As the year comes to an end, I’ve managed to find yet another place to leave a piece of my heart. How can there be so much to love in this world? After finishing up a second season with Naturalists at Large, I took a canoeing trip with co-worker friends down the Black Canyon that basically rocked my world and spent the following week playing around in my old stomping grounds back east. Following a cozy Thanksgiving with family I then landed in Big Sur, where I pitched my tent to volunteer at the Henry Miller Memorial Library.
The library itself is a bit hard to explain, I’m finding it challenging to capture the magic of the place. A nonprofit arts center and bookstore, one band during their concert described entering the library as ‘walking into a living fairy tale,’ and that feels about right. Originally the house belonged to artist Emil White, who converted the space into a memorial for his best friend after he passed. Surrounded by towering redwoods and a wrap-around wooden porch, the cozy wood cabin is filled with a constantly changing supply of books and artwork, an affectionate cat to cuddle with and a wood-burning stove for warmth, making it pretty much my idea of a perfect home.
My shifts never felt much like work at all. Most of my time was spent tidying, ringing up sales, prepping for events, or gabbing with the host of characters constantly passing through. As for Big Sur itself, I didn’t realize just how small town it actually is: when exchanging phone numbers people only need to list their last four digits, and at the end of the day everyone hangs out at the same two bars, which allowed me to feel almost like a local after only three short weeks.
Mostly, the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time in one of my all time favorite places was a dream. When the weather is sunny Big Sur is pretty unbeatable, it seems almost unfair that so much beauty can exist in one little strip at the edge of the earth. There are consistent panoramic views of rolling green hills extending into the ocean, with whales dotting the horizon and the occasional friendly otter or sea lion popping up to say hello. The sunsets glow turquoise and orange and magenta, while the beaches are awash with purple sand and jade waves crash onto the shore. While hiking, monarch butterflies swirl about and forests filled with imposing redwoods and twisted madrones and moss-covered tan bark oaks are woven by literal babbling brooks and cascading waterfalls. It’s really too much.
While it was hard to leave, not sleeping in a damp tent or showering outside in the cold via a bucket hung from a pine branch has been a pleasant change. I am now lurking around San Diego to celebrate the holidays with my lovely family, and will be here until mid-February, so get at me!