Big Sur, Henry Miller, Mountain lions and a bust on the beach

Big Sur, Henry Miller, Mountain lions and a bust on the beach


Henry Miller is one of my heroes. He was one of the first contemporary writers for me. Like Jack Kerouac he told the stories of real life with nothing held back, with complete honesty, in streams of consciousness and descriptive passages that I would love to be able to write. He lived a life of bohemian wildness and artistic creativity that seemed to shriek to me of real life.

Henry roamed the streets of Paris and wrote about his life.

I wanted to live a life like that and see all the hues of the world, feel all the pain and ecstasy and be free.

So it was incredible to be dropped off on the coast road at Big Sur and stand in a place that I knew Henry had stood in before. To gaze out over the sea and look up at those sun baked mountains with their scorched shrubs and eagles circling above.

I was breathing the same air as Henry.

We shouldered our pack and set off down the long windy dirt road, laughing and talking. It was all downhill and we set a lazy pace. There was no need to rush.

By the time we reached the beach the sun was setting.

We joined a line of young long-hairs sitting in the sand watching that orange globe slowly slide down the sky.

There was a huge rock in the bay with a hole straight through it. The waves crashed into it and sprayed up in the air. They roared through the hole tht had been eroded through the middle and roared out of the other side.

The low sun had turned the sand to a ruddy orange so that the ripples shone with a yellow line and blue shadows. The sea was transformed to purple and mauve and the spray which leapt up around the rock glistened in sparkles of crimson and crystal blue. It was so vivid and alive that it seemed unreal, like a Dali painting full of living rocks or an impressionist masterpiece built up of strokes of all hues.

As the sun got lower it turned crimson and the sea deepened with the foam creating lines of white and blue.

When it was finally over it felt as if we had witnessed some great mystical event that had bound us together and enriched our spirits.

Soon there a campfire, food drink and jays passing round. Someone had a guitar and everyone was talking and laughing.

Then the cops came down. They broke up the party, put out the fire and carted us back up the three miles to the main road where they dumped us.

We got our sleeping bags back out and lay there talking and looking up at that heavenly dynamo above us. It was one of those clear nights in the mountains where the stars covered every centimeter of sky like someone had thrown a sack of salt over a black velvet cloth.

Jack knew a lot about the heavens and pointed out the constellations. We could see all the shapes as he told us the stories. Around us the mountain lions were roaring. They seemed to be right next to us which was more than a bit scary but Jack assured us that they were far off in the mountains and wouldn’t trouble us.

We came from England where the worst the wild-life could do to you was for you to stub your toe on a hedgehog.

We tried to get some sleep but later on the wind got up and huge gusts threatened to blow us off the mountain.

By morning we were ready to move.

We had trouble getting lifts. Nobody would pick up the three of us. In the end we decided it was best to split up and Jack got a lift leaving us with a scrap of paper with an address on.

We’d been here before.