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where the West begins and ends

Naples eroding

this Santa Barbara

likes the sun yucca

annals of former worlds

Indian Summer arrives

nude beach

point wave

elbowed elbowroom

the road to Witchy Tree

space rock ranch

this end of the line

Down coast of Point Conception:

 

Openness seems everywhere along Gaviota’s eastern shoreline down coast of Point Conception. From spacious marine terraces or gently elevated slopes set back only a few hundred yards inland, or when overlooking the beach on sea cliffs averaging just dozens of feet above sea level, views and perspectives are as if from mountaintops.

 

Gaviota stretches her wings. Like a natatorial bird, this south facing land appears able to both fly and swim.

 

The Pacific’s restless west to east littoral sweep gnaws at this layered ground and its narrowed beaches. Pushed gracefully south at stream mouths into cobbled point after point, Gaviota is sharply bowed opposite 90° by the bold headlands of Central California’s Transverse Ranges at Conception and Arguello. Great depth, expansiveness and a remarkable connection to place can be experienced at every corner and contour of south and west facing Gaviota.

 

On the horizon, island profiles seem as unfixed as hallucinations. From all directions, skies, weather, currents, birds and animals congregate, merge and pass through. Among the first to encounter this place and its Indians by land, my Spanish ancestors arrived on horseback in the late 1700s (and immediately disturbed much). A lot has changed, but some has not, and this is the most remarkable.

 

Some of the most expensive real estate in the world slipping into the sea.

In this Santa Barbara, we are transformed by our common wealth and the power of a friendly, noble seascape to anchor us in home and place.

This lovely morning my familiarity and profound comfort with this coast carried me back to kid feelings; when the world and life were less cluttered and filled up; when spacing out was more dreaming than remembering; when connections were more natural than patterned and purposed. When wild was wilder—when free was freer—when less was more.

Not a safe place for long exposures.

See different. Very few people can accurately point toward Yosemite, Lake Tahoe or even Canada from here. In this picture, as well as along the entire Santa Barbara and Gaviota coasts below Point Conception, that would be straight inland beyond the mountains, due north.

 

The source of some of Gaviota’s most powerful waves is also on the mountain side of here.  With origins a thousand or more miles northwest of us, ocean swells angle southward and east, and, as they wrap Arguello and Conception into the Southern California Bight, they spread along Gaviota to expire often well over 100° contrary to their starting point. As they meet land, some have turned nearly fully around like the wash and stretched-out, skinny breaker in this picture.

As heaven becomes carbon, ice becomes water, and land becomes ocean, people consume everything earth and pack into every corner. Nature is our fancy and overwhelmed by our presence.

 

Gaviota, at times called pristine, often called undeveloped, though not at all pristine, and really almost, nearly, kind of, only somewhat undeveloped.

 

A hemmed-in, vignetted seascape, a bent ribbon of horizons, Gaviota is elbowed in nature, elbowed or lost. Year after year, we fight for this piece and that. Here and there may be saved, but her essences will not. Fragmented by attention and notions of preciousness, a pristine Gaviota will be only for those who don’t know the difference.


West of the deep arroyo, railroad tracks slice through broad green pastures. The right of way here is a yawning wound scaring this coast.

 

I scaled the cobbled bank of the old cut, slipped through rusty strands of barbed wire and hiked south to the crest of the sea cliff to this four-board fence. Must have spent an hour or so there overlooking the beach checking things out downing my raisin and almond dinner. I love sitting on old wooden fences, and doubt any western railing I’ve straddled has a nicer vantage nor fresher air. What a fine spot; a treasure; untrammeled, shockingly spacious; so extraordinary, yet homey. I’m happy to have been a part of this place at an uncrowded time, and to have embraced this coast for so long, particularly with my pretty Carole.