Friday, August 1, 2008

Come back to the five and dime, Sarah Jane

Here is Big Sur's own lovely Sarah Jane Nichols, born in the Dome House on Partington Ridge on July 11, 1981. Nature child, accomplished horsewoman, Londoner, actress and aspiring celebrity. A woman of unique confidence and experience, Sarah is a beloved soul.

My first vision of the teenage Sarah: On a summer afternoon, sunlight filters through the dust on the road, the air smells of bay and eucalyptus. I’m energized from my long walk. I hear the rhythmic rustling of leaves and look up to see a maiden on horseback coming up the path, bathed in picture-perfect light.

Atop a bay horse, she wears a proper riding helmet and sits in an English saddle. Horse and rider move quickly past me and then break into a canter up a small slope on the other side of the road, birds twittering in their wake. It was a scene right out of my imaginary childhood, a glorious moment.

Sarah was on horseback before she could walk. Mom Sula Nichols sat her on Sheba, her Aunt Kate's mare. There was a mule that used to follow Sheba everywhere, and she'd sit on the mule. Sula taught her the fundamentals of the ancient art of horsemanship. "When I was a little girl, before I could ride on my own, I used to dream of galloping horses by myself," she says. Now, when she rides Jake, a Friesian horse, she says she feels like a knight, in shining armor.

These days, she does "3-day eventing" working with the equestrian set in Pebble Beach. This is cross-country, show jumping and dressage. She trained and competed in France, England and Germany for four years. "If it's in your blood it doesn't go away," she says. "Horses are the most intuitive creatures on the planet. They're amazing athletes and performers. I love how they communicate, especially the problem ones. I'm kind of a 'horse therapist'," she laughs.

When she was ten years old, Sarah lost her Dad, Lewis Nichols, in an “over the edge” car accident. The narrow roads and steep cliffs in Big Sur are unforgiving to wild young men. The event, she says, shaped her life. She wears a sweet tattoo in the small of her back, composed of a horseshoe, a California poppy, and her Dad’s initials.

“When something hurts so bad, it is almost a relief when it starts to hurt less, even though you’re still in pain. You know you will never feel as bad as you did at first.” Talk about a mature perspective. To go through life knowing what real loss really is, she says is both "a strength and a weakness." Sarah is a rare creature, profoundly sensitive and tough as nails. Growing up in Big Sur with her loving family has helped her enormously, she says.

Some of her favorite first memories include: "The smell of the dirt in the summer time, going up the road. The smell of the heat and the dirt, maybe it's the oak or bay trees that give the air that smell, I don't know. The feeling of the air, not too warm, not too cold, perfect." Spoken like a true horsewoman. "Calling out to my cousins, Vanessa and Warren, who live up the road, with bird calls. We used to go down the hill in our Big Wheels, totally naked, using out bare feet for brakes. We did that as long as we fit on the bikes. Covering ourselves in mud and painting designs on ourselves with pomegranate seeds. Oh, and bareback riding in the moonlight."

When I ask Sarah what she wants most in life, she replies, without missing a beat, "To be famous," then quickly backs away from that, talking about happiness, and the usual blah blah blah. I encourage her to go for what she really wants. She's ridiculously photogenic, and has great presence. Perhaps most important of all, she has grit. She's our own young Brigitte Bardot, a vibrant siren with a tender heart.

The Basin Complex wildfire that touched down on Partington Ridge destroyed Sarah's family home. Nestled against the mountain, looking down the canyon to the ocean, it's a spot where you are often above the clouds, eye-to-eye with hawks and condors, looking down on all of creation. The family plans to rebuild, and she'll be part of that process.

Sarah Jane's fans hope she'll always come back to our five and grace us with her light.

Sarah as a wee sprite
With equine friends Derek Zoolander and Jake
Puppy pile in Mexico with brothers Torre, Jasper and sister Layla
Glam shots of Sarah
No, that's not Sarah on the right, but Brigitte Bardot, in the '60s

1 comment:

Scott said...

great pics, GREAT site for those of us with only the memories having moved on!!