Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Here we go again

Just when we think we're really part of the 21st century here in Big Sur (cell phones, satellite TV, internet cafés under the redwoods) Mother Nature comes along and whompers us.

This is what She did last week, the day before St. Paddy's Day. The fields and mountains in Big Sur are shamrock green, while the earth is wet and getting wetter with the Spring storms. Last Wednesday the southbound lane on Highway One, between Rocky Creek and Bixby Bridge, collapsed in magnificent fashion, beginning a decisive slide down a 200' sandy cliff towards the sea.

I snapped the photo above while crossing over the danger zone the morning after the event, carrying bags to our car in the bright cold sunlight on the "other side". Since it's a tiny dinosaur of a cell phone camera, I had to get very close to the buckling asphalt, to the concern of those around me.

"Honey, it's not a screen-saver," my husband said. Wait, holding a camera makes you a superhero, right? Walking back across the damaged road without shielding myself with technology, the scene somehow became more real.

I asked the two gentleman standing above the gaping hole that was once a highway, "So when are the engineers showing up to fix this?" "Engineers don't fix things, we fix things!" they said emphatically.

"What about putting in a one-lane road over there?" Playing the know-it-all local, I pointed to the empty flat space next to the northbound lane. "It's not so stable," replied the Sheriff standing nearby. So I jumped up high, landing firmly on the pavement, just to see what would happen. "Good thing you're little" they said and we all had a good laugh in the early morning sunshine.

Those of us who were here for 1998's El Niño season remember months of an impassable highway, reduced employment, insanely long "town runs" for supplies. And yet, in light of recent global events, this one just doesn't feel like such a hardship.

"Hardship" is defined as "a condition that is difficult to endure; suffering; deprivation; oppression". What we are experiencing here, (as a friend said wisely as we conferred at the Post Office yesterday) is “inconvenience”.

It's dark, stormy, and cold this morning, but there is a songbird singing in the wet woods beside our house, high true notes, as if it were warm and sunny outside, singing for his mate, to help build his nest and comfort him on the coming summer evenings.

Did I say it was cold? People are beginning to get concerned with filling their propane tanks, and grateful for the wood they've held onto over the winter months. Fortunately, I am one of those who still find it romantic to build a fire. We are living like quasi-gypsies: flashlights, vitamins and overnight bags in the car, ready for a sleepover somewhere other than home, due to a downed tree, power line or slide.

Fields of lupin and poppies are on the way, early spring Daffodils are drooping but beautiful. A symphony of happy frogs, birdsong and pouring rain: it's Spring in Big Sur!

Itty bitty pictures taken by Linda Sonrisa on her cell phone

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Three Mouseketeers

You might ask: how did this happen? How did two dog and wild bird-loving grown-ups end up with not one, not two, but three cats?

Here are some possible anwers:
Mice and their large cousins, rats, are everywhere in Big Sur, happy rural rodents with big appetites and no sense of decorum (running across the dining room floor at dinner time, for example, or squawling and gnawing all night between the walls).

Kittens are irresistible. And when someone hands you the one you didn't choose, 'cause the one you wanted is playing hard to get, well, you can't say no, can you?

We actually have a secret craving to be mauled by furry creatures who climb on top of us in bed. Oh, wait, that could be, um, misinterpreted.

So here they are, the three mouseketeers, in their favorite team snuggle position: Lola Augustina, Lady Pearl Grey, and Minerva Minnie-Moo. Three great mousers who still regularly go through tubs of cat food and vats of milk. Lola is curious, Pearl is calm, and Minnie (the previously shy one) will be all over you in no time, just like the proverbial "cheap suit."

Our dog is endlessly patient, enduring their curiosity, sniffing noses with them and staring back into their feline eyes. He only snaps at them when they get too familiar with his food bowl.

We have been invaded by this trio, and find ourselves to be happy collaborators in the good life they're enjoying in our home. They are living art, really. You never know where they'll turn up in a domestic tableau: beside the vase of calla lilies on the dining table, stretched out on the sheepskin beside the altar, or perched on the yoga deck staring out to sea. They pop up everywhere, reminders from the animal kingdom to check in with this moment and purr with contentment.

To be honest, we have asked, "want one?" to a few friends, only to realize that we could never choose which one to part with. So, we have three cats. A trinity of feline love that graces our home. And when the three-headed cat stares down at us in the mornings, meowing for breakfast, we laugh. In this way we remember just how silly we are, and how blessed, too.

photo by Toby Rowland-Jones