This last weekend, my wife, Elizabeth, and I celebrated our seventh anniversary (Monday, October 4). We left Emeryville on Saturday and drove to what has emerged, over the years of our marriage, as our favorite California neighborhood, the Monterey area.
We always stay in the city of Pacific Grove, immediately west of Monterey. It is a small city of humble superlatives. We usually take a room at the Pacific Garden Inns, one of those close to the beach and close to our favorite restaurant, The Fishwife. It’s likely not the best accommodation in the area—the Asilomar Conference Grounds sprawl along the beach, on the other side of Asilomar Avenue—but for us, Pacific Gardens is affordable, and its location makes up for everything else.
Here, the fog dresses the landscape in brooding gray, with a romantic haunted aura often absent from the heavily urbanized Bay Area, where the dividing line between concrete and mist may be invisible. A herd of mule deer also wander the dune-laden cypress groves along the beach: You have to keep an eye out for them as you drive, especially at night. They’re as much residents here as anything on two legs. Signs near the beach warn of mountain lions, this in a town with a population of around 15,000.
Sunday morning we slept late and walked down to the beach around eleven, through the Asilomar Resort, another design by the delightfully omnipresent Julia Morgan. I had my Canon, but the light was diffuse, not good for sea-vista-capture. I turned my eye to the sand in search of interesting patterns, like these:
The kind of abstractions that might make photo gallery concierges coo in admiration and would certainly cause children to yawn with desperation.
The beach on occasion makes for excellent tide pooling, and this time we were quite lucky, first with this:
("Dead things!" the children cry. "Dead things! Yay!")
This melon-ish animal is known as the giant Pacific chiton, or the gumboot chiton (also known by the pretentious as Cryptochiton stellari; apologies to those offended by the deployment of scientific terminology).
It was brought to us by the little boy in the photo, and his mom. We’d seen others of this creature at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and it was, by Elizabeth's determination, dead. She pointed out that it was rare to find one so close to shore. We left the animal lying on the rock as food for the other denizens of sea and shore.
We soon made our way back to the inn, stepping over a long-dead
shorebird—I’ll spare you that one—while the grand Slavic pleasantry of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto suddenly wormed into my mind, creating a perfect background score for the big surf as it lifted and curled, churned and foamed, onto the kelp-strewn shore under the brooding sky.
Thomas Burchfield's contemporary Dracula novel Dragon's Ark will be published March 2011 by Ambler House Publishing. His essays and blog entries can be read at The Red Room website for writers. He can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter.
Causes Thomas Burchfield Supports
The Nature Conservancy; Africare; Capitol Public Radio