Like a mighty ship of the high seas from centuries ago, those of us who live here refer to Big Sur as a "she". The curves of the landscape are her curves: mountains sloping down to the sea become thighs gently opening to incoming tides. Ridge top valleys rest in the afternoon sun like concave tummies, swelling hills are really high round hips, breasts and dimpled bums.
Loving this rough and tumble, wildly beautiful Big Sur isn't easy. She's tough, and she's worth it, but sometimes you wonder...
She's fickle, and when she does treat you right, there are no guarantees that her love will last. She demands real-world sacrifices, which you often make for years before clearly seeing your choices. She's touchy, and sometimes harsh, as anyone will say who's felt the sting of local gossip, or paid the price for a wrong move, especially on the road.
You're cold and out of firewood, and she doesn't care. You're lonely and far from friends, she laughs. You struggle in your daily life and party to forget your troubles, while she just goes on dishing out her own dramas, oblivious to yours. You watch yourself grow older in the comfort of her company, but you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, too.
Devastating fires, treacherous rock slides and torrential storms contrast with gentle days that you wish could last forever, sunsets you'll remember on your deathbed and an existential solitude that heals your soul.
When she reveals herself, it's only in those moments when you are authentically open to her charms. She'll surprise you as you drive around a bend in the road: There she is, veils of mist swirling up to her sturdy knees, those classic cliffs plunging down to the ocean and receding down the coast, so beautiful that you just want to cry.
She'll seduce you with the lightest touch: moments of profound, eloquent stillness in the mornings. She takes your breath away with her baby pink dawns and scarlet sunset skies. Always changing, she teases with her great majesty, plays hard to get with her astonishing beauty. Now you see her, now, as you focus on your own puny life, you don't.
She is Queen of the sounds of silence: serenading frogs, whispering owls, rumbling surf, moaning trees, wing-beats. Most of all, she is a great teacher, probably more teacher than lover, really. When she gives of herself it is when we are ready, when we have done our work, when we have shared our joys, and pursued our passions.
The lunar Goddess must make her home in Big Sur, too. She rises full above the ridge-top, a redwood tree silhouetted against her bone white orb. She spills her bright light down canyons onto the expansive ocean, and we are transformed.
photo by Toby Rowland-Jones