Asilomar - the name is as beautiful as the setting. A collection of Art and Crafts age building of wood and glass set against the wild beaches on the south side of Monterey Bay. While I am here to take classes at Art and Soul, I am conscious of my need for the healing sounds of the ocean surf. The sun is out and the day warm when I arrive. The view from my room overlooks the sand dunes and sea, punctuated by the wind-tortured Monterey pines. In the coming days, I find deer freely grazing on the grounds - not the least concerned with the human beings walking the grounds. The beach is of large grained sand, eroded from the granite boulders that line the waves. Numerous tidepools contain sea anemones, small rockfish and little hermit crabs scurrying through the sand and water in their borrowed shell homes. There are small olive shells in shades of brown, white and purple littering the beach, as well as small bits of driftwood and beach glass. You are not allowed to collect here, but it was hard not to reach for the many treasures that could be located in every nook and cranny.
The first day of classes, I took the cross structure book from Albie Smith. What a fantastic instructor! Organized and knowledgeable, and so generous with her supplies. We used colored gesso and printing paper to complete a beautiful book with a beaded spine by the end of class. Each book was a work of art and very different from each other. I can't wait to fill my book with art.
The second and third day of classes I took the tree book and the windows and closures classes from Dan Essig. Another great instructor and again, organized and knowledgeable and very patient with those that struggled in class. The tree book was made of one sheet of paper that, when properly folded, made a tree shape, but could then be expanded out again - the cover was mica and paper and was fastened with a small seed. The windows and closures class taught Dan's signature window construction for books. But when it came to putting in those little brass nails, well.....there were some colorful words being bandied about and more than one little nail went flying through the air, never to be seen again!
Vendor night was small and cozy as the instructors and some local businesses and students shared their wares for sale. And on the last day, everyone shared their wonderful works of art before packing up to leave.
I was sorry to go, but excited to meet up with my sister, who was driving up from Los Angeles to meet me in Monterey. While waiting for her to arrive, I took a drive down Highway 1 through Big Sur down to Cambria, California. It is a breathtaking drive, with sweeping panoramas of the Pacific Ocean and the many sea stacks on the coast with immense waves breaking up against them. The road is very windy and there are sheer drops off the side of the road - not for those afraid of heights! I came around the bend just before reaching Cambria and saw hundreds of elephant seals basking on the beach. They make the rudest noises as they roll around in the sand and flip sand on themselves. The poor babies have to be careful not to get too close to an adult rolling over, for fear they will be flattened as these animals are huge.
I arrived in Cambria, and stopped first in old town, where I visited a local bead store and bought several milagros I had not seen before. These small pewter charms are used in Mexico to send special prayers for various body parts, personal items and livestock and I love to use them in my jewelry. I then headed for one of my favorite stores, Heart's Ease, a small herb nursery with a story full of botanicals. It had not changed much in the 8 years since I was last there and I had a good time remembering previous visits over the years. Before leaving town, I stopped at the Paper Omelette, a small store with a delicious selection of stationary and paper and bought a small cut book and sheets of paper to make more tree books.
When I arrived in Monterey, I took a walk on their seabelt walkway, enjoying the sights of old Fishermans Wharf and Cannery Row. I saw sea otters floating their babies on their bellies while they ate their supper and watched the sun set on the ocean. I took a moment to acknowledge the loss of my uncle, who was killed in a plane crash in this bay and who was never recovered. I hope he is at peace in this beautiful bay, but regret that I never had a chance to know him.
My sister and my niece arrived and I was so glad for the opportunity to visit with them. We spent the weekend catching up and enjoying each others' company while visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea (where there are no numerical addresses - just the business name and street) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We finished our visit with dinner at the Fishwive - the food was excellent but it was sad our visit was coming to an end. I wished them goodbye in the morning and headed home, making it back to Washington in a record 12 hours. I knew I was close to home when I crossed the Oregon border and began driving through snow in the Siskiyous - sure wish I could have brought the sun and the heat home with me! It was a wonderful vacation - I could not have asked for more.