My Big Birthday Weekend
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
And I might add “places in nature to celebrate” to this list.
When I parallel-parked the rental car and emerged from its confines of two hours, I discovered I had chosen a spot smack-dab in front of a bookstore a couple blocks off the main drag in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The town is known for artists and dogs and Clint Eastwood and quirky laws like one requiring a permit to wear high-heeled shoes. I wore a pair of lime green, high-tech running shoes.
“Look,” I said, my finger pointing. A big smile crawled across my best friend’s face. It could be said that my passion for books is only equaled by Tommye’s.
“Of course,” my husband said, his own grin more of a smirk. He probably thought I’d orchestrated the whole thing on purpose, searching for “book store” on my iPhone as soon as our plane had landed in San Jose, California. I hadn’t.
And there’s more irony: On the featured table at the front of Pilgrim’s Way bookstore, I spotted a book by fellow Kauai writer Pamela Varma Brown—Kauai Stories: Life on the Garden Island
. My eyes next fell on another familiar book cover--Ho'oponopono: The Hawaiian Forgiveness Ritual as the Key to Your Life's Fulfillment
by Ulrich E. Dupree.
Here I was a five-hour plane ride from home, and I was running into the place--Hawaii.
It would happen all weekend.
We continued down the coastline to Big Sur, stopping en route at scenic viewpoints. At a lookout above an ocean cove, I spied three harbor seals sleeping on some rocks. Their small heads and big bodies didn’t much resemble the monk seals we have in Hawaii. At Big Sur Point, a first-order Fresnel lens still sat in its lighthouse. My Kilauea Point Lighthouse
with a second-order Fresnel lens will celebrate its 100th anniversary this May 1st. High above the famous Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway 1, I spied cormorants. They reminded me of red-footed boobies. And, then, a big bird cruised over a mountain ridge.
“Look at that,” Tommye said.
Living in Hawaii, I’ve seen my fair share of endangered species, where fully one-third of the country’s protected plants and animals reside, including the aforementioned Hawaiian monk seal and humpback whale
, Hawaiian crow
, Newell’s shearwater
, Hawaiian goose, false killer whale
and oh-so-many more. Shoots. Until very recently, when some invasive land snails burrowed tunnels through its base in something like two nights, I had an alula growing in my backyard. The rare plant, Brighamia insignis,
was saved from extinction by some botanists from the National Tropical Botanical Garden who rappelled down steep mountain ridges to hand pollinate it. I purchased mine from Home Depot. Thanks to those botanists’ efforts.
Another species saved from extinction due to some ingenious and heroic efforts is the California condor. And on this weekend, I thought it would be cool to add another endangered species to my life list.
The condor is the largest land bird in North America, weighing in at 26 pounds and measuring some nine-and-a-half feet wingtip to wingtip. Its population dipped to 22 individuals when in 1987, they were all captured and put into a captive breeding program. Since then, the species’ numbers have risen to 400+ with more than half that released along the central California coast.
But the bird that Tommye saw was not one of the 226 individuals living in the wild, although it was a vulture—a turkey vulture.
I didn’t journey to California just for the condors--which is a good thing, because I never did spot one.
I went to celebrate what I have dubbed My Big Birthday Weekend in Big Sur. This past Saturday wasn’t just any birthday. It was one of those that end in a zero. And its first digit put me at the half-century mark. I believe in marking occasions with new experiences. Sure I could have island-hopped to Maui and witnessed the start of my second 50 years with the rising of the sun over Haleakala. I could have trekked across barren lava fields to watch molten rock slither down Hawaii (Big) Island into the sea. Or toasted my birthday with champagne aboard a sailboat charter off Waikiki at sunset. And any one of those adventures would have been magnificent. But I wanted to get outside my comfort zone. I wanted to leave my home and venture into new territory.
What’s funny is so much of Big Sur reminded me of home. From the rugged coastline and beaches to the striations of mountain ridges cupping the valleys. From the magnificent sunsets over the ocean to the full moon rising over the mountains. Right down to the quirky personality of Big Sur itself.
I also discovered just how easy it is to travel to and from the West Coast these days. We didn’t have to take a red-eye out of Lihue and lose precious sleep, requiring a couple days recovery. Not only that but we booked very affordable flights through Hawaiian Air, making a long weekend to/from Hawaii a very real possibility.
That’s not to say I’m done marking my momentous birthday. There is also a kayaking trip planned for Napali this summer. Because I also believe birthdays that end in zero should be celebrated all year long. Look out.