Big Sur, California
I sit in this old canvas chair, with its sturdy wood frame, reading Walt Whitman out in front of the Airstream I’ve been calling home. Redwoods at my back. I wish you could see the view over the Pacific--grand, wide, reaching for the horizon. I wish you could hear the faint sound of wild waves lapping against rock five thousand feet below. Reminders of the world beyond this paradise. “We contain multitudes,” Whitman writes. Don’t ask him not to contradict himself. How dull would we be without our contradictions?
Being out here, I’ve gotten to know the hermit in me. A few weeks stretched into three seasons. Solitary living means a lot of time to write. Time to dwell in memory. Time to imagine what’s next. Time to get restless too.
I’m not entirely alone. Beckett, my nearest neighbor, shares water from his little well, so long as I don’t insist on much conversation. Henry Miller used to live out here. His house is a library now, a retreat for artists. When I’m feeling restless, I’ll go out there to hear some live music, remind myself about the pleasures of talking to strangers--really getting into it with a person brand new to you.
Every few weeks, I start up the ‘72 Scout and head into town for propane and groceries. The first hour is all bumpy roads until you hit the highway. Sometimes I’ll head up to Monterey. Tara and I were in love once, right after high school. Never stopped being friends. She runs a winery down there. She’s happy to fortify my contradictions with too much of her juicy Central Coast Primitivo. There’s no driving home after that. Tara lets me sleep it off in one of her cabins. We’ve got history. We get each other. Next day I’ll head to Carmel, get what I need, and head back.
I feel the restlessness starting to rumble. I find myself thinking about the time I rode a Royal Enfield up through the hills above Cape Town, along the garden route. I passed fields of wildebeests whose speed gave the bike a run for its money. I think about Amy, the playwright I met in a town called Wilderness. We surfed most days, cooked and walked most evenings. When the ocean wasn’t raging, we’d skinnydip after dinner. Early this morning, I had a dream about ice climbing in Iceland. Must have been three years ago now. Three true friends and I followed our guide up a frozen waterfall until we reached what we could have sworn was another planet, where ice tunnels shoot rays of blue-green light and lava mountains rise high enough to remind you how small you are in the scale of things.
That’s wanderlust, a desire to venture beyond comfort, to get to know places so different from what we’ve experienced that our imaginations could never conjure them. To take risks. To know people who surprise us. To stay long enough make those places and those people real for us. To discover our multitudes in them.
A question remains: Where next?