Saturday, August 26, 2006

Big Sur ...

I woke up early today, a seemingly grim way to start a Saturday. But I've been tremendously productive, so perhaps hauling out of bed at 6:30 wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Part of last weekend's tasks was to go through the pile of magazines that had built up in my office bookcase. As I've written before, I get far too many magazines. I've let some of them lapse, but sucker that I am for shelter titles, I hold onto back issues until I can go through them and rip out pages for my "design" file, at which point the magazines are plopped in the recycle bin.

Once in a while, I tear out articles, too. This morning, I decided to read them and clear them out of my life. The first one I picked up was from an issue of House & Garden (one of my now-lapsed mags) written by Mayer Rus. "I can't fully explain Big Sur's palliative effect," he wrote. Nor can I.

Back in my Tribune life, my friend Rick liked to hoard his vacation (I suspect he still does) and attempt to take an entire month. Newspapers and deadlines being what they are, his plan was usually foiled, but he could sneak away for shorter spells.

Once, he told me he was going to Big Sur. Until then, I had only ever heard of it. But Rick planted an idea in my head and I became intent on making my own Big Sur sojourn.

Seven years ago, I made the trip. I was staying in San Francisco. I rented a car for the day and hopped on 101 South. Made my way through Carmel (Clint Eastwood was nowhere to be found) and eventually picked up Highway 1. I drove along the coast, high above the ocean's edge, and pulled off at every lookout. I shot a lot of film (film was still widely used seven years ago; this image is a photo of a photo - I don't own a scanner - so the quality isn't ideal, but even a less-than-ideal image of Big Sur is pretty spectacular). I eventually settled on a spot, perched on a rock overlooking the water, and started writing in my journal, listening to Gabriel Yared's soundtrack from "Message in a Bottle."

I'd never seen the movie, and now, I never want to. I don't want the film's images to overwrite my memories. Even today, when I listen to that music, I'm transported back to the edge of the world, marveling at the iridescent light. "The waves seem to be choreographed to the music, rippling in slowly, then cresting and breaking on the shore, flowing slowly up the sand and then retreating," I wrote that day. "Perhaps it's my perspective, so high above, but the water and waves seem to be moving in slow motion."

It is simply the most beautiful place I've ever been. Granted, there's a lot of the planet I've yet to see, but there's a magic to Big Sur that defies explanation.

I need to go back someday. And when that someday comes, I want to stay at the Post Ranch Inn.

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