The Gems of Northern California

San Francisco was a bit underwhelming this time around. The city vibrated at a frequency that I could not connect to; not the way it happened on previous visits. The encounters, personal and professional, were meaningful, and at times moving. But my relationship with the place felt stuck. We got in the car and an hour and a half later found ourselves in a fairly accurate depiction of paradise. The name of said paradise was Filoli Estate and Gardens. My love for flowers is well documented; I have a string of botanical gardens under my esthetical belt. This was something else.

The estate is not particularly large but amazingly planned. From every angle it conveyed the work of a genius artist. The harmony in color and shape among the grass, flowers, bushes and trees was profound. The rows of purple flowers, the squares of blue forget-me-nots. Roses of all colors were just about to bloom, the little flowers promising the fragrant symphony to be played soon. Dark purple lilac has almost done blooming, allowing the white irises to take central stage. Light purple lilac was surrounded by bright orange flowers in a happy dance.

On another corner, cherry trees of white and light pink flowers conversed with their neighbors– camellias of red and dark pink. Sun rays came through the leaves of the trees adding just the right light to the colorful landscape. White-pink lotus flowers with yellow centers took a leisurely bath in a clear rectangular pond of water. The bright vibrant colors of the gardens were surrounded by the dark deep green trees and mountains on the background. A confident peacock with a cobalt blue neck and luxurious green tail with blue ornaments walked around the property knowing well who the real host was.

We spent the next few days in the Monterey/Asilomar area. For many years the reference point for my favorite place in nature has been the Baltics. It seems as if the Universe has been listening to my ruminations about the places I visited as a child and made a new checklist to attend to. The deep blue waves of the Pacific are incredible in their own right. The smell, the texture of the ocean with a breeze that takes away worries, fears and doubts. The dunes I’ve missed for three decades. Little paths between the dunes were marked by wooden bridges, tiny flowers appearing in the spots of grass here and there. It was paradise, chapter two.

But the Universe had yet another gift in store for us. The real Paradise on Earth is Point Lobos. Just a half an hour drive from Monterey, this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited on this planet. Getting out of the car, my nose took the time to degustate the mixture of wonderful smells around me. Yes, there was the familiar smell of the ocean and the pines, but there was so much more. Sweet flowery notes got entangled with salty drops, spruce, pine, mountains—a multitude of shades of awesome. At the entry to the park there was a sign: “It’s pupping season for seals. Please be quiet and don’t disturb resting moms and babies”. Sure enough, on one of the trails we saw the cove, with five pairs of resting moms and babies. For a second you would wonder if they were alive. But if you stay for a few moments (we stood there for good 15 minutes), someone is yawning, someone is trying to turn on another side, someone makes snoring sounds, or tries to scratch with their flippers.

Several different paths across the park took us along the shore. The ocean was down below. Trails went up the hills with breathtaking views of the cliffs and coves. The waves displayed the jewelry of colors: emerald, tourmaline, blue topaz, aquamarine, and turquoise. Large black birds sit on the rocks in great numbers, resembling penguins. The air, light, and water united. Large rocks not far from the shore created a barrier for the waves. The current would throw water on the rocks and trickle down like a waterfall, playing with little rainbows along the way.  

 A sense of peace, calm and profound gratitude descended upon me. In that place, at that moment, I absolutely felt one with the Universe.

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