Where you drive up the country lane outside of Fort Bragg, California to the Garden at Road’s End you are greeted first by this surrealistic natural sculpture in the ferns beneath the redwoods and you know you’ve entered a place of serene beauty. This is where I was this past week, on a solo retreat to have some time to hear the more quiet inner voices that needed some space to be heard.
Lamy fountain pen and w/c in 6 X 8″ Stillman + Birn Beta series sketchbook
John Calhoun is the host here and has poured his architectural training and master garden skills along with experience running a spiritual retreat into this remarkable Air BNB retreat.
I was ready to do a lot of meditating, writing, sleeping of course and nature walks. Initially the sky was heavy with drizzle so I satisfied my sketching urge inside, with cup of hot tea by my side.
But I was minutes from the choicest northern California beaches, so I bundled up against the wind and rain and headed out to MacKerricher State park and walked along the cliffs. These rock outcroppings with seals and cormorants can be seen everywhere along the coast, but not up close. So, squinting I did my best, but learned that you should always start with the closer figures, in this case the seals, which of course are larger than the birds. But since I could make out the outline of the cormorants I started there. Oh well, you get the idea.
Theoretically there are Gray Whales migrating now off the coast of California. I missed seeing them but settled for this skeleton, finding it particularly challenging to get the right proportions and fit this creature, which is already 12-14′ long at birth, into a drawing 7 inches wide!
Later sketching in some late afternoon glow in John’s rainbow colored heather garden, which upstages even the Botanical Garden in town.
For Bragg is particularly known for its Glass Beach and nature walk along the bluff. The waves were so high that day that it was easy to imagine not only the warned tsunami but the rapid loss of coastline. Fences were erected to keep people from standing too close to the edge of wet loose soil and rock.
It’s always a treat to see the first poppies of the season, our gaudy California state flower. And such a treat to see this bumble bee, heavily laden with pollen.
On Friday I stopped at Russian Gulch State Park on the way home to walk the headlands trail. The sun came out and I was treated to the most dazzling display of a winter sea with mountainous waves thundering and exploding against the cliffs into vertical sprays that dazzled blindingly in the sunlight. The entire sea below me was white foam.
Which is to say that I simply had to surrender to the fact that it was beyond my ability to sketch the experience. Sometimes it’s like that. The camera, the video, the brush, all become useless and you’re confronted with the necessity to use all your senses to lap it up and store it away in memory. . .when the time comes to go home.
Which is where I am now, still feeling the ocean spray and the thrill of standing on the edge of such magnificence. In a few years, that trail will be gone as the coast is eaten by forces we are learning more about each day. But the memory will remain.