Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why Vacations Are Important, Part Two

Mill Valley, California

We hiked down to the ocean. The fog clung to the ground like it was icing on a cake.
(Steep Ravine trail, California)

I wanted to see the famous cabins at Steep Ravine...and there they were, clustered on the edge of a rocky bluff overlooking the ocean. Built in the 1930's by a rich industrialist and originally leased to privileged families craving an escape from the clamor of San Francisco, these days they rent for an egalitarian $100/night (and are booked seven months in advance).
(Steep Ravine Camp, Rocky Point, California)

Primitive they were and primitive they remain: even today, there is no electricity or running water (although an outdoor faucet with spring water is steps away). Vacationing here is an interlude in Emersonian simplicity. Bring beeswax candles, firewood, a journal/book/art project and a nice bottle of vintage Port.

Dorothea Lange slept here. In fact, she and her family rented the above cottage for almost a decade. So inspired was she by the sense of liberation she felt at Steep Ravine that she published a book of photographs about it (available HERE).

"I began to wonder what it was that made us all feel,
the minute we went over the brow of that hill,
a sense of -- not peace, particularly, or enjoyment -- freedom."

~Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), about Steep Ravine

* * * * *

To become warm after I've been cold is, to me, one of life's greatest joys.
(Pelican Inn, Muir Beach, California)

And to undergo this transformation in a tavern that's the spitting image of one from a Charles Dickens novel makes me pretty much delirious.
(Pelican Inn, Muir Beach, California)

Of course we ordered pints of Guinness all 'round. Hello. For strength, obviously.

I pinky swear that was Mr. Pickwick sitting next to me -- he just dashed off to pee with a degree of speed and urgency highly inconsistent with the gravity of his demeanor.
(Pelican Inn, Muir Beach, California)

Awash in the convivial charms of the Pelican Inn, I bought this book later that afternoon.
Why "Humphrey Clinker", you ask?
Well, my friend, I'll tell you why...

Because Dickens always cited Tobias Smollett as one of his biggest childhood influences.
Because Thackaray's blurb on the back cover hails it as "the most laughable story that has ever been written since the goodly art of novel-writing began."
And three.
Because who with even a token interest in human nature could pass up a gossipy romp around England and Scotland with characters like "a gouty country squire", "a husband hunter" and "an illiterate but racy lady's maid"? Not me.

Editor's Note: "Clinker" is going straight to Pole Position Four on my 32-book reading stack, outranked only by Amor Towles "Rules of Civility", "Ignore Everybody" by Hugh McLeod and Patti Smith's "Just Kids".

* * * * *

There is a mental "gathering" that happens the last day of a vacation. You know what I mean by this.
(Stinson Beach, California)

Oh sure, you carry down your navy-and-canvas LL Bean tote heaving with books, old magazine articles, and a day planner stuffed with obligations.
(Stinson Beach, California)

But the books don't get cracked, the magazine articles don't get read and the planner stays unorganized. No. You just lie there, body immobile in the sand, eyes closed, preparing your mind for "re-entry."
(Stinson Beach, California)

"Be calm" is what the approaching tide whispers. "As it is now, so can it be again."
(Stinson Beach, California)

Really? Do you promise? Because I want to bottle this feeling and take it back home with me to Hollywood. I'm at peace here, on this strange beach, just watching the waves roll slowly in, one after the other, with endless consistency. They just keep going, don't they, those waves. They stick to the plan. They're patient. They persevere. They have conviction. And isn't conviction just another word for "hopefulness"? Kinda makes you think, right?
(Stinson Beach, California)

And that is why vacations are important.

(All photographs taken August 2011 by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti.)


Jane said...

That is a side of California I have never seen - a bit grey and stormy, worn out and rubbed pale, and smoothed by the salty wind.

There is just something about the sea isn't there. My book stack is about as big as yours ! However I just can't get into that Patti Smith book. I will keep trying.


Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Jane: A cold sea is my favorite sea. :)

And really, about the Patti Smith book? Hmm. It got such great reviews from 3 of my friends. I'll let you know. Of course, I may be partial because I stayed in the Chelsea Hotel on my first night in New York (interviewing for a job, which I got) and it was craaazy. I still have my receipt on Chelsea Hotel stationery. I paid $65 a night for a ''soundproof room" (which it WASN'T!) and cockroaches in my sink. Still, I was under its spell.

Anonymous said...

Cold sea is good.
Warm shower even better.
Guinness necessary.
Moules Marinières essential.
Dickens,wood fire,bed.
Vacations are important.
Nice post,Bravo.

pve design said...

Things seem ratcheting up here to a level of insanity. Between a renovation which keeps us hostage
for those important decisions on the height of the soap ledge and University bound twins, aggravated by a volatile market, let's just say we are holding on by our chinny chin chin.
A dearly departed friend of mine said, "Why who needs a vacation when I can go anywhere in my mind with a good book."
Thanks for the gentle are important.
Time to get outta dodge.

Karena said...

Exactly!! Just bottle it all up to release from our Genie bottle for that same feeling!

I am reading Patti's Book and loving it so far!


Art by Karena

Lily said...

Throwing stones into two different oceans in one summer... what a great pairing of vacations!
Was the light the same color of melancholy silver in both places?
That inn looks so charming and cozy, a place of merry feasts and tall tales and daydreams... kind of like this blog!

Unknown said...

This post has me longing for a trip home to Northern California. And, this is a perfect day for me to be reading it as we are having one of those mornings that is so rare in Santa Fe. It's drizzly and cool, and I'm loving it! I haven't been to Stinson Beach in so long; it is on my list for my next visit home. xo

Maria Speidel said...

Lovely pictures. I've never heard of about those cabins. Filing mental note.

I liked Just Kids, for many reasons, some mentioned in my fledgling efforts here:

helen tilston said...

Thank you for informing us about Steep Ravine Camp, I did not know such a remote, rustic place existed.
You are so right when you say that books and articles are left untouched and yet we have the greatest plans when packing. I think we know the vacation did you a world of good.
You will have fond and beautiful memories to draw from when the days are without sunshine.
Helen xx

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Those little brown cottages remind me of boxy Tolkien characters advancing towards the sea.

Foggy and cold, with a pub nearby. My favourite sort of shoreline. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Baker Martin said...

Shhhhh! Rocky Point is all mine.....and as far as the weather ....remember what Mark Twain said - "the coldest winter I ever spent is summer in San Francisco".
P.S. Another fave is Sea Ranch with it's definitional design. The ultimate California sea shore.

Vava (aka Virginia) said...

The LBG School always informs me of new delights! Had no idea of those cabins. Finished Rules of Civility: deeeee-light-FUL!

Susan S said...

Dear God, you hit the nail on the head! Over and over and over again, every point offered had my head shaking affirmatively, especially the "mental gathering" of the whole experience. It's true, you try to tuck it deep inside of yourself.

Thank you for the beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Those cabins are so mysteriously charming. Don't you just want to book one for the next decade too! We do!! Looks like it was such a great trip!
xo E + J

LIN said...

Love your writing and your very balanced perspective. Of course also your literary recommendations are always high on my list now that I've discovered your blog, Thanks for all your wonderful posts, and yes, I couldn't agree more, vacations are important. I reread every summer "Gift from the Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. THAT is a book you can open and actually read while being lulled by the waves. Happy re-entry!

Emily said...

I lived in the Bay Area for almost two years and never went to Stinson Beach. Shame on me!!!
Tell me Lisa, what is your favorite Dickens novel?
I just downloaded a A Tale of Two Cities on my iPad, but I would love your opinion.

Jacqueline said...

The more I read your posts, the more I think you've got to visit Prince Edward Island. I think you simply belong there! (I just spent a couple of weeks there, and I am still dreaming about it).

Angie Muresan said...

Ah... I feel refreshed!

Casa Jacaranda said...

We vacationed in Tenants Harbor, ME sometime back staying at the East Wind Inn which is located on a peninsula. The emerging dawn over the water was spectacular from our upstairs room view. We day tripped over to Camden. What a charmed place for shopping & dining. Your post brought back sweet memories. Thank you!

Blue Turtle said...

Sometimes we reward ourselves a well deserved break. Traveling is one reward that can unwind ourselves. Nice photos you have here.

J. Harp @ Interior Design Pro

Smart Other Blogs said...

Good another post :)
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Aditi Malhotra said...

Thanks for your posts. All the reviews provided are quite informative, useful and helps a lot during vacations.Looking forward for more.

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