And so, the time approaches for me to make what is becoming an annual pilgrimage to the California coast of my childhood. Excitement is building as I have made travel arrangements and begun my work on samples and supplies. The opportunity to travel back to California regularly has become the greatest gift of my artistic life, and has given me a touchstone with my past that has long been absent. We lived in the Greater Los Angeles area for a number of years during my childhood, and returned there often to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I spent my childhood on LA’s beaches and imprinted my soul with the colour of its sunlight. Visits have involved a kind of double vision for me, seeing the LA of today and the LA of my childhood overlapping. My beloved grandparents lived out the second half of a life that was amazing to my eyes on that coast. Returning brings me back into the arms of those aunts and uncles and cousins I so love and teaches me that, for me, California will always be home.
This year will be the fourth year in a row I’ve been privileged to make this journey. The trip this year marks some precious landmarks in my life. Once again, I will enjoy sharing and creating with all the enthusiastic, talented and creative students and teachers at the CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in Irvine. A full week of creation, good talk and fun times (with a bit of wine, I’m sure) to come.
The second week will be something very different. For the first time since my husband and I met 27 years ago, I will take a vacation on my own, away from my family. The trip will mark another of my growing list of Fifty Things I Have Never Done. For June 6 will be my 50th birthday. To mark it, I will undertake the next leg of my journey to complete the Pacific Coast Highway. This time, I will tour north from Los Angeles, ending up with a few days seeing old friends in San Francisco. I haven’t been to San Francisco since I was a very small child. The trip will culminate in meeting with a most dear friend I have not seen since we were both in high school some 34 years ago.
As with my trip along the Pacific Coast Highway in Washington and Oregon last year, my days and nights will be spent kicking along through the nostalgia of the small coastal towns, walking for hours barefoot on the beach, touching the sea and talking with my grandfather, whose ashes were scattered in the sea off that coast 25 years ago. This poem was my grandfather’s favourite and was read at his funeral. The words of the poem go to a deep place inside me that expresses the feeling of my sojourns to the sea better than any words I could conjure. My favourite line? ” . . where the wind’s like a whetted knife . . ” I’ve never known another that expressed my family’s feeling for the sea quite so perfectly.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
By John Masefield (1878-1967).
(English Poet Laureate, 1930-1967.)
I am eager for my days by the sea and for all those weeks will bring. Leaving will be hard, harder each time, harder than ever this year with such special things and people to say goodbye to. Even the prospect of a painful goodbye will not keep me away. My beloved sea, I’ll be on my way soon.
“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach–waiting for a gift from the sea.”
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh