Extravagance

Yesterday a cloud cover hovered over most of the Monterey Bay. I walked my stretch of beach that I’m accustomed to visiting, but with a sense of gloom and an anticipation of rain, as the few usual characters I see there also scurried along the path all bundled in woollies. The asphalt path runs parallel to the shoreline for the entire length of the state park. About half of that length is set aside for RV camping. Out of perhaps a thousand miles of California coastline, only a handful of small parks are available for those who wish to sit close by and commune with the sea. The price for 24 hours of listening to the sound of the surf is something like $65, or roughly $3 an hour.

I come routinely for my walk because the surface is smooth and flat. I can’t walk with the same agility I once had, due to the peripheral neuropathy that has settled in on me and messed up my balance. Old obese women with bad ankles walking in high heels can move about twice as fast as me. But the slow, deliberate steps I am forced to take allow me to see more of what goes on around me, so I am able to observe the RV people in their metal coaches lined along the beach, and am always wishing I might settle in beside them for a night or two. I get plenty of time here during the day to enjoy the birds and the water, the long views to the north of Capitola Village, and the cliffs between, but the bonfire evenings near the waves is what I miss out on.

Snow birds, people who come visit for the winter, have settled in here from the cold north. Normally they do not arrive in flocks, but land as individual travelers. Yesterday, however, when one of the big motor mansions backed into his allocated slot, I could swear that his back-up warning beeper sounded exactly like the honk of a Canadian goose. It must be fun, maybe even exotic, for these people to leave their snowy lands behind them at this time of year and come here to sit out in shorts and sandals beside the color and grandeur of the bay.

The number of RVs that congregate here lessens during the holidays. Most of the year all the spots are under full occupation, but this week the park is less than half full. It might be a good time for me to slip out my small cab-over camper and bring it down for an evening. Most of the year the reservation system makes this almost impossible.

My daughter living in Hawaii is arriving here in just a few days. The holiday bonding thing associated with Christmas runs strong in this family. I told her we might take the camper somewhere. Our favorite winter camping spots are in Big Sur, which today is still under siege from a wild fire, so the local beach park, if the snow birds haven’t taken over, might be just the ticket.

So much planning and preparation gets built into the observance of the Christmas holiday. Just the other day when I was reading from the Letters of Seneca, he was saying how the Saturnalia (pre-Christian December holiday) dominates the Roman culture: “Once December was a month; now it is a year”. He goes on to say that the holiday should not be kept with extravagance. Apparently this ancient festival had become one long drunken brawl, and a lot of the customs of the ancients got rolled into what we now celebrate on the 25th.

The snow-bird people flocking to California beaches in December remind me of the ancient drama of the three wise men following a star to Bethlehem. They can sit out in the evening and watch Saturn as it is positioned low on the horizon. For me, a regular year-round visitor to this stretch of coastline, I always feel as if I am participating in a life-long and festive pilgrimage. The customs of the passing seasons don’t much alter my attitude. Every day is extravagant.

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