I’m on break. I decided to play hooky, have someone cover my Friday class at the University, as well as my patients, and take off Thursday night to join my best friend and his wife along a still undeveloped section of the central coast of California – the "last resort" – the place where dreams and dreamers culminate; in our inner topography, the destination of hope. They’ve rented a small house on the bluff, overlooking the Pacific. Wooden steps lead down to a beach, almost deserted at this time of the year, covered near the water’s edge with a myriad of small and large stones, veined, in a profusion of colors from lapis blue to emerald green, with scattered shells offering white contrast. An occasional jogger with the obligatory dog offers human scale to a sandy vista stretching to the edges of our horizon.
Friday morning I wake to the smell of coffee, eggs and sausage. Jeanine, always the early riser, is already busy getting ready to start things off on the right foot. There is a skylight in our room, filling it with light, and a promise of the day to come. We luxuriate over our meal, looking out at the ocean below, enjoying our friendship like the good coffee: rich and warm and strong.
Having been sated with calories sufficient to keep Napoleon’s army on the march, we make our way down the beach. It’s a day crackling with the effervescence of chilled champagne…filling my lungs with hope. The waves along the shore mound, curl, then break in that eternal pattern imprinted on our subconscious before we first crawled our way onto the land. Concealed by the blue silk of distance, Morro Rock rises from the sea. We walk, mostly in silence, feeling at one with the rhythm of the surf. A flight of birds in precise formation skims over the top of the rolling ocean. I fill my pockets with rock treasures offered up by the bountiful sea. Amazing, how the simple pleasures of our childhood can return to us in the form of small, smooth, colorful bits of stone. Contentment is the reward collected by those who feel that what they have is better than what they’re missing. We are blissful with our lot.
The sky, which has until now been clear, begins to fill with rapidly approaching dark clouds. We wisely decide to make our way back to the house, arriving almost simultaneously with the first falling drops. Rain has a way of bringing out the contours of everything; it throws a colored blanket over previously invisible things; instead of an
intermittent and thus fragmented world, the steadily falling rain creates a continuity of acoustic experience. We now sit, safe and warm, looking out at the raging elements, listening to the patter of the rain on the on the skylight and against the window, with the strains of Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto adding to our satisfaction of the moment.
After a while, the sky begins to clear. We decide to watch the sunset from Montana de Oro. Michael, a semi-professional photographer amongst his many other talents, hauled his camera equipment with him to the point providing the best vista for the expected spectacle. The waves over the eons have chiseled large caves into the surrounding rock walls. A large kelp bed, home to the local otter population, floats languidly slightly to the north. A couple of intrepid souls soar with parasails in slow loops over the cliffs, hanging suspended above the cliffs on rising thermals. A couple of young women from the nearby university trot past us in T-shirts, oblivious in their youth and fitness to the chill winds off the water. Two men with graying beards and clothes from REI troop by us with binoculars around their necks, inquiring if we had seen any whales. (We haven’t, though this is the time of year when the cetaceans’ southward migration begins.) The dark clouds we left behind earlier in the day now decide to make their return. The sun dips behind a large cumulus nimbus, but there is a space between the cloud and the water, growing slowly orange gold in color, giving Michael and I hope that we may yet have a spectacular sunset. With the disappearance of the sun, the temperature dropped quickly, prompting Miki and Jeanine to head back to the car on the beach a half-mile away. I stayed with Michael, less out of optimism then the male credo that says you don’t leave a friend alone whilst he’s seeking adventure. Soon, but not soon enough to keep my extremities from need of defrosting, the sun slinked below the waves without burnishing the sky a fiery gold, leaving the disappointed photographers to make their way back toward some needed warmth.
Back at the house, the sky turns black, and the only thing visible through the glass walls are far-off grids of light, glittering like something spilled. The indigo velvet of the night
shrouds the unending roll of the waves below, leaving us once more to settle into the peace of the Pacific evening.