california holidays life nostalgia

(North) West to the Sea

1 April 2009

[Morning at Drake’s Beach, March 2009.]

In wilderness is the preservation of the world.
– Henry David Thoreau

I’m a pretty simple girl, really. Things I love especially include gin and tonics on a warm Friday afternoon with lemon instead of lime; spending time with an old friend whom you missed but didn’t realize how much until you talk nonstop for about three days in a row; chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and maybe a scoop of vanilla ice cream; new strawberries savored slowly with a tall glass of ice water to wash them down (note: champagne is nice but its lovely dryness contrasts too much against the sweetness of the berries for me, always a bit of a disappointment because strawberries + champagne should equal the height of decadence); getting out of the city; sun and gusting wind; a good, long night’s sleep; Point Reyes and environs.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be able to indulge in quite a few of my particular pleasures, including but not limited to: waking up early to sun on Saturday morning and then a farmers’ market ramble for apples and cheese, an enormous and perfect coffee at Mojo Cafe with homemade iced coffee to follow, plates and plates of delicious food, lots of laughing, soup and wine, early bedtimes, hours at the beach.

Also, I went out of town. Oh, it was just for an overnight and not very far, but it was needed and wonderful and absolutely marvelous.


[Redwoods, Samuel P. Taylor Park, March 2009.]

A friend of mine from way back was in town for work and arranged to come in a few days early so we could spend time together and go adventuring. I took her to West Marin of course, as she’d never been there before and it’s the place I perpetually miss and wish for even though it’s just ‘up the road’ (an hour or so from the city along the twisting back roads and through the cow fields). I hadn’t been out there in much too long — since November, in fact, when I was whisked off on an impromptu, over-caffeinated adventure in the deep fog and mist of fall. That day I wore a raincoat and ate too-pungent cheese and stuck my nose in the buildings at Pierce Ranch and wished I’d brought gloves.

It’s spring now. Things are different. The mist has given way to a certain energy in the air: spring, even if cool, is fresh and full of promise, all the early dark swept away. All weekend long there was sun and the wildflowers were beginning their shy bursting into bloom in the fields near the sea. The sun shone strong and bright — oh, delicious sun and warmish breezes and the scent of the ocean, that thick salt-smell that mixes with the bay leaves and damp earth of the forest into something indescribable and almost painfully lovely.

The whole weekend was just lovely. We started things off right on Friday with a few drinks in North Beach (g&ts for me, a couple of Old Fashioneds — I think — for her) and then a plate of fresh pasta each and a glass of red wine. There was a stop for cookies and tiramisu at one of the little bakeries to bring home to nibble at, with mint tea, until nearly 10.30 when eyes could not be propped open any longer and it was time to tumble into bed exhausted and looking forward to the next day which would have been made perfect enough just because of the (chocolate-vanilla) milkshake procured right outside Samuel P. Taylor Park and which continued on in lazy conversation and lots of water to make it perfect-er still.

Mostly, we lounged. We lounged on Limantour in the Saturday afternoon sun (lunch: cheese, avocado, and cucumber sandwiches, potato chips, apples) and would have lounged on Keyhoe Beach but the fog drifted in and the wind picked up and it was too chilly to linger long. (I wished for warmer sweaters but luckily had my down vest, and a scarf.) We came late to dinner in town (at the Station House Cafe, strangely packed for once), where we ate roasted asparagus, fried oysters, polenta with Pt. Reyes blue cheese and mushrooms, green salad, and yes, a dish of macaroni and cheese because why not? and drank a little bit of wine. We came back to our hotel and lounged some more and I could barely keep my eyes open another second, despite the lavender-blueberry chocolate. I slept 10 quiet and glorious hours that night, waking up once or twice to the sound of the night birds, and it was magic.

I think she had a good time, too.


[Lunch, March 2009.]

Before we headed back to San Francisco on Sunday we went to Drake’s Beach where we held our hair down with our hands because the wind was so strong and wished for seals. It’s a funny drive out there — you really do feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere and are adrift in a sea of waving grass and drooping trees, the landscape punctuated by the occasional silvery, splintery barn or group of cows.

“The cows are just hanging out here like it’s no big deal — it looks like they could fall of the hill into the ocean and they wouldn’t even care,” she said, because it’s true they sort of graze about, wholly unconcerned with the crashing backdrop of the ocean behind them.

I drove and we spied elk in a little valley and the car shuddered a bit in the fierce wind, March blowing out in a burst of energy and sunlight, and luckily were both starving at the same time, just in time for lunch. Back in town the dogs milled about in front of Toby’s, waving their tails in typical doggy enthusiasm while the bikers roared off at intervals from the Western as we drank root beer and ate brownies from the bakery and got wee suntans.

It went by much too fast, those few days. They always do.


[Limantour, dunes, March 2009.]

What I should remember: I should never underestimate the powers of getting out of town, even for an overnight, or for an afternoon. There are hills to wander over and a crashing ocean in which to put my feet and though I love this sloping city it’s good to leave it every once in awhile.

I also should not underestimate the beauty of being with a friend who has known you in all your incarnations for over 12 years and knows you even when you’re not sure you know yourself. Also, having a girlfriend who appreciates trying all different kinds of wine and will always be up for ordering that extra dish because it looks good (and who just enjoys good food in general) should never be taken for granted.


[Keyhoe Beach, March 2009.]

Oh, Pt. Reyes has my heart. Even in a wild wind off of the water that blew sand into my eyes and camera and snapped the flag high over the ranger station and made me mildly curse the chilly morning, I love it. Can’t I live there one day, pretty please? I would do most anything.

Saturday after dinner we drove back through the darkness to where we were staying, shivering and talking the whole way. The night was deep and still. Before going inside we hung our heads back to look up at the inky sky, the stars burning clear and bright and filling up the whole hemisphere. I took a deep breath of that bay-leafed, pure air: home, sweet.

I gotta get out there again soon.

  • Molly 15 April 2009 at 10:26 am

    I lived in Point Reyes for just about half of 2008, and I miss it! You’re pictures – and words – are beautiful. I’m jealous that you are in driving distance from Limantour…

    Molly

  • lillie 4 April 2009 at 7:59 am

    what a beautiful post. the little details in your descriptions are just right. i’m looking forward to that kind of magical visit with some friends soon!

  • Lunch at 11:30 2 April 2009 at 5:58 am

    aw shux! it sounds like you girls had such a fabulous time!!! i wish we coulda been there w/you, too! and btw? that sandwich looks FAB! thanks for making me ready for lunch at oh….9:57 a.m. (oh well, wouldn’t be the first time ;) )

  • Liz 2 April 2009 at 5:44 am

    Point Reyes in springtime, with sandwiches and scarves: be still my heart!