Pacific Coast: The Gifts from the Sea Bit

(Sea at Santa Barbara.)

Okay, so full disclosure – the title for this post is a respectful nod to the 1955 book by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea. In it, she shares essays about roles and relationships in the context of her era – and about life lessons combed from the beach of an island retreat.

Of course we never met. But especially through her descriptions of the inspiring and restorative powers of the ocean, I just know she’d get me!

Among many obvious things, one great pleasure for me in emerging from the whole Covid of it all (which I’ve admittedly been slow to do…) is that I’ve gotten to renew my love affair with the sea! So far this year, I’ve taken day trips to the west coast cities of Guadalupe, Carpinteria and Santa Barbara; and after nearly four years apart, I just got to savor a rendezvous with my own favorite retreat of Cambria!

In January, I wrote about my first post-Covid venture up the coast to Guadalupe where I checked out the set pieces Cecil B. DeMille apparently left for the sea after shooting his 1925 epic The Ten Commandments there ( But that trip was strictly business (show business, really), so I motored forth and back past the inviting Pacific, resisting the urge to pull over and simply stare at it with dreamy-eyed affection. (I did holler “hello” from my car when the ocean first came into view around Camarillo – which I think kinda confused a guy next to me in the fast lane…)

Shortly though, I got my chance to spend some quality time by the sea when lovely friend Pam invited me to join a group celebrating her birthday with a coastal getaway! I’m talking: Right. On. The coast. I’ve driven tons of times past the spot in Ventura – but for the first time, it was my destination!

(View from Cliff House Inn – with a great bench for staring!)

After a cheery morning of chatting and checking out a particularly churn-y sea (the weather was quite blustery), it was a struggle to tear myself away from a picnic table with such an expansive view! But a bit of rain and wind kinda helped me decide to pile into the car and go along with the entourage to the town of Carpinteria. (Reassuring thing about the sea – it was still there when I got back!)

So our birthday band enjoyed some mid-morning antiquing, a pleasant stop for coffee (we’d been on the move for nearly half an hour by then!), and some neighborhood strolling; then we continued on to Santa Barbara – a gorgeous city I’ve visited on several sweet occasions! The weather wasn’t entirely sweet this day – which made me wonder if most local boats remained present and accounted for there in the harbor:

(A mass of masts!)

But a bit of iffy-ness couldn’t possibly spoil the magnificent ocean view! And when we felt like a light snack, the sea also came through with plenty of eponymous-type food for us to enjoy:

(A little something to “tide” us over until dinner!)

The ocean even fed Birthday Girl Pam’s artistic side by depositing materials on the beach for her to create her own art installation! The whole day was full of surprises!

(Artist at work!)

A couple years ago, Pam captured on canvas my very favorite spot on the California coast – Cambria:

(A personal and special gift for Mum!)

Although I’ve shared Cambria many a time with family and friends (and been moved to write about it from the very start of my blogging days!), I decided in April to stop there on my own on the way back from a road trip to the Bay Area. (I mean, according to Lindbergh: “Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone.”)

Part of the magic of an ocean encounter is that while being wonderfully familiar, it can always offer up something new! This time (as with much of the country), we were having some comparatively serious weather – which had its effect on the landscape. It looked like a lot more tree branches and even whole trees had been deposited there on the beach.

(Beach at Cambria.)

And elephant seals that hang out a few miles north around San Simeon were making the most of some spa-like amenities that I don’t recall seeing there before:

(“Towel, please!”)

In her book, Lindbergh outlines what she calls “Island-precepts” – ways of living she wants to carry back to regular life along with the shells she’s collected and used to represent different thoughts and ideas. One of these precepts I especially cultivate at Cambria is: “Closeness to nature to strengthen understanding and faith in the intermittency of life”. More than any other place, I make time there to observe the full scope of ocean tides – to watch how they seem relentlessly to beat at and reshape the shoreline, only to recede to a gentle ebb and then surge back again. Lindbergh says that maybe the most important lesson to hold onto from her time by the sea is that: “each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of a relationship is valid”.

I like that thought.

My stay in Cambria was the icing I slathered on a delicious visit I’d taken to my old home town! Maybe part of my love of the ocean stems from the fact that growing up, our family room window had a grand view of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a sight that always fills me with nostalgic warmth whenever I catch it!

I’d returned to the Bay Area for the opening reception of my friend Suszi’s photography exhibition in San Jose. (“HumanEssence”, which is up through May 15th – Not only was the exhibition stunningly cool – but the event turned out to be a chance to catch up with some wonderful people from my college days who came out to support our mutual and immensely talented friend!

It was even more of an “old home week” for me as another dear friend Kelly (who I’ve known since junior high) graciously put me up for a night. She’s yet another accomplished gal who’s not only a terrific singer and performer but, as I discovered, is also a master of hotel towel origami!

(I totally give this place 5 stars!)

I had a super time catching up with Kelly over cocktails on the back porch of the house she and her hubby bought a while back. It’s just a couple blocks straight down the street from my childhood house – so the backyard view of the Bay is pretty much the one I got to grow up with! And seeing it again took me right back to happy, youthful days with Mum, Dad and the boys!

Yeah, I know the old saying and everything – but sitting there watching the sun set beyond the Golden Gate, I really did feel for a moment like I truly had gone home again…

Of course it’s not surprising that one of the main images Anne Morrow Lindbergh uses in a book inspired by the ocean is that of a beach. She suggests we emulate a beach in remaining open to the world around us, waiting with patience for a gift from the sea. So it is for me that after what feels like quite a long while, so many dear friends, refreshing sights, and cherished memories are all drifting back into my life with the tide.

Great, great gifts, indeed!


(Nope – not having any fun at all!)


  1. Mike Jackson · · Reply

    Now that we are living near the coast (since October 2020) in the northeast of England, I’ve come to realise just how good for the soul wandering along a beach and looking at and hearing the sound of the waves can be. It seems you have the same response. Enjoyed the post!

    1. Thank you! And I couldn’t agree more – I think there’s something connective and therapeutic about strolling a beach. How nice you’re close to the coast now!

  2. Landlocked as we are, we always enjoy our visits to the ocean, any ocean. For some reason we all seem drawn to it. Happy week Amy. Allan

    1. I think you’re right – I sure feel a pull toward the sea! Hadn’t gotten out to the ocean for several years – and don’t get out there often – but I even take a little comfort just knowing that great expanse is out there. And a happy week to you, Allan!

  3. Pamela Altieri Paterra · · Reply

    Cheers to the beach! I’m glad you Two finally reunited !

    1. Thank YOU for being part of it! Definitely worth the wait! 😃

  4. This definitely caught my attention. We visited there years ago and thus ocean was so fascinating. Anita

    1. It’s a fascinating and beautiful area, isn’t it? Glad you got to check it out!

  5. Ah, Cambria. Used to visit there from time to time when we lived in SoCal. Cool post, Amy!

    1. Thanks very much! And yes, I do think it’s a very special place!

  6. The food looks amazing!

    1. Ha! Yeah, that was quite a feast!

  7. Fantastic view of San Francisco Bay, however much we love being close to nature by the sea, we also love man made additions to the scenery. I can never see enough sea…

    1. Yes, that’s a very special view – and I sure can’t get enough of the sea either! Thanks for reading!

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