“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.”
— George Augustus Moore, “The Brook Kerith"
Cambria means many things to me. But most of all, it’s home, a cherished dream. My long-divorced mom was an itchy-footed, wanderlust woman for a lot of my life and most of her own. When I was 13, she married a resort-hotel chef whose “grass is always greener” attitude really kept us all on the move. In just three years, I attended 13 high schools in eight states, on both coasts and near both U.S. borders.
A decade later, my parents’ wanderings brought them to Cambria, where Mom eventually spent 18 years, more than a quarter of her life.
Finally, she’d come home.
Sure, she often yielded to that sudden urge to be somewhere else, traveling frequently with my stepdad, or (after his sudden death) by herself or with us. But, after a trip, she always said she was glad to get back home to Cambria — rather than being ready to take off again before she’d even unpacked, as she had been in her younger years.
Here on the North Coast, especially during the busy summer tourist season when many other vacation spots are hot, crowded and/or expensive, she often told us, “I’d love to take a trip, but where do you go from Cambria … and why?”
I thought of that recently on a lovely, clear summer evening.
Near sunset, we sat on the deck for a while, watching the meadow, the Monterey pine forest, the sea and sky.
The sun had just begun shining for real, after playing tag with the fog all day. The air was cooling quickly. The chill felt good on our faces, but we blessed the light jackets we wore. The fog monster was lurking at the horizon, waiting to slither back in later that night.
We inhaled a bracingly wonderful, fresh-air perfume of sea salt, eucalyptus, pine and magic. It’s the background scent of our banana-belt microclimate in Cambria’s Top of the World neighborhood.
We absorbed the serenity, the calm, the quintessentially “old Cambria” setting. We heard the distinct roar of the ocean and crash of the waves, but the sounds were very muted, as if a thoughtful someone had turned down the volume so as not to wake a napping baby.
A hummingbird buzzed us, then hovered a foot from our faces. We felt the breeze from his frenetic little wings, and saw red flashes as the fading sunshine bounced off his head.
He seemed to be trying to figure us out. Good luck, buddy.
He could have asked his friends: They know Husband Richard is the guy with the elixir. When he temporarily removes the feeders, they circle ’round him and chit-chatter, then scold him through the window until he returns, bringing them their freshened refreshments.
As we listened to nothing in particular that night, a sea lion or two barked in the distance. A nearby dog answered. I wondered if they understood each other and, if so, what were they saying?
The sun began to set over the calm. A golden pumpkin glow filled the Western sky. As the orb disappeared, its aura shimmered, intensified and then faded behind our skyline of stately old trees.
The sky darkened to slate grey and midnight blue. Then the stars began to come out to play on Mother Nature’s black velvet scrim above us.
Imagine that. Stars. That you can see. When we have visitors from the city, they’re often spellbound on a clear Cambria night, when simply sitting on the deck or taking a walk on a quiet street can turn into an astronomy lesson.
As my friend Rick Bruce posted on his Facebook status late one night, after returning from a trip, “Bright stars ... the Milky Way painted across the sky ... the sounds of surf crashing against the shore. It's good to be home.”
Do I miss the travel of my childhood, the regular changes of scenery, living in a different place every four or five months?
Not a bit. My Cambria Mom was right: It’s fun to see new places, have new adventures. But this is home. And it’s so good to be here.
“Home is the nicest word there is.”
— Laura Ingalls Wilder