There was a moment on my recent drive down California State Route 1, winding through the cliffs and curves of Big Sur, that I realized I was thinking about the expansiveness of the Universe while staring at the Pacific Ocean.
I’m used to gazing at the Atlantic Ocean from a beach chair on a sunny day. Jersey Shore, easy, chilling with the family. The horizon is always a clear line. It’s vast, but sky and water meet and it’s clear where one ends and the other begins.
Not so for the Pacific, at least from our elevated perch. The sky-meets-water line is blurred. It has an ethereal quality that for me only deepened the longer we drove. Another curve, another cliff, another rock covered in foam. Meanwhile, the horizon continued to look like some artist’s idea of heaven.
That drive for me is about 50 percent terror and 50 percent exhilaration. My fear of heights is challenged repeatedly, but oh the payoff. I learned that silence, pulling in my breath and then purposefully exhaling allowed me to continue in a place of wonder and presence rather than surrender to the fear and miss a spectacular experience. I live riveted to spectacular experiences. If I’m going to invite them in, it only makes sense that I bring all my senses to the party.
The last time I did the drive through Big Sur I was at the wheel. I didn’t get to appreciate the views as much, but I was in control. This time I was a passenger. At times I felt captive, my trust fully in my friend’s ability to navigate the twists safely. Sometimes I’d look out the window and see the drop to rocks and ocean and gulp, so close to the edge. So darned close.
This is travel calling me to keep partaking, keep exploring, keep opening. I am not typically quiet when I’m with friends, but this ride humbled me and asked that I engage fully. A few years back when I took the High Road to Taos, N.M., I was struck by the ‘falling rock’ signs and the sharp drops and I kept thinking that it was stupid to warn me about potential falling rocks because I had no room to swerve out of the way anyway. Another drive that was at times harrowing and at times heady, like you’re living an entire lifetime in the span of two hours.
That’s how this latest California drive felt, like a microcosm of a life lived. All the nutty, surreal, poignant and terrifying moments built into an actual journey on an iconic road that dishes up views of blue and green, brown and white, colors man didn’t create and has no control over. This is the landscape. We can only participate. Sometimes we need to know when it’s time to simply receive. Sit back, eyes widening, wondering where it all came from and how we got so lucky to be invited to this feast.
It made me so happy.
Written by Nancy Colasurdo