That California Coast

maggie and milly and molly and may
e. e. cummings, 18941962

maggie and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

Point Lobos Pelicans

Searching for better words to describe the nearness, accessibility and grandeur of the sea, I browsed through several poems about the ocean in the Academy of American Poets. Neither Hawthorne nor Whitman, for all their literary greatness, could accurately conjure the feeling of standing on the Pacific brink. Where Hawthorne’s Atlantic waves are dark and brooding, the waves that break against the California coast are frothy and inviting.

That’s the thing about California: as grand the Pacific is, as intriguing and varied its coastal terrain, all that would inspire awe and weightiness is undermined by the abundant sunshine. The sun just bakes all your cares away, so sweetly you can’t remember your troubles.

Point Lobos Sea Lion Point

Even sea lions come out to bask in the sun.

Point Lobos Sea Lions

Sunbathing with their pups.

Point Lobos Mars

The terrain, too, feels more fantastical than foreboding. Rather than the grey, weather-beaten rocks of an Atlantic harbor, here the coastline exposes what must have formerly been a submarine ecosystem. Now, it looks like a set from Star Wars.

Point Lobos Mars

Point Lobos

Not that I’m complaining. California is a beautiful place, and as an East Coast transplant I could add a little sunshine to my disposition.All this is just the result of recent musings about the cultural differences between coasts. I do miss the stormy seriousness of a nor’easter, the broodiness that makes Whitman feel in the wet tendrils of a breaking wave the beckoning a lost loved one.

Natural Bridges State Beach

But on the other hand, it’s not such a bad thing that a California Saturday consists of sun, sand and surf.

Natural Bridges State Park

No indeed, not bad at all.


3 thoughts on “That California Coast

  1. I understand completely what you mean! I moved to Florida from Massachusetts and there is never a sense of brooding about the beaches here. There is something totally ageless about a New England beach in winter..a connectedness with everyone who stood there in the past looking out and searching for answers. The feeling just isn’t the same when the weather is sunny and warm all the time!
    beautiful photos and really great post!

    1. That’s so true! In New England you feel the history and the lens of others who’ve stood there before. In California it all feels so rugged and untamed/cultivated. I hadn’t really thought about it that way, thanks for the insightful comment!

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