For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it's always ourselves we find in the sea.
--e. e. cummings, "maggie and milly and molly and may"
When I was a kid, the family summer vacation consisted of a week or so in Yosemite National Park, a place especially dear to my father. On the day of departure, we'd rise super-early, around 4 or 5 a.m., and be on the road after a hasty breakfast, hoping to avoid the worst extremes of heat in Bakersfield and Fresno as well as reach our final destination by late afternoon. Most of the time, we succeeded in both objectives, though there were some years when it was a close-run thing (car trouble was usually the culprit there.)
|Half Dome at Sunset, photo by David Iliff|
|Pismo Beach and Pier|
|No bookstore is complete without a watch-cat!|
And of course, there are restaurants where you can find the most delicious golden-brown fish and chips (Hofbrau in Morro Bay) and the creamiest clam chowder (Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach, which has won the Annual Chowder Cook-Off in multiple years).
|The Dinner Rush at Splash Cafe|
Or, if you're seeking atmosphere as well as sustenance, check out the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, where you can get a good breakfast and a good laugh--at the over-the-top predominantly pink decor. Not even the restrooms emerged unscathed: the ladies' room boasts a chandelier and red leather upholstery, the men's stone sinks and a tiled urinal. According to my sister, one of the men's rooms used to contain a waterwheel--a piece of subliminal messaging, perhaps?--although it appears to have been removed in recent years.
|She's only a girl on a gilded swing ...|
My favorite kitschy Madonna Inn touch is the Victorian doll on the swing, who hangs from the ceiling amid the clusters of artificial wisteria. Sometimes a blonde, sometimes a brunette, she rocks serenely back and forth, her dress changing with the seasons. This time around, she wore bright scarlet, making her impossible to miss among the white and lavender flowers.
But ultimately, it's the sea I always come back to, whether I'm wading ankle-deep in its bracingly cold waters or simply gazing at it from the clifftop path behind our hotel and letting my thoughts drift in and out with the tide. It's the sea that calms and excites me by turns, that lulls me into tranquility and reawakens my creativity. The place where I feel my happiest, most productive self--and the place I can't wait to return to, every summer.
|Shell Beach, a clifftop view|