Saturday, October 8, 2016

Visiting Morro Bay

I used my saved Labor Day holiday from work two days ago to take a solo road trip three hours south along highway 1, or the Pacific Coast Highway, to Morro Bay, California. Morro Bay was a randomly chosen destination based on its distance, and while it provided a great beach to read and nap on for an afternoon and some good Mexican food, the highlight of the trip was driving through Big Sur -- how clear of a day it was, how few people were there, the incredibly beauty of the entire region, and the enjoyment of taking an adventure on my own and the time to think, absorb the quiet, and admire the views it brought. 

Big Sur is one of the most undeveloped and rugged stretches of coastline in the world, and is described as the longest, most uninhabited, and scenic in the U.S. The Santa Lucia mountains are in such close proximity to the coast, or rise up from the ocean. It occurred to me while driving how I'd never seen so much empty ocean, there was never a boat or person in the water. It was the largest stretch of sea I can ever recall seeing that appears so natural and empty. The shades of blue stretched on forever. 

The golden cattails lined both sides of the highway and when hit by the sun, they were so, so gorgeous. 

I'd seen parts of Big Sur before, but there was always a bit of wildfire smoke or fog in the evening, and I'd never gone very far south in the region. 

A hummingbird and gecko were spotted.

A little over halfway through the journey was a spot called Ragged Point. An inn, outdoor restaurant, gas station and shop seemed to make it a common tourist stop. In the gorgeous garden and unexpected lawn, I noticed a dozen or so monarch butterflies. A hummingbird (more challenging to photograph well!) was also there.

Two and a half hours south of Monterey Bay where the trip began, the scenery flattened. It still looked like California, but the mountains and dramatic coastal landscape disappeared. In the small coastal town of Cayucos, one town north of Morro Bay, I found a beach with a few sunbathers. Forgetting my own sunscreen, I pulled on a long sleeve shirt and read until my eyes grew heavy and I fell asleep.

Cayucos and Morro Bay, California

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Reading & Missing the Rain, Just a Little

Despite the busy-ness of a new job and a natural inclination to be really social -- to learn names and meet people and pursue volunteer opportunities and endless hobbies (Badminton! Singing! Yoga! Art! Writing! Jogging!), I’m trying to be realistic. That includes taking things down a notch. Enjoying the solitude. In life thus far, there’s felt like there’s been too much of it, now I’m realizing not to take it (or any amount of time for that matter) for granted. Daily or weekly quiet time on my own seems to be the recharge that I need for life and work right now. I’ll never say no to spending time with a friend, but one or two of those hobbies sometimes need to take a back seat in favor of quieter more reflective time. Sometimes the hobbies themselves provide that. 

Besides walking along and gazing at the ocean, I’m trying to read more and as there’s always so much I want to read, I’m adopting a new approach to giving in to my interests at that moment. There’s always a laundry list of books I hope to read and nearly always I commit to finishing the one I’m on before starting a new one. But like food, I experience cravings for books, for authors or genres or locations or times in history to be immersed in. I’m trying to let those cravings speak more, to read a little bit of what I want at that moment. For me, so much of the attraction to reading and writing is thinking and learning. It’s what I miss most about being a full-time student and what I look for in a job. Reading is being somewhere else. And if there’s an inclination to read something specific, it feels right.

Not feeling right is adjusting to a rain-free environment. Similar to time, I’m reminding myself to not take the blue sky days (or any days here) for granted. They’re beautiful and I do really like the consistency in weather. Outdoor plans have yet to be cancelled or rearranged, occasionally the fog or clouds intrude but every day is predictable and nothing more than a light jacket has ever been needed. Every few weeks though, a strange expectation for rain has arrived in my thoughts. I haven’t seen it since I arrived two and a half months ago and even locals have brought it up when they’ve asked how long I’ve been here; one responded with, “you haven’t seen rain yet then, we haven’t seen it since March.” The two umbrellas in my car are overlooked and my hoods haven’t seen much use. I suspect in time my mind will adjust, I won’t expect rainy or overcast days every few weeks like I’ve lived with. I never expected I’d miss them, but they do seem to become a part of the rhythm I know. Remaining indoors or sleeping late as rain falls outdoors feels so familiar, and so welcome.

In other news, I baked some of my favorite scones over the weekend with a friend and bought more than a few more succulents. I then promised myself that as irresistible as they are, my succulent purchasing was finished for 2016.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Visiting Big Sur

I visited Big Sur a couple of weeks ago with a friend who's also new to the area and it was as enchanting as I had imagined.  It was the first time I'd seen the region on a clear evening and the cliffs, ocean and sunset were remarkable. Described by some as "the greatest meeting of land and water in the world," the rugged central Californian coast line defining Big Sur certainly appeared to be the greatest I've seen. With a planned destination of Julia Pfeiffer state park to see the sunset, the road wound along the coast and I loved the frequent opportunities to explore each overlook. Someday I hope to pursue the multitude of hikes in Big Sur.

The winding roads made me pretty nauseous, and with time to spare before the sunset on the beach, I took a quick nap on the sand. The air was chilly, but with a towel and jacket, it was a peaceful place to sleep! Also remarkable, the purple and pink sand at the beach!

The sun disappeared quicker than I had expected and wasn't quite a clear break with the horizon, but a disappearance into the fog that was rolling in. 

Even more beautiful seemed to be after the sun had set and the pink glow of light framed the mountains.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Happiness and Clear Days

When I think about the differences I see each day in California, they're minor and include larger tortilla sections in grocery stores, more cars and people and fewer season changes. When I think about the differences I see in myself since moving here, they're more prominent. I'm much happier here than I was most recently in New Hampshire. Family and friends are missed and play no part in the measurement, but there's a life here that I feel I've chosen out of so many options of who I could be or where I could go. I've found a naturalness and joy between a job I love and take pride in, to ocean walks or tacos or coastal road trips with friends. There's energy and opportunity here that I love. The activities I've taken on by myself, like yoga, reading and coastal walks have been a place to breath and think and give myself time. But the new friends have given meaning to living here. There are so many more young people here, ideas, places and groups to join. There's an active lifestyle and diversity of cultures and people that's a breath of fresh air. It feels right.

Pebble Beach, CA

Fall here is just as described after a traditionally foggy and cold summer: clear, sunny and the warmest season. While it seems that shorts don't see much attention any time of year, the fall temperatures reach 75 during the day and clear skies usually stretch from morning to evening. 

My office in Pebble Beach doesn't get a ton of sun, but it seems to be enough for my desk succulents!

Pacific from Pebble Beach

My work recently instituted a weekly "Wellness Hour" where employees can take an hour to practice however they view wellness. Mine usually consists of a walk to the beach.  

I love the green and purple plants along the coast, there's so many and I love the color and texture they add to the landscape.

Carmel beach sunset. 

Overcast in Pacific Grove.

I have many nice neighbors, but this corgi puppy might be my favorite. He was also born the week I arrived in California. We can chart our growth together! :)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years Later

Marking September 11th each year reminds me of seeing and understanding the day as a child and remembering it as an adult. Working at a high school the last few years, there's been a marking or remembrance of the anniversary each year. Last year, a few of the youngest high school students had been born that week. This year, many of the youngest students were born the following year. I remember my own middle and high school marking the anniversaries, particularly the second and third anniversaries and the moments of silence that accompanied them. I remember the tenth at college in Vermont and the eleventh through the eyes of British friends in the U.K. I've written down much of what I remember from that day, knowing that among my generation, if we live long lives, someday we'll be among the few with memories of the day. My memories aren't particularly exciting, I had been learning math that morning, nothing seemed amiss or different, and I learned after school that afternoon. Like most students, I didn't take the school bus home and was unusually picked up instead. I wish I could recall how beautiful of a day it was along the east coast as so many remember it to be. There are blurs in my memory that it was, but I don't recall it being thought of or noticed and I might just be remembering another day that year. I remember the class-wide discussions in the following days and weeks in my fourth grade classroom, how at that age, everyone had a story, a fact, something to share about a friend of a friend their parents knew. I visited New York with my family for the first time two years later in late spring and through the rain, I remember seeing the site and the tall pile of rubble that was still being processed. When I've visited New York in the last few years, the new One World Trade center has been so prominent and beautiful and seemingly at home on the skyline.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Nature & The Feeling of Being At Home

I continue to be amazed by the natural surroundings here. The birds are bigger and their wingspans wider than the birds I grew used to seeing (...and ignoring). Every few days a large bird takes my attention away by soaring low overhead. Hummingbirds are common as well and I seem to be the only person still enthralled by them. :) The ocean views, bright turquoise water and blue sky or sunsets over the Pacific continue to amaze. An abundance of seals and otters and cranes and seagulls (also, hundreds of deer. EVERYWHERE) who call this peninsula home continue to  make this area feel so full of life. Natural beauty is so undefinable as there are endless definitions of what we find beautiful in nature and I have my own list of un-rankable beautiful places I've seen, but when I lived on the east coast of Scotland four years ago and walked along the North Sea most days, I thought it was one of the most beautiful places I'd ever seen, and perhaps had ever lived. I have the same feeling here and many memories of the Scottish coast have returned. 

I visited my brother over the weekend and we enjoyed an afternoon in San Francisco. It was the clearest I'd ever seen it!

There have been days and moments recently of feeling like I'm still so new to life here. The small challenges seven weeks after arriving are centered around the hassle of not knowing where a particular street or location is that's referenced, how to pronounce a Spanish word, or what new friend might be interested in joining for an activity. But they're small challenges as I've been reminded of the one constant that is nearly everywhere and can bring so much happiness and reassurance of belonging: conversation. When I've moved anywhere new, great conversation seems to be the biggest comfort and familiarity. Maybe I just really like people and expressing and hearing ideas, but having an honest, compassionate, engaging discussion with anyone feels like home. It feels safe and rewarding being able to share experiences and ideas, laugh, trade thoughts and meaningfully discuss anything with another person. It isn't dependent upon length of friendship or how well you know the person, but can be born of any social situation. Recently there have been many conversations that have felt this way, rewarding and happy and interesting. It's one of the new-to-the-area practices I don't want to ever end. Continuing to seek out friendship and ideas and conversation even when settled might be a new goal of mine.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

One Month Later

Last weekend as I pictured a destination a friend and I were headed to, I imagined long green grass and the opportunity to use my picnic blanket. There isn't too much grass in California. The location had no grass, just dirt. I'm left thinking some days -- when I have the time to think of grass and plants and study the landscape -- how much I wish I knew what the plants and trees were called. As I think about the transition of the last month, I realize it's all felt very natural and calm. Emotionally things have been steady and predictable, I've just moved from point A  to point B to C and so on throughout the day, week and month and the decisions have happened naturally. Knowing I needed a new setting and challenge seem to add to the general ease of adjustment. I love and miss New Hampshire,  and have found I truly am homesick for the summers, lakes, sounds, sunsets, traditions and people there, but I was prepared for and was seeking this change. The days here are very different, the weather and lack of bugs still baffles me. Cars are common. My work is 7 miles from my home and with my car recording the average speed of each trip, I've found I average 15 - 18 mph on my morning commute. The moments with new friends, out walking along the ocean or talking or laughing somewhere have felt familiar to other friendships, warm and welcoming and kind. When driving, there are so many beautiful ocean views seen from the highways or from secondary roads that now with the summer fog disappearing -- are incredible to see. It's on the new roads and routes though with a surprise view of Monterey Bay and the bright turquoise or dark blue ocean when I'm reminded of why this is right for now. Driving home at night too, among the darkness of a navy sea that seems to stretch west forever, to streetlights with a golden glow, to tall, unfamiliar trees with barks and needles I've never seen, remind me of the calm and comforting moments that exist in even unfamiliar places. There's a tree I spend a minute or so under most mornings while at a stoplight. It has bright yellow leaves and crunchy brown leaves lining the ground above its roots. I don't know what the seasons hold here, and am mostly assured that there are no seasons, but the tree reminds me of fall in New England and in that traffic, I feel for a moment that I'm in Massachusetts. Then I look around at the other trees and it looks like no where I've seen before.

Ending last Sunday was a week-long stretch of car shows on the peninsula. Some of the shows were fancier than others,  but the amount of vintage cars seen around town was quite fun and made up for the added congestion. The most unexpected sight was a bright red double-decker London bus. I noticed a show near my home and as the cars were being packed away on Sunday afternoon, I parked my own car far enough away (so it wouldn't be packed away in a truck... ;) ) to see these cars up close.

Along the coast in Pacific Grove.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Four or five nights ago, I was falling asleep and suddenly thought "I know what I'm doing here, I have friends and a group of people I know. It's easy to get around and I like living and working here." It's true. The fluency of life here improves every week, but in the most basic sense, I've reached a point of comfort, knowledge and enjoyment in everyday. There's still plenty more discovery ahead, but in finding a routine and friends and activities I enjoy, the familiar has returned.

Walking through Pacific Grove last week.

Most mornings in Pebble Beach look like this, but this one a few days ago looked particularly mystical. The air was also very smoky this day from the wildfire, thinking this might be a mix of fog and smoke.

Deer are everywhere here! Day and night they graze at this sports field, though they don't stick around when teams try to share the field.

Summertime is nearly permanently foggy close to the coast, but a few late afternoons have shown some sun! Taken on separate days around the same time. Hit or miss!

 I had such a nice time this weekend visiting my friend Zoe from Scotland in Palo Alto where she lives now. She's a wonderful and fun friend and we had a great time catching up and exploring. We headed to Santa Cruz for the day on Saturday and enjoyed walking the boardwalk and along the ocean and seeing UC Santa Cruz's gorgeous ocean views.

It was probably the sun, bright blue sky and comfortable temperature, but I visited and left Stanford thinking it was most beautiful campus I'd ever seen.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Saying Yes

California is feeling right. The first week of work went so quickly and the first weekend has gone even quicker. In meeting new people and adjusting to a new environment, there's been growth and happiness in embracing each change. Saying yes to everything (or as much as possible), embracing spontaneity, and living in the moment has felt like the best decision.

I turned 24 a few days ago and was pleasantly surprised at how fun the day was with new friends. Before the sun set, I headed out to the coast in Pebble Beach and enjoyed the peacefulness of the deserted beaches.

(Earlier in the evening I took a nature walk and marveled at the large pinecones!)

An ocean selfie to remember what turning 24 looked and felt like. It was and remains very happy.

There are so many deer here. I've seen 2-3 a day the last week but today set a record with five, including one with antlers! They all have big ears and are a bit larger than the deer I saw in the east. I recently learned they're not hunted here which explains their abundance. Most of the time I see them on the roads in the Del Monte Forest, always taking their time. The other day though, there were two in downtown Monterey among the many homes. A smaller one was climbing a set of stone steps to a front door while it's parent or guardian spent some time camouflage in this wood pile. 


I visited my brother and his girlfriend in Berkeley over the weekend. The trip was a little over two hours each way and immediately brought my back to driving across the country with my Mom a few weeks ago. I hadn't been in a car for that long since, and getting gas for the first time in a week or so brought me back to purchasing it at least once daily for 11 days. The time spent there was so fun and the food delicious. The drive is also quite nice, spanning multiple microclimates and filled with agricultural fields and hills. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Transition & Succulents

I began work yesterday and through new colleagues and activities in the evenings, I'm feeling like I'm really getting to know Monterey Bay! The transition here has been unlike any before, it's most similar to college, but so different as I'm not surrounded by peers also looking to make friends. I've realized how much I love having people around and how important it is that I get involved where I can and meet people. So far, so good. 

I recently moved to Pebble Beach (temporarily) and found the microclimates I'd heard about in this region are true! Pebble Beach is very close to the ocean and foggy nearly all day, and usually between 57 and 61 degrees day and night. Each evening when I've traveled a mile or two inland though, it's sunny and warm and the socks and sweaters are removed! I've been assured by many that September and October will bring summer and that this is the foggiest and chilliest time of year.

Before I left Santa Cruz over the weekend I visited one more Redwood forest (Henry Cowell) after visiting the Big Basin forest the day before. The height of the trees and the amount of shade they provided amazed me.

 I was referred to the amazing Succulent Gardens greenhouse in the town of Moss Landing (great name!), which might best be described as a football field-sized greenhouse of succulents and cacti. I bought a few little succulents and loved seeing so many different varieties of the plants.

Flowers in Pacific Grove last night and street scene in Monterey this evening.