energy from the sun and water pouring through my bones.

late afternoon, we decided to make our last night on the road the coziest one.
got a room at one of my very favorite places on earth, where we stayed for our second wedding anniversary, Fernwood.

the reason i love fernwood so much is how it is such a far cry from the parts of big sur that are fancy and expensive and pretentious and bourgeois. fernwood is homey and cozy and down-to-earth. this is the real big sur to me, bohemian and friendly, an enchanted little world away.

we got the tiniest room, Room M. it was a little nest built just for two, with a heater and the softest bedding and a nice hot shower. 

more of what i love about fernwood: plants in pots everywhere you look. abundance, greenery, love.

the coziest saloon in history. every bar should be made of all wood and have tiny lights strung up and offer good local brews.

and please: a stone fireplace, soft lamps, comfy couches, and free wifi would be nice!

best of all are the redwood garden pathways all throughout fernwood, from the campsites to the tent cabins to the deli-store and tavern. every path lined with ferns and succulents and blooming flowers.

this is the staircase up from the tent cabins, where we stayed last time.

painted rocks, goddess sculptures, an outdoor fireplace and rustic picnic tables. a little wooden stage for summer shows. can we get together and build a place like this?

next morning, one more trip to the beach before heading home. this time we found Pfeiffer state beach, just a mile or so down the road from fernwood, you turn down a secret winding foresty road that goes on down to the sea.

another perfectly glorious california coastal day in november!

this is the happiness i want to glow with all the time, back at home, at the bookstore, in my belly, in my bones:

i take it from the places i go, the air i breathe, the ocean and the desert, the cities and the wild. 
and then i bring it home, to my own bed, my friends and snugglers:

thank you big sur!
what a way to ring in our birthdays!
and thank you sweet readers for going on this journey with me.