There's something profound about living in a place that draws people, like the proverbial lemmings, to stare at the horizon. It helps to remember this in late summer as tourism reaches its highest (some would say intolerable) level. Inns and restaurants are full, hikers and campers frolic everywhere, and the traffic (on the mere two lanes of Highway One) is, as they say "challenging."
Free associating lemmings with tourists, I found an interesting fact: "Driven by strong biological urges, they will migrate in large groupings when population density becomes too great." Since I began my exploration of Big Sur as a tourist as well, naturally I can relate. The city is crowded and dangerous, and travelers need a bit of sky.
Fortunately, circumstances are not so dire that the tourist / lemming jumps off the cliff (though this does happen.) Apparently the tribes of lemmings that have been observed jumping off cliffs are not committing suicide en masse but are swimming to new territory. Hawaii is a long way away, so our beloved lemmings (I mean, tourists) are stuck on the tops of the cliffs, gazing at the sea and sky, awestruck.
There's definitely a magnet in that horizon, and seekers who feel (consciously or not) their divine discontent come to this dramatic landscape to find...something. I watch them this time of year, looking for answers in a sunset, a hug, or a romantic kiss just as the sun sinks slowly into the Pacific, like an old man at a spa (to quote a friend of mine.)
How many photographic moments have I witnessed, driving on Highway One, that go on to be enshrined on mantel or desk, recalling the bright happy day, the ocean, the smell of the surf, that kiss? It's an honor to quietly observe people making memories, each one unique, unforgettable.
In my new role at the historic Deetjen's Inn, I get to participate, one might even say, co-create, some of these memories. I remember the glow that I carried with me from Big Sur, when, after soaking in its raw beauty, I had to return to an urban world. To see people relax over a good meal, or sense the calm that emanates from them after a refreshing night's sleep, is lovely.
Here's an RX for civilization: a few days without computers and cell phones, time spent hiking up canyons or down streams to the beach, sitting in the sun on a deck under the redwoods, reading journal entries from visitors past, or just staring at a flower in a Big Sur garden with fresh eyes.
And then, after the photo ops, the stories come: Everyone has a story and this place is an Innkeeper's paradise in terms of the treasures people offer up to share, every day. It's a phenomenon I've seen with guests at my home too: something clicks in the soul and deeper truths emerge, easily, sometimes with humor.
Human perspective is granted as people observe the vast perspective of sea, earth and sky. It's as if the eye sees the view, and then, when the mind takes it in shortly afterwards, understanding comes. Big Sur really is a place to both lose and find yourself, and perhaps we can thank our primal lemming-like instincts for that powerful gift.
Photos by Linda Sonrisa