Six months ago, I got into a conversation with my friend Charissa about how much we both loved Northern California and how ironically, it had been a site of pilgrimage for both her family and mine throughout our childhoods. For Charissa, her family stayed annually in Carmel where friends of theirs’ own a guest home; in my family, my father and I traveled to the Big Sur every fall and spring, which always included day trips to Carmel. This coincidence was enough for us to decide that we must then go on a road trip, so the kind people who Charissa’s family knows, sent us a key to the Carmel house.
Charissa and I are fifteen years apart and yet click as if we’d been childhood school friends. There aren’t many people who you can get into a car with at 4:30 in the morning (our hour of departure so that we could get above LA without hitting traffic – it worked) and not only be civil with but then promptly proceed to talk with for seven hours straight without being bored, irritated or tired by the other.
During our drive up, we had phenomenal weather. Blue skies, warm sun and little fog which is unusual. We stopped at Pismo beach and then dropped over to the coast highway where we eventually landed in the Big Sur. While there we stopped at Nepenthe and Ventana, favorite spots of my father’s.
Upon arrival in Carmel, we settled in our lovely house after a grocery store run. I found it no coincidence that Ann Morrow Lindbugh’s beloved book “A Gift From the Sea” was strategically placed in the room I’m staying in. A classic reflection on the importance of solitude, taking spiritual retreat time and replenishing in nature, I lovingly leafed through it realizing I first read it when I was Charissa’s age.
Most of our time has been spent in nature. We went for a fabulous hike in Garrapata state park which hosts the most stellar views I’ve ever encountered in nature.
We also hiked in Pffeifer State Park, where my family used to always stay.
And eaten at Rocky Point restaurant which hosts fantastic views as well as warnings.
And we have walked by this church every day in Carmel. (I like its tulips).
Charissa liked this sculpture tucked away in the lovely rain forest like neighborhood you’ll find if you turn off onto Palo Colorado a remote street in the Big Sur. And my dad would have been pleased every time we crossed over Malpaso Creek, the River Clint Eastwood named his production company after back in the 70’s. My dad actually met Clint at the Hogsbreath Inn years ago. He was having a drink at Clint Eastwood’s Carmel restaurant and Mr. Eastwood chatted it up with him.
There is so much more to say here about the splendor of nature, the gift of friendships, the importance of family heritage and the necessity of rejuvenation time. But for now I’ll close with noting that while on our hike in Garrapata, Charissa and I took a moment to sit down and acknowledge God. Sitting in silence and in prayer, I asked if she wouldn’t mind singing something in worship as well. Ironically, she had the same impulse and sang a few verses of a song we sing in church. The lyrics coincided so beautifully with what we were seeing, feeling and experiencing, it was truly an awesome moment. Here is what she sang –
Praise Him, you mountains that tower so high, You oceans so deep far and wide, Praise Him, oh you sun and moon, And in you shining stars, praise Him from above…”
I think that says it all.