“Camping at Big Sur”…Chapter Two…
Nothing to block the sun, even if it has to climb over the low lying hills which lie East of Highway 101, better known as the Pacific Coast Highway.
There are very few trees and exposure to the elements, whether from sky or from land, is all encompassing, but in a good way.
The morning tide seems to make more of a racket too, and it was with all Mother Nature’s noise and fury which woke me up from my first night’s slumber, on the road to my past.
The Airstream was well-endowed, I must say, and this, my second trek, up and down the PC Highway was certainly in style.
I stumbled out of my queen sized bed housed at the back of this shiny grey bullet and padded to the kitchen where I flipped on the coffee pot, easy as pie.
Sitting down in my swivel rocker, I gazed out my picture window to the ocean below, the waves as gentle as the moniker which was bestowed upon this watery beast belies – Pacific, Pacifica, Peaceful.
Having got my caffeine-enriched bearings, I dressed in a pair of comfortable, well-worn jeans, a white T-shirt and a blue checked flannel shirt over top, (as even on a mid summer's day, the ocean breeze can be brisk and chilly in the morn) with my trademark weathered moccasins, worn on that last PC Highway trek I did, all those forty plus years ago.
Hairbrush and shaver wholly neglected in my mini bathroom, I opened the creaky main door and screen door to find that I was not the first to rise, even at this early hour. The little dude I had met the night before had obviously been awake for sometime as he was in the midst of washing up his breakfast dishes.
I gazed at him un-noticed for a time, as if I was sure I had met him before but knew all the while that he was a stranger to me. His posture was poor, his back bent, his limbs seemed scrawny and his pallor extraordinarily pale. His still great mane of hair, although greying from age, was unkempt and wild, but in a good way, at least, what seemed like a good way for this guy. As I gazed at him bending down over a pail of wash water, it seemed like he was so at home with himself, so at peace with his surroundings; yet, as far as I could see, had no real reason to be. With every move of his body, he seemed to be celebrating an inner peace and contentment, that for an instant, made me feel a might bit jealous of this unknown soul.
As he turned to reach for a tea towel hanging over the limb of a wind-warped tree, he spotted me watching him and I waved over as if I hadn’t been spying on the guy at all.
“High there neighbour. Great moring, huh?” I instantly offered, to hide my previous lurking.
“They all are around here. There are no bad mornings on this trail, Man.” was all he said, but then again, I think those were more words than he had offered me last night, so the offering was well accepted.
“Would you like a cup of Joe? I have a new pot on.” I offered back.
“Surely would, Thanks.” he said.
“Well, come on over, Charlie, and sit a spell with me, if you have the time, that is.” I offered again.
“Time, heck, that’s all I have is Time.” Charlie mumbled as he pushed back that great mane of hair of his, rubbed his hands down the side of his hole-infested jeans to remove any lingering wash water, and walked with a kind of light and nimble step over to my trailer.
He was a mystifying presence, I thought to myself. Old, in years, yes, but somehow agile and powerful like a 30 something man, his small figure belying his strength, it seemed.
We both sat out at the picnic table positioned in front of my trailer and before the cliffs that hurled down to the sandy shore, both of us gazing out at the wonder before us, drinking our coffee, taking in one perfect sea breeze breath after another. Words failed us for a long time, or just weren’t plain needed. I sensed the latter in both of us.
“What’s your plan for today, Charlie?” I queried.
“No plans. I never have’em. They never work out anyways when I do, so better just to be ready for whatever, you know.” Charlie responded, and yes, I thought I knew.
Well, I’m heading into Monterey for some supplies, you wanna come with?” I offered yet again. It seemed to me like I was offering more than he, but that somehow, that kind of unbalanced relationship was expected with this old unassuming man.
“Nah, sorry, Man, but I think I’m just gonna roam the shore in search of firewood for tonight. I got me a chilli on the cooker. I make real good chilli and it ain’t got no meat in it neither!” he said, with almost a high-pitched, prideful yelp at the end.
“You a vegan, huh?” I said.
“What?” he asked.
“You’re a vegetarian, I guess?” I qualified.
“Oh, yeah. That’s what you call’em, do ya, ‘Vegans’?” He said with a chuckle, like it was some kind of inside joke, he’d not bother to explain, for he knew I’d never get it.
“Yeah, where ya been Charlie? That’s no secret word, ya know.” I quipped.
“Away. I bin away, is all.” He stated, very matter-of-fact but with a forelorn tone.
“Right.” was all I said, sensing this dude was not to be queried with too long.
“Well, you need anything from the stores in town? Groceries, anything?” I offered, yet again. Something made me want to mother or help this guy, it was weird.
“Cigarette papers and some lemons for iced tea and some fresh veg if it’s available would be nice.” Charlie stated, not so much as a request, and not offering money in return, just as a statement of fact.
“You smoke, Charlie?” I asked.
“Hell no, them’s for doobs, ya know.” he replied, with a glint in his eye.
“Oh, yeah, right.” I stated like I knew but smoking pot had never been my thing.
“Okay then, I’m off. Take care of the place for me and you’re welcome to anything in my trailer while I’m gone.” I said, having noooooo idea why I just offered my entire Life to this 5 foot 2 inch stranger.
“That’s awfully nice of ya but I think I’ll be headin’ on down to the beach. See ya when I see ya.” was all he said as he rose from the picnic table, threw out the last dregs of his coffee onto the sandy grass below and sauntered off in the direction of his cooker, not one “Bye your leave” offered as a salutation in his departure.
The morning was wearing on and I did have several chores to undertake, so I got myself ready for public consumption and jumped into my SUV to head to Monterey, my chore list in hand and my thoughts basically vacant.
Except for that man, that tiny little guy, collecting driftwood by the sea, a man who didn’t seem to have a thought in his mind, beyond the present or the future and who seemed well away from his past.
As I drove out of the campsite and back on to the Highway, I looked out my driver’s side window to see my new companion padding towards the cliff pathway which heads on down to the sandy shore, his back slightly bent, his head down, his arms at his side, awash in that contentment I knew he had, that I wish I did.
Maybe our newly found companionship in this journey together would teach me a thing or two about achieving contentment, and if not, I was positive it would be a trek to be remembered, one way or the other.