I recently returned from John Steinbeck country. This slice of the West Coast boasts some of the most scenic views in the world as well as rich farmlands bursting with fruits of the region. Fresh strawberries, lettuce, artichokes, avocados, and herbs are in abundance. The area oozes health of the physical, and spiritual variety. Temperatures are consistent year round, 65-75 degrees and the people seem to be grateful, simple, laid back, and friendly. Why wouldn’t they be? Essentially they are dwelling in Shangri-la.
Drives along the coast and Big Sur unveiled a painting: layers of heather, azure, turquoise, and cerulean waters pulverizing into softness, smoky white sands. In my travels, I have never seen sea water and terrain so diverse. Venturing down the cliffs to the virgin beaches was a challenge, and commercially manufactured WARNING signs interrupted the sense of transcendence. The cliffs too were a blanket of unlikely growth with hard, red clay surfaces unable to hold back the riot of dark green, aloe vera like plants known as Ice Plant, hot pink flowers sporadically peeking out from their tops. Adding to the mystery and ethereal quality of it all, was a gossamer shroud of fog, like the sheerest of lingerie, sensually beckoning visitors to ignore the signs, throw caution to the wind and pursue her gifts. Mesmerized by the seduction of the mermaids call, it was worth the risk to scale the cliff and drop into another world. Charleton Heston when he lands on the beach in Planet of Apes came to mind. This was an area where change could take place… if you let it. The elusive feeling of oneness that we so desperately seek through literature, prayer, and human interaction just slipped in, with no effort on my part. I became the sky, the sea, the land. It took me.
One evening, our fire logs, food, and blankets in tow, we trekked down to a more populated beach, Carmel by the Sea. It was bonfire and cookout night! Navigating the steep steps and climbing over mounds of rock to reach an alcove, my first thought was, “Good Lord, I hope we leave before dark.” I knew we wouldn’t be because the sun was sliding slowly down the horizon when we arrived. We started our fire, set up our grill and cooked our burgers. By the time our bellies were full, the sun had been swallowed up by the sea, leaving our only remaining light to be a 2-3 foot perimeter around our tiny, blazing fire. The air had taken on a nippy tone, and everyone gathered closer to the flames to stay warm. It got dark- pitch black. I looked for the moon. It was nowhere to be seen. There were a few other little campfires dotting the beach, and I could faintly see black sillouhette’s outlined by the orange flames reassuring me that there was other civilization out there somewhere. The sound I heard off in the distance, reassuring me I was right where I needed to be, at the moment, was the intense crash of monster waves as they beat the sand into submission, the gritty granuales at the mercy of the whims of the water. The cadence of the sound was like a mantra- reassuring in its sameness. Hidden inside the noise of the water, a whisper, tickling my brain. It said, “I’m in charge. Enjoy this moment, for in this instant is all the wisdom you will ever need.” I felt every muscle in my body relax as I focused on nothing except the sticky sweetness of a melted marshmallow dissolving in my mouth. Time slowed and my mind felt like it had been shot full of Novocaine, all tingly, and devoid of man made thought. Just one sensation remained. I didn’t think the word “awe”… I felt it with every cell in my body.
Soon, the fire was reduced to a few burning embers. My skin resembled the scales of a native Pacific salmon to the touch. I had become truly one with the sea and it was time to slowly re-emerge into the reality, I wasn’t of the sea, and needed to get warm. With that recognition, the moon suddenly rose, our heavenly flashlight, illuminating our path. Over the rocks, and up the side of the cliff. It was as if God said, “See. All you need to do is enjoy every moment of your life, second by second, with no thoughts for the future. When its time to move forward, I will provide you with all the and light you need to get to your next destination.”
A bonfire on the beach wasn’t in my travel plans particularly. I had no thoughts of indulging in its simplicity. I had a schedule of sights to see and things to do. But, it was one of the best things about my trip. We are constantly receiving gentle reminders we aren’t in charge of the Universe, and the best laid plans, are no plans. Go with the flow, and trust that the journey will take you where you need to be; to places purposeful and meaningful to your particular trip. And the best laid lives are those who allow their journey to take them. The predictable, consistent, tides ebbed and flowed without my help. The sun set beautifully over another day and the moon rose just exactly when it needed to.
Viva the end to struggle!
About the Author: Rebecca Mahoney is a free-lance writer with a love of enlightenment, truth and travel.
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