The sun was coming up over the eastern hills beyond Salinas and Hollister as I journeyed north on Saturday. Tentative at first, then bolder, light rays burst forth from beyond the Gabilan Hills and danced across the tips of branch stems and wingtips to the ocean of Monterey Bay. The beaming light set small hills, ridge tops and marshes in sharp relief and revealed new details of farmlands I had driven past hundreds of times before. Distances between things seemed lengthened as their forms became more distinctly gold-edged. The slanting light was as if shot parallel to the ground from a stage light even as the sky overhead was a dark gray-blue. All things, slumbering in a darkened world moments before, pulsed newly alive.
Dove-white clouds drifting in a piled mass were a collage of pastel streaks that looked soft as fine wool. Long glancing beams outlined the landscape for miles and miles, a diorama of cool winter, gilt-edged, with dark wet earth and gray-brown tree trunks brooding and still. Beautiful? It seems such a weak word now. It was the kind of beauty that brings the heart to a standstill, the mind struggling to grasp such an exquisite thing as a winter sunrise after rainfall.
Drive north from Monterey some morning as the night sky pales into daylight. Take the coastal, bay-skirting route or go more inland where the rolling undulations of San Benito County stretch from one horizon to the next. The open land lies in repose, as it has for nearly all time. It is lovely and gentle, tender and complex. It is a heartland, a centering place of graceful and timeless beauty. Where oaks, laurel and buckeye trees growing on the hills' flanks have both a delicate texture and a sensual undulating roundness.
Get up before dawn in winter, drive out away from loud, stinking towns and cities into California's curving beauty and watch how wet leaves and arching branches of old oaks catch the sunrise and give it to you like the beautiful gift that it is, not speaking, but singing a sweet enduring melody. Like as not, your heart already knows the song, doesn't it.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way