I have been back home for only about two hours now, having just returned from a lazy, blissful stretch of a vacation in Yosemite and Big Sur. It feels too soon to try to expound too deeply upon what this time away from everything meant, but I could not resist posting a little something as I begin my journey through the many piles of laundry that now sit waiting for my attention. (Update: It is now one hour later, and I have been writing in between folding laundry the entire time. Clearly it is not too soon to share what this trip was about for me, as you'll see.)
A woman named Tina and her husband Kenneth sat down next to us last night at the bar of our resort and caused quite a stir as soon as the staff noticed they were there. People were coming over to give them hugs, everyone excited to see them, and it was obvious they had been making regular sojourns to this particular part of the world for a long time. Within five minutes we started talking to them, and that conversation took us all the way through dinner, dessert and even some time during breakfast this morning.
We talked about classical music, opera, ballet and art. We shared local restaurant tips - as it turns out they live right here in Santa Monica. We waxed poetic about Big Sur, good food, Jacqueline Du Pre and...life. There might have been a break here and there to, you know, eat, but the main course of our dinner last night was not the halibut or the pappardelle - it was this conversation, and it was divine.
Towards the end of the evening, we started talking about what it means to make a committed choice in a world where we are taught and encouraged to follow our daily urges like a pinball - to pursue, chase and grasp, and believe that the grass is always going to be greener, sweeter and more satisfying somewhere other than where we are. And in the midst of this conversation, I noticed Tina looking up adoringly - and I mean adoringly - at her husband as she explained that sure, there could have been other loves here and there, but she loved Kenneth. And from there Kenneth agreed, and before too long they were both looking at one another, touching each other's faces and saying things like, "I mean, look at her - she's heaven on a stick!"
Heaven on a stick.
Never, ever, will I forget that moment.
Kenneth and Tina have been together for nearly forty years. They are originally from the U.K., so I am sure it isn't too difficult to imagine how their accents only added to the charm and magic of our exchanges. Their passion for life and for one another was like a galaxy of shooting stars, and as I walked back to our room for our last night in Big Sur, I felt like I was being carried on a magic carpet woven by their energy. I had a hard time falling asleep I was so overwhelmed by their light, their joie de vivre.
And they live in Santa Monica! Come on!
Kenneth and Tina were two people in a handful of new friends made on this trip, friends I know will continue to be in our lives. People who I met, and then immediately felt a strange anxiety over until our contact information was exchanged. These were people I couldn't dare say good-bye to without the information necessary to stay in touch with them.
I know all of this sounds corny - and maybe it was simply because I was in Big Sur, where it is easier for me to be totally open and get immediately, absolutely smitten. Maybe in Big Sur I just walk around with little hearts in my eyes, and the fog that blocked our view of just about everything for most of the week - which was cozy and magical in its own quiet way - also managed to seep into that part of me that sometimes believes I need to approach the world and other people with my guard up.
I have fled to Big Sur in moments of absolute panic, in times of peaceful celebration and for the feeling of calm that only Big Sur gives me. And, oddly, I have never become friends with anyone during any of these visits. So maybe this week was the week to make up for all those other visits when I snuck in and out without leaving much of a trace. Maybe this time in Big Sur was meant to teach me that it doesn't always have to be about escaping, turning inward and being, in a way, invisible. Maybe I needed to be reminded that friends appear in all kinds of unexpected places. In forests, over coffee, in a place some of us like to call Heaven on a Stick.