Few people seem to exist along this mystic coastline. Is it the dangerously skinny highway on the steep edge of the unknown that prevents people from coming in droves? Or the fear of spotty cell service; the silence that would make people confront their own thoughts?
It was becoming dusk, as a last min tent purchase was being built on a cliff clearing that blurred into the overcast Pacific Ocean, only to realize during the pitch that it was a very small pup tent. In order to be outstretched, my head would need to be poked outside the zipper door, under the stars, to sleep. Thankfully, there didn’t seem to be many critters.
When Jack was 15 years old, in Brooklyn, he ran away from home to join a traveling rodeo: The mere beginning to his ramblin’. Johnny Cash once said, “He’s got a song and a friend for every mile behind him.” I wanted to see him play banjo. And there he was outside on the intimate library grounds storytelling.
One spare tree peered over us listeners among all the greens. Was that Henry? He and Jack both have had a special June. Amber light darkened into blue.
As the show broke up, I was approached by a traveling poet who offered me the choice of a joke or poetry, in exchange for a donation. Not a fan of on-the-spot jokes, I opted for poetry. He finished a meandering slam with good spirit. I reached in my bag and found a twenty-dollar bill that was his for his hustle. The poet invited my companion and me back with him to hang out and share a meal. We followed him with a few others, trustingly, into a tucked away camp, where we fired up a pit to cook quesadillas.
The starry night surveyed us. A musician, Dan Kahn, played one of his songs, Coney Island, on the ukulele, as half-lit faces tuned in closely under towering sequoias. The unexpected late night conversation between converging strangers still lingers, sparking at moments and then disappearing, like rising embers into the dark.
Under the forested canopy of Big Sur and on the hidden pockets of isolated beach, is a place where one can easily feel to be on the brink of discovering new life or surrendering to the crudity of the earth. For me, it’s the sense of solitude that is possible and the pulse of the ocean that feels like a god breathing to me something essential that I need to know, now.
Another takeaway from Highway 1 : Remember to give back to the traveling poet.