“The two girls grew up at the edge of the ocean and knew it was paradise, and better than Eden, which was only a garden” – Eve Babitz
If you ever get the chance to visit California, grab it with both hands, embrace tightly, and enjoy the ride. You’ll be astonished with delight at every single turn. Somehow she’s everything they say she is — the place of legends and unimaginable fantasies — and yet an utter enigma. Just when you think you finally understand her, you’ll find, once again, that she has an endless number of tricks up her sleeve.
She’s home to the world’s tallest trees (coast redwood), one of the hottest places in the world (Death Valley), Hollywood legends, world class surf, and one of the most-visited national parks in the world (Yosemite).
Then, there are the places that remain hidden, are hardly spoken of, and many do not even know of their existence.
One of these places is the Lost Coast in Humboldt County, a sparsely-populated area in the far north of the state. The fact that it is relatively unknown is surely its saving grace and the reason why most of the beaches are almost devoid of people – pristine, wild, and rugged.
I’ve traveled the world, and I’ve seen amazing natural phenomena, but honestly, nothing compares to California:
I’m hopelessly entangled in the love affair with California. She’s the one who haunts me in my dreams with memories of summers spent on boats in the wild Pacific or playing in the warm sand.
I never took her for granted. I always knew how lucky I was for every blessed moment.
Science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson describes it perfectly:
“I grew up in a utopia, I did. California when I was a child was a child’s paradise, I was healthy, well fed, well clothed, well housed. I went to school and there were libraries with all the world in them and after school I played in orange groves and in Little League and in the band and down at the beach and every day was an adventure. . . . I grew up in utopia.”
She’s inspired many before me, and surely many after me.
Novelist and poet Jack Kerouac was hopelessly in love, too:
“California–wild, sweaty, important, the land of lonely and exiled and eccentric lovers come to forgather like birds, and the land where everybody somehow looked like broken-down, handsome, decadent movie actors.
Happy. Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired, in the red fire dark, singing, swigging wine, spitting, jumping, running—that’s the way to live. All alone and free in the soft sands of the beach by the sigh of the sea out there” – Both from Dharma Bums.
As well as writer Henry Miller:
“Out yonder they may curse, revile, and torture one another, defile all the human instincts, make a shambles of creation (if it were in their power), but here, no, here, it is unthinkable, here there is abiding peace, the peace of God, and the serene security created by a handful of good neighbors living at one with the creature world,” (Speaking of Big Sur, which is an 8-9 hour drive south of the Lost Coast with similar trees and scenery).
…and novelist Christopher Isherwood:
“For this is the real nature of California and the secret of its fascination; this untamed, undomesticated, aloof, prehistoric landscape which relentlessly reminds the traveller of his human condition and the circumstances of his tenure upon the earth.”
And perhaps most significantly, John Muir, who is responsible for much of the conservation of California’s natural parks and protected lands:
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
“I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.”
Thank you California, for inspiring so many with your beauty, mystique, and grandeur.
I’ve loved you harder and more passionately than anything else in my life, and that will never change, because you never stop amazing me.
You reluctantly understand that I need to explore and see other things. The great beyond beckons, and that’s the kind of citizen of the world a place as diverse as California cultivates.
Yet you always welcome me back with open arms, and for that, I’m grateful.
What’s your favorite place in the world?