One of my first vacations with my husband, several years before we were married, was to The Sea Ranch, an area that hugs ten miles along the northern Sonoma, California coast. Previously a sheep ranch, in the 1960s it was developed into an oasis of unique, architectural homes, a lodge with restaurant, and miles of trails. The drive is windy and, at times, scary along Highway 1 with its steep drops to the Pacific Ocean, narrow lanes becoming tight, hairpin turns, and the occasional cow or deer on the road. The area is remote for California, a hidden gem, a serene, quiet place.
We’ve visited it many times over the years, enjoying the diverse, yet from the outside, conforming, design of each home, whether set in the meadows with white water views, or the distant blue water views, or maybe on the forested east side of the highway, with steep roads to the meadows. Occasionally we’ve watched mother whales pass by on their way to Baja to give birth; other times we encounter squawking crows sitting so arrogantly in the windswept pines; still again, deer peer at us nonchalantly, claiming this place as their home. Regardless of the animal life, the constant is the ocean and the wind, sometimes sun, other times heavy rain or grey marine layer. The environment is harsh yet addictive. I can read books sitting at a window seat devouring the weather from inside, or bundle up against the shrill wind and walk half-bent along the trail. Some days the boys practiced bicycle riding around the cul de sac where our home was for a few days. They’d laugh loudly running to and fro the low surf, always careful NEVER to turn their back to the ocean. We’d comb the reefs during low tide for sea stars (star fish when I was a child), anemones, and clams (if not eaten by the numerous huge, but graceful, seals).
This place tugs at my heart; within hours of arrival a peacefulness and quiet befalls me. I could watch the ocean forever, with its innumerable shades of blue and grey and white, or at least until my family or friends beckon. I envy those who chose to live here full-time, yet I know that I seek more engagement than this solitude, even as I reluctantly pack our things for the drive back home.