Path to Pebble Beach

SSA Photography (219 of 400)

The Pebble Beach ProAm golf tournament was played last weekend, and as I watched the scenes of the course from the sky, and the ubiquitous shots of Stillwater Cove, I thought about how absolutely lucky I am to personally know and to personally be connected with this magnificent place.

My in-laws have a house in Carmel-by-the-Sea, three blocks from the ocean, and about as many from the beach access to this rocky path which leads onto the Pebble Beach Golf Links.  Specifically, this path leads to the fairway of the sixth hole, and you can just make out the trees on the horizon to the left of the path that mark the seventeenth green.  The scenery is rugged and stunning.  This path is about five miles from the Lone Cypress, and about a mile from the center of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

I came to California when I was ten, but the California I knew was the Kemper Campbell Ranch in the highlands of the Mojave Desert (Victorville, to be specific).  My great-aunt and her family had a ranch in the middle of the desert, through which the Mojave River flowed and gave startling contrast between the lush fields where the cows roamed and the hot, sun-baked sand and ancient petroglyph-covered rock outcroppings that I characteristically climbed with great zeal (and moderate aplomb).  My mom’s cousin, Scott, for whom I was named lived out there, as did her cousin, the famous historical romance writer Celeste De Blasis.

Even at ten, I knew I wanted to write, and so meeting Celeste was incredible for a young, naive boy, who had only written a couple of short stories at the time, but who knew he wanted to write more once he had a command of the language.  (Yes, I did think in these terms at that time.  I have never claimed to be a normal kid.)  Celeste passed away in 2001, just before I graduated high school, and just as I was beginning my first novel.  I wish that I had gotten to know her better and to have been able to trade war stories about writer’s block or overcoming the crippling fear of the blank page.  (To me, as a writer, there is nothing more intimidating than a crisp, empty journal.)

So the Californias I know are as unique as can be.  One is dominated by water, and one is defined by the lack thereof.  I have not been back to the Kemper Campbell Ranch in twenty years, but I have my own Kemper now, and perhaps someday when we travel out to Carmel, we’ll make a sojourn into the desert so that he can climb the rocks that grow ever taller in my memory to this day.

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Atop the Moors

SSA Photography (396 of 400)

Another selection from my “Paths” portfolio, this photograph of a rocky road was taken on the the moors just outside of Haworth, England.  Almost indiscernible at the end of the road, towards the horizon, are the minuscule figures of my mother-in-law, Vivien, and her brother, Robin, who both grew up wandering the moors like the Brontës, who lived in a parsonage in Haworth, adjacent to the church where their father Branwell preached.  The moors are the inspiration of many of the gothic scenes in their novels, in particular Emily’s Wuthering Heights.  Wuthering is a Yorkshire word meaning blustery and turbulent, and often describes the fierce, noisy winds that blow across the moors.  The winds were calm this day, but only the day before, they were truly wuthering, rattling the shutters and whipping horizontal rain against the panes of crown glass in the home that Anna’s grandfather built, stone by stone, from the ruins of an ostler barn, where the horses were housed during the construction of the Worth Valley railway.  

Whether to give Anna and I our own space on the hike up and down the steep moors, or because we could not keep up, Vivien and Robin always appeared as part of the horizon, which in this photograph looks south towards Ostlerhouse.  As the sun set on us, the sky became iridescent, the faintest inchoate hint of which can be seen in this photograph.  Having finally caught my breath from the harrowing ascents and descents, through many of which I cursed my mother-in-law for promising a nice calm amble through the heather, I could at last appreciate the beauty that would have only come from striding atop the moors.  I have captured, between heavy, heaving chestfuls of fresh Yorkshire air, these breathtaking (pun intended) views of the moors in my portfolio, aptly titled, albeit simply, “The Moors.” 

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Emma

Panthertown Valley-5

My parent’s black lab, Emma, was our constant companion on our hikes in North Carolina.  We hiked five miles in Panthertown Valley, and she must have covered at least twice that.  She would run ahead, just far enough that my mother was still in her line of sight, and then run back, as if to report that there were no obstacles in our path to come.  I took many photographs of her along the way, but this one best captured her reconnaissance endeavors.

We have had a number of dogs growing up, and they would all have been faithful companions on the walk.  My parents’ dog, Tam, whom I remember as a kind old yellow rug, came first, and then we rescued Sadie, a bright red golden retriever, who I grew up with as a child.  Dylan, Emma’s great-uncle, came when Sadie was getting along in her years, and brought out the youth in her once more.  Hannah, who was the mother of my sister’s lab Zinger, was my girl all the way through college and law school.

Anna and I now have Zoe, whom we rescued ten years ago.   She is completely deaf now, and Anna claims her sight is going, too.  She has been there through the ups and downs in our marriage, at our kids’ births, and through it all with us.  I know that we will have to say goodbye, sooner rather than later, and it breaks my heart to think that one day, she will not be the first to greet me when I come home from work.  That will be a devastating day.

For now, I am patient with her as she lolls through the backyard when I let her out, stopping and sniffing at the wind, using the one sense that has not yet failed her.  She moves more slowly, and she will not get up from her bed in the morning until she is ready to take on the new day.  I admire this about her.  I took many photographs of her on this trip to North Carolina, because she was in her element in the cool mountain air with new smells to pursue laconically as she ambled ten steps in front of me at all times.  She is more wary of leaving me behind than Emma ever will be, and I am wary of ever leaving her behind either.

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Path Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
-Robert Frost
These opening lines from Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” are familiar to most, as are the last two (I took the one less traveled by /and that has made all the difference), but the melancholy of the poem is seldom analyzed.  Frost wished that he could travel both paths at the same time, to be “one traveler” on both.  Frost’s poem is so relatable, both because of its simplicity and rhythmic overtones, and because we have all faced a fork in the road between one path and another.  Like Frost, we have had to make the difficult decision to trod down one path to the exclusion of the other, and like Frost, we wonder where our lives would have taken us had we ventured down the other path.
This photograph was taken in the forest surrounding Glacier Bay National Park in the southeast portion of the Inside Passage in Alaska.  I took it before I discovered my love for photography in earnest, but it has remained one of my favorite photographs.  As I have shared before, photographs of paths are a common and beloved subject of mine.  Like Frost, I am fascinated by those who have come before me–those who have “trodden the leaves black,” if you will.  I am likewise curious who will come after me, and whether they will see what I saw in the continuum of the path–its past, my present, and its future.  Perhaps this one will wash away, and a new one will be cut through the undergrowth in its place.  Perhaps it will fall out of favor, in lieu of a straighter, more direct path.  Perhaps someday a young poet will be faced with the choice between the two, and he will think of Frost like I did those years ago.

Etched

SSA Photography (392 of 400)

“Etch” comes to us from the German ätzen meaning “to eat” via the Dutch etsen.  Etching is the traditional process of using an acid to cut into the unprotected parts of a surface to create an intaglio (incised) design on the surface.  The word has been borrowed for human application, with it meaning something that is affixed permanently in one’s memory.  This photograph has elements of both meanings.  The breaks in the heather and scrub are beautiful, lasting reminders of what has come before.  The paths on the moors have been etched by the footfalls of generations of Yorkshiremen and, indeed, even us outsiders.  Likewise, the scenes captured along such paths, as if created by old masters, have been indelibly etched into my mind.

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Rocky Path

This photograph was taken on the shore of Stillwater Bay. The path leads to Pebble Beach, and I was surprised by how many people I found wandering through the outskirts of the course, having climbed this well trodden path.

Through the Ferns

SSA Photography (1 of 400)

In 2006, I took the trip of a lifetime.  After decades studying literature and Latin, I stood in Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home, and amongst the columns in the forum of Pompeii.  We were young then, Anna and I, but to this day we love traveling with our families whether in North Carolina, or Alaska, or England where we were engaged and where this photograph was taken.  I saw many marvelous sights on that trip–Marseilles, Mallorca, and all of the little English hamlets we visited like Grasmere.  This photograph of a well-trod path through the bracken ferns was taken in the Lake District in Northwest England.  Though you cannot tell from the perspective of the photograph, the bracken are as tall as I was, and the white and black sheep cloistered themselves between the fronds.  I felt a bit like Alice, dwarfed by the thick blanket of beautiful green ferns.   The Lake District truly is a wonderland, and I cannot wait to return.

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