It’s been a while now since my last post. I’m still alive and well. Work and life and stress and a thousand other things have kept me from writing. I need to adjust my priorities I think. In the span of the last few months life has taken some huge turns for me. I’ve changed a lot. More than just my eating and diet. More than the way I do things.
To call it change really is to do it grave injustice. Semi organized chaos is more like it.
This week I’ve taken a long drive, from San Diego up the coast to Goleta, California. A small little town north of Santa Barbara. For a day I was given relative peace. Californians might laugh at that, calling a drive up one of the most congested coasts through Saturday traffic peace but it was. After loading up the rental in San Diego, I sat down, adjusted the seat, pushed the start button on the dash, plugged in the iPhone and rolled down the windows. I departed that lovely little town accompanied by Keith Urban’s “Who Wouldn’t Want to Be Me?”
A brief stint on the 5 (I have lingo down already) and then I hopped onto the 1. I’ve been here before, in my somewhat misspent youth, and to my eternal regret I didn’t appreciate it then as I do now. The feeling of letting off the gas coasting down the ramp in Dana Point, a lovely and quite vibrant little city. Perhaps they call it a town here, I have no idea. Though well-traveled it’s huge to me. Most of these little towns have more people on their beaches than I have in my entire county. It’s both disconcerting and amazing all at once, to be around so many people.
Past Dana Point rounding a curve I glimpse the first real view I’ve had of the beach, the waves rolling up onto the sands. These are Pacific waves and I’m sure you’ll find plenty that will argue about the superiority of the Pacific’s larger waves, the excellent surfing conditions and the beautiful blue waters. Out of pride I’d argue for the blue-green Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic. It’s a loyalty thing.
But still I find there’s something about the beach, no matter where, that refreshes the human soul. Just the sight and smell of it.
Past Dana to Monarch and on to Laguna Beach into the congestion of Huntington Beach. Many won’t believe this but the public parking lot in Huntington Beach is larger than my home town. By a fair margin. I crawled through Huntington and Long Beach. I sat in bumper to bumper traffic through Redondo and Manhattan Beach.
Honest to God, and I spent many, many years in Atlanta, it was the most awful traffic I’d seen in years. Just crawling along the coast, people searching for parking spots. Tourists and locals in a seething, crawling smog choked mass of humanity winding slowly up the seaboard in search of the same and yet uniquely personal experience. For some it was to simply lie on the beach. For others it was to paddle out and surf the waves. For others it was the shopping.
For me, it was for the experience. Nothing else but. In a practical sense it was to travel from one job site to another. On paper it was business trip. In fact it was a pleasure.
No. It was a pilgrimage. I’ve gotten hemmed up and stressed out. Over a million things I shouldn’t. Writing has been hard and I took it out of my life in deference to the things I thought I needed to be doing. I lost the inspiration and the will. And I honestly thought the drive would help find that. I wasn’t wrong. Only now, writing this, I’m realizing I need to write to be inspired. Not the opposite.
North of Santa Monica the road eventually opens up. The every spreading waistline of suburban LA is held at bay by ever increasing cliffs and state parks. Traffic begins to hum along at a faster pace. The salty ocean breezes sweep through open windows with the soothing calm of a mother’s touch. The radio continues to kick out my ever increasingly eclectic mix of music. Some old. Some new. And some just perfect for the moment.
On my left there was nothing but deep blue seas. On the right the cliffs soared into a bright blue sky. The sun bathing everything in the brilliant light of what had become the perfect day. My left arm stinging and reddened and hanging out the left window. The pain would come later, I knew, but for this it was worth it. It is almost sinful to roll up the windows against the majestic views and the sounds and the smells. It’s an experience that is worthy of immersion. Remove an element and it lacks something. Like the perfect dish minus the key ingredient.
Some would argue, especially the political pundits on both sides, that you won’t find God in this state. I, for one, would have to disagree. I hope their people forgive me for my many years of ragging on their state. My youth, as I said, led me out here. It was not the greatest trip of my life. My adolescent follies left me detesting this state. And everything I thought it represented. I was wrong. And I humbly admit it.
I’m older now. A lot. Twenty odd years have passed since the last time I was truly in California. Last time I left I hated her. This time, I admit, like so many others, I have fallen in love with her. She’s lovely and seductive. She’s a thousand different things to a million different people. But there can be no denying that I will depart this state with some commonality. I’m a proud Southerner. A Georgian by birth and now by choice. And now, I am a bit Californian too. I thank them for accepting me in ways I never did them.
Twenty years. Another trip down. It took 8 hours for me to crawl 215 miles through traffic.
Honestly, I wish it had taken longer.
The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea. ~ Karen Blixen