"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Outsmarting Loneliness in Big Sur

Part One, in which I decide to take a spontaneous adventure

About 10pm on New Year's Eve, I realized three things:

  1. I had the next two days in a row off from the coffee shop.
  2. The weather was going to be sunny and in the 60's.
  3. I needed to get out of my lonely, sad headspace and start this year with some beauty.
Time to check out Big Sur.

I wished that I could be going with another person, or several.  My energy for solo adventuring is waning by the day.  But if I had waited for someone else to come along on any one of my amazing adventures over the past five years, I never would have gone.  So I put on my big girl pants, like I always do, and headed out alone.  Again.

The instant I hit the sight of the mountains jutting straight out of the ocean, I forgot about anything other than WOW.

My first stop along Rt. 1

Welcome to Big Sur
Yet, that bastard, Loneliness, didn't take long to find me again.  I soon discovered that the eight-mile bluff hike I had planned to take was inaccessible due to a washed out bridge at the beginning.  No problem, I thought.  I've waded across rivers before.

I took my pants off, put on my water shoes, and used my pole to navigate to the middle of the river - at which point the water (which was now past my waist and getting my shirt wet) became a powerful current.  I couldn't hold myself up and almost lost my pole.  I gave up and turned around.

I tried this three more times at three different points on the river with the same result each time.  As I sat on the bank putting all of my clothes back on, an adorable frickin' couple arrived on the scene.  With a bit of struggle, they crossed the river.  Together.  Holding on to each other for support.

I held back tears as I laced my boots.  Screw this trail, I thought.  I'll just find another one.

Back in my car, fighting self-pity, I remembered my recent practice of feeling my feelings.  Not being ashamed of them, covering them up, running from them, or judging myself for them.  Just feeling them.  So before I drove to the next state park in search of a new trail, I sent up a prayer.

"Universe/god person, I'm feeling lonely.  I notice that."

"Ok, good job, Melanie," the universe responded.

"Thanks.  I'm going to go ahead and ask you that I please not have to be alone on this whole trip.  It'd be great to meet some people.  Could you arrange that?"

"Sure thing."

"Thanks.  Oh - and one more thing that would make me feel better, " I added as an afterthought, "I'd like to see a whale."

"Just one?" the universe asked with a wink.

Part Two, in which I hike through my loneliness

Ewoldsen trail is a five mile loop that wanders through the redwoods and up a mountain to a lookout over the ocean.  At the trailhead, I met a couple from Pennsylvania, with whom I hiked the whole thing.

Ewoldsen Trail

View from the top (I'm in the corner looking pensive)
While we were eating lunch at the top, I spotted a tall spurt of white water out on the ocean, and then a smooth, dark body cresting the surface.  "A WHALE!" I shouted.  "Look!  A whale!"

My hiking companions confirmed my discovery.  Before we left the lookout, I had seen no fewer than eleven different whales.

View on the way back down

My PA hiking buddies

Loving the forest twilight

Part Three, in which I chill with seals, whales, and surfers

The next morning, I sent up another prayer.  "Thanks for a great day yesterday, universe.  Thanks for the whales, and the company on the hike."

"You're welcome."

"Sorry to be picky, but, it's just that, well -"

"What? What would you like now?"

"Maybe some company that's not a couple?  You know how being with a couple sometimes makes being alone feel even more alone-y?  Maybe I could meet a solo traveler today or something."

"Ask and you shall receive."

So after a morning of elephant seal-watching:

Caption contest!  Write your caption for this photo in the comments.
trekking to the end of a peninsula for some meditation:

secluded path to the peninsula

. . . and jade-hunting in a hidden cove:

The path down to the jade cove was so steep someone had set up rope rappels
I decided to reward all my exercise with some relaxation on the breathtaking Sand Dollar Beach.  When I parked my car, I noticed that in front me was a truck with the first solo traveler I had seen!  Unfortunately, he was getting in to his truck, not coming out.  We said mutual hellos and I went down to the beach alone.

Soon after, Mr. Solo Traveler walked by me on the beach and said, "Hi again.  You haven't seen any eyeglasses lying around here have you?"

I helped him look for his glasses.  When we found them, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a beer.  "Want a beer?" he offered.

Mr. Solo Traveler - my answer to prayer - was also a surfer, a musician and a gymnast.  We spent the rest of the day on the beach watching the surfers, singing songs, and doing silly antics as the sun slowly sank below the horizon.

Tuning up for some Paul Simon

Mr. Solo Traveler doing a backflip

. . . and a one-armed handstand

And me preparing for my olympic-quality cartwheel
While overall, I'm still lonely and no amount of beautiful sights can take the place of another living, breathing, loving human - all three of my prayers were answered.  And I spent the first two days of 2013 in one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  For those things, I am grateful.  

Oh, and the whales?  By the end of my trip I had seen a total of 24.

Goodbye, Big Sur
p.s. Don't forget to enter your caption for the seal photo in the comments!

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  1. My caption is...have you seen my glasses?

  2. Oooh, K80,that's the best caption ever!

    Isn't Big Sur the best? It's beautiful out there.

    Here's my caption:

    The seaweed is always greener
    In somebody else's lake
    You dream about going up there
    But that is a big mistake
    Just look at the world around you
    Right here on the ocean floor
    Such wonderful things surround you
    What more is you lookin' for?

    Under the sea
    Under the sea
    Darling it's better
    Down where it's wetter
    Take it from me
    Up on the shore they work all day
    Out in the sun they slave away
    While we devotin'
    Full time to floatin'
    Under the sea

    But of course the seal goes off to discover other lakes and has grand adventures and in the end meets the people that make her less lonely. :)

  3. I especially love this post!

    1. Thanks, Amanda. I'm glad. I notice that people seem to most enjoy the posts where I'm vulnerable - which I am more and more these days!

  4. k80's caption is brilliant! Mine would be something along the lines of "Shoes and ships and sealing-wax, cabbages and kings. And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings." Although I realize they are seals not walruses or carpenters ;)

    1. Yes but Lewis Carroll is always welcome on my blog. :)

  5. "Is there anything in my teeth? No? What about my nose?"

  6. What a fun time following your journey -and what an amazing answer to prayers!
    24 whales, a solo-traveler (and a musician at that!) and gorgeous weather!
    You were blessed!
    I can relate to the lonliness following no matter where I went, or who I was with. It was a nagging, depressing thing until I figured out where it was coming from and grieved the past so I could release it. Not a fun journey, but well worth it.
    Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    1. Fascinating. So does loneliness still show up for you now that you've worked through one of its major sources? If so, how do you deal with it?

  7. Lately, I've been trying a similar way of praying when I want something to happen:

    "If there are any deities, demigods, or miscellaneous higher powers listening, I would not object to your assistance."

    I have no idea if it works, but it usually calms me down.