Mountain Musings

Perception, preference and pleasure

April 11, 2014 

Pop stars or poppies? The North Coast offers both.


While the buzz over a recent “entertainer’s” visit wanes, and as I sit up here at the top of these Santa Lucia Mountains and muse, my brain just doesn’t comprehend why people go gaga over famous people. Folks stop in their tracks at the sight of a celebrity. I’m not knocking it. It’s just not something I understand because my mobility is arrested when I see something beautiful in nature.

Sure, soaring red-tailed hawks, slithering snakes and lizards, leaping frogs, and scampering squirrels are common—heck, around here even grazing zebras, aoudads, and Tahr goats are seen fairly often. Still, they and all the other natural wonders of our area, like colorful pebbles in the surf, bright poppies along the roadside, and lush springtime grasses on the hills are what charm and captivate me.

The more natural beauty I behold the more gratitude I experience and express.

The more of nature I can get—the more patient, tolerant, and kind I know I can become.

OK, that’s nothing new.

A pine-scented stroll along the seashore or a hike through the oaks and madrones promotes better human nature — that is, unless you neglect to respect the poison oak, which happens to be thriving in this drought. That said, what about everyday people, our neighbors, fellow villagers, and the tourists? Aren’t people a part of nature too?

Granted, some may be seemingly unhappy souls who we think of as a gully full of stinging nettle. To see them usually means we give them a wide berth. Either that or we deal with the temporary discomfort, knowing it makes no sense at all to tangle with them, which only prolongs suffering.

Then there are those who, while we are in their presence, make us feel as if we’re standing in a field of fragrant wildflowers. No matter how near perfection or wind-blown and tattered they appear, we see the beauty and are pleased to be in their company.

Funny thing is, even poison oak and sting nettle have their merits (various medicinal uses), which reminds me of Desiderata, the prose poem that was posted in my childhood home and now hangs by my woodstove. Part of the poem reads, “As far as possible — without surrender— be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.”

Everyone has his or her own unique perceptions and preferences. Musicians, actors, and well-known performers mesmerize some folks. Other folks favor waves and woodlands. Regardless, we live where opportunities for pleasures abound.


Michele Oksen’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email the resident of Cambria’s mountain community in the Santa Lucia range at

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