Another Strenuous Day in Paradise

Early Tuesday morning, I drove from my lodgings at the insanely fabulous Deetjen's Big Sur Inn (more on Deetjen's later) over to Esalen so I could meet Bruce for breakfast.  By the time I arrived, he had managed to find a few things he could tolerate and waited patiently while I performed a wide-eyed round of buffet reconnaissance prior to selecting and preparing my lavish breakfast.  I chose nine grain porridge cooked with raisins and apples, soft boiled eggs, cinnamon swirl toast and a fresh California orange. Sumptuous and delicious!

Bruce left to put in a half day's work while I attended to my rigorous morning schedule: an extensive turn about the grounds to enjoy all the extraordinary botanics, followed by a massage down at the bath house.

Esalen's landscape is a flora lover's dream come true.  The plantings are abundant and range from traditional garden rows of practical edibles like lacy purple mustard greens to purely aesthetic displays such as the huge spherical arbor made of finger thick English ivy vines. The variety and quality of the plantings are easily equal to top notch botanical gardens I've visited and they're certainly every bit as well maintained.  On my stroll I had the pleasure of encountering several plants I wasn't familiar with, but I also stumbled across familiar plants that had been gigantified by way of ideal environment and loving attention. My Texas-savvy readers will appreciate the concept when they see the image above right - an entire hedge of the lupine variety we refer to as "Bluebonnet".  It's against my state code of honor to say it, but I have to because it's true - they never get anywhere near that big in Texas!  I also found an incredible pincushion protea in vibrant shades of orange and yellow that was nearly as tall as the roof of the little cottage it adorned.  Amazing.

I timed the conclusion of my walk to allow me sufficient time to meander down to the bath house and get in the recommended 15 minutes of  hot tub soaking prior to my massage.  My massage therapist fetched me and led me to an airy massage room glowing with softly diffused light and  immediately swaddled me in soft warm sheets. For the next hour and a quarter I was treated to a soothing, deeply relaxing rub down  - during which I discovered there were still a lot of kinks and pulls left over from my long canyon walks and horseback adventure back in Arizona.

As I lay in the cozy post-massage haze that happens after a particularly good kneading - the warm cloud you float on before you open your eyes, before you even begin to think about dressing - the only sound that reached my ears was the distant rumble of waves thundering onto shore that drifted through the open window.  I bet a lot of people drop deeply off to sleep at this juncture. I, however, mustered a small amount of impetus from some recess deep within myself (I know not where) and after managing to dress, flowed back up the hill like a pool of pink mercury to meet Bruce for a late lunch.

When I arrived in the dining hall, Bruce was pacing to and fro, searching each area of the buffet to see if there were any items he might consider edible.   If you haven't guessed yet, I think the food at Esalen is consistently outstanding, so when I saw they were offering veggie fried rice and curried tofu among other things I was thrilled.  Bruce, on the other hand, wasn't having any of it and quickly decided he'd rather try out his new pizza oven on one of the pepperoni and sausage pizzas I'd imported for him from town.  He scampered off to prepare his pizza in the shop and I sat down to a delicious lunch featuring a huge fresh salad, stir fried rice and some tasty lentil soup.  I feel certain I'd weigh an extra 20 pounds if I lived at Esalen.  After I finished my lunch, I went over to the shop and found Bruce happily polishing off wedges of freshly baked pizza, offering the last few remaining slices to passing coworkers who eagerly accepted, seeming to have been equally put off by the concept of curried tofu.  It was so funny to me to see all those folks that worked at a new age retreat so afraid of a little tofu.

After lunch, Bruce suggested we head to a nearby beach that he liked and I had not yet had the pleasure of visiting, a place named Sycamore Canyon for the impossibly long stretch of old growth sycamores that line the banks of a fresh water creek that runs through the canyon to the ocean.  There's a large riparian zone (i.e., the transitional terrain between  land and water) at the mouth of the heavily wooded canyon where it opens out onto a rocky stretch of beach.  I was overjoyed to discover such a beautiful new spot along this stretch of coastline that I love so well.

It was a bright windy afternoon and the beach was exceptional. There were several rock formations that pinched the water in such a way that huge dramatic sprays would be created by the surf trying to pound it's way through a narrow opening.  There was also a place a little further down that exhibited large deposits of deep pink sand.  I never did understand where it came from, but found it to be absolutely beautiful and was fascinated by the patterns that resulted when the different colors (there was black sand, too!) encountered one another.

And of course I couldn't resist...

We returned to Esalen after our beach adventure, and by that time it was the dinner hour and luckily there was a Bruce-approved entree on the menu - spaghetti and meatballs!  After the dinner hour, we both pulled out our laptops and played what I like to call dueling laptops - happy hours spent looking things up on the internet with Bruce.  We found groovy steel spheres and Wikipedia treasure.  The rain began late, making it more than time to crawl under the thick fluffy duvet at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn.  I could hear heavy drops of rain hitting the antique glass panes beside my head as I dropped off to a delicious slumber.

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