A Favorite Place: Big Sur

Last week I went to a book signing for Cindy Crawford’s new memoir/photo book "Becoming". I’ve always admired Cindy. She was a model with a healthy body, and she looked like she actually ate three square meals a day. She seemed nice, normal and down-to-earth (all confirmed when I met her. She is incredibly nice and gracious). When I was 14 I bought her workout tape (yes, tape, as in videocassette) and I got her make-up book, “Basic Face” as a present for my birthday one year. But I can really trace my admiration for Cindy back to her years as host of MTV’s House of Style.

As a budding fashionista, I watched House of Style religiously, and tried to re-create the designer fashions with my parent’s middle class income. My favorite outfit at the time was a pair of green Guess? jeans with a matching green paisley button down shirt…it was the 90’s. I’m not sure if Cindy would have approved, but I thought I looked good!

House of Style was Cindy Crawford, and so, when she decided to leave in 1995, I was devastated (no offense to her successors Shalom Harlow and Amber Valletta, but it just wasn’t the same). Thankfully Cindy returned in 1997 as a special correspondent in one of my favorite House of Style features. In this episode, Cindy went to Big Sur and modeled Isaac Mizrahi’s new collection. The image of Cindy standing on a cliff side with the Pacific Ocean behind her is an image I conjured many times after seeing that episode. How could I get to that place? I had no idea where Big Sur was, but I knew I wanted to go there.

Big Sur it turns out is in California, where I moved about eight years after I watched that episode of House of Style. I had never forgotten about Big Sur, or the cliff, or the expanse of ocean beyond that cliff. It took a few years, but in 2009 I finally made my way from L.A. up the coast to Big Sur, and it was everything I had imagined it to be. As I drove up the winding stretch of road, parts of which reminded me of the treacherous Amalfi Coast, I was hit by a profound sense of serenity. The calmness and quiet of Big Sur was a welcome change from the frenetic and crowded streets of Los Angeles.

I hiked to a 60 foot waterfall in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, (not to be confused with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which also has a stunning waterfall that empties into the Pacific Ocean) and stopped for lunch at Nepenthe, a restaurant perched on a cliff with sweeping views of the pacific. Even though it was cloudy that day, the smell of the salty ocean air drifted up to my spot on the outdoor patio.

To end the day, I watched the sun set over the purple sand on Pfeiffer Beach, a hidden gem with a massive rock formation reminiscent of The Goonies. I’ve visited Big Sur several times throughout the years, so grateful that I live within driving distance. It’s easy to understand why writers like Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac spent time in Big Sur (Miller lived there for several years). It’s hard not to find inspiration in a place so beautiful. What could be more creatively stimulating than sitting in a cabin with a view of the Pacific Ocean or an expanse of redwood trees outside your window? Someday, I will rent one of those cabins and spend a solitary weekend writing.

Sometimes, when life is particularly hard, I just get in my car and head north. I cherish the quiet and the sounds of nature. I cherish the calm, the peace, the sense of complete isolation even if I’m not alone. I cherish the sound of the pacific crashing against the cliffs. Big Sur is one of my favorite places on earth. Thanks Cindy and House of Style for introducing me to its beauty all those years ago.

DZ