Like Narnia, there are non-physical dimensions to every item in this house. The question is: Are you someone who sees the wardrobe? Or are you someone who seen what’s inside the wardrobe? This house was featured on the Discovery Channel program, "Ultimate Homes - Great Escapes”. It took eleven years to build. The house itself, a hacienda style work of art situated on the Monterey Peninsula, was collaged together by its maker, a world traveler and antiquities dealer. It was built in a place that Steinbeck (the Nobel Prize winning Author) called 'Tortilla Flats' and wrote about in his book “Pastures of Heaven.”
A lifetime of collecting has culminated in a house so ornate and so heavy in history that it weighs down the senses. Beds from imperial China, rugs from ancient Afghanistan, Beams from Tibetan temples, window frames from palaces in India. It is to sleep in a museum. Or better put, to not sleep. Each night, I woke up in a cold sweat to the stopping and starting chorus of frogs in the terraced garden outside. And having been tossed and turned in the memories attached to everything. Stories that have forever seeped into the woodgrain. Thought forms that will forever be attached to certain items. To sleep in this house, is to sleep in the story of humanity. It is to live inside a microcosm of the world.
A very close friend of mine in Los Angeles lost her son to poisoning this past week. And other friends that live nearby have not seen me for over a year. And so, I let myself be called to them in succession... Called up the coast of California from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The coziness of seeing them again was bittersweet given all that has transpired between now and when I saw them last. As I drove North, the warm nostalgia of their company gave way to the cold and feral grip of the Pacific Ocean. The waves near pebble beach break against the craggy ocean rocks with fury. The ocean is the color of aqua green sea glass. The moody water folds and churns in on itself, hurling white foam into the air. Mist wafts from the coast to claim the town of Carmel. A mist that permits lace lichen to grow on the trees.
Carmel by the Sea is often included in lists of the top destinations in the world, mostly for its uniqueness. It is a European style, square mile town in which you will find no fast-food places or chain restaurants. Nor will you find addresses on any of the houses, parking meters or street lights. The city’s founders would not see their beloved town ‘citified’. Wearing high heels (heels more than 2 inches in height or with a base of less than one square inch) is illegal, unless you obtain a permit. Which I am told, is a law that local police overlook now a days, but this law is not urban myth. It is a law that still stands. I am told that this strange law was created by the city attorney in 1963 in order to prevent high-heel wearers from suing the city if they tripped over irregularities (like tree roots) in the pavement.
There are at least 41 courtyards and passageways throughout the village. Some of these passageways and courtyards feature shops, galleries, and restaurants. Most of the houses and shops look like the European style fairytale buildings you might see in a miniature European Christmas village set. Names like “Sea Urchin” and “Driftwood” and “Hansel” adorn many of the houses. And it is considered bad luck to change the name on a Carmel cottage.
The first residents put up camp in Carmel in tents, cooked abalone stew on fires in the woods and developed a poetic relationship with the sea. Among these first inhabitants were the poet Robinson Jeffers and the authors George Sterling and Jack London. When the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed so much, an artist colony was formed in Carmel, as Carmel found itself suddenly inundated with writers, painters, musicians, photographers and sculptors.
Because of these early inhabitants and their relationship to the land and sea, Carmel became a progressive Californian epicenter of intellect, philosophy, culture and art. Since then, it has become home to many artists, luminaries, authors, politicians and famous actors and actresses. It is also rated one of the top dog-friendly towns in America.
A while back, I wrote about how certain places either ‘suck you in’ or ‘spit you out’. The place that is perhaps most famous for this in the United States is Sedona, Arizona. Carmel is one of these places. When you visit, it either says no to you or yes to you. If it says YES to you, energetically it pulls you in like a rip tide intent on claiming you for its own. Suddenly, you feel an undeniable sense of belonging and feel as if the town is where you must live and die. If it says NO to you, it refuses your presence. Your presence seems to bounce off of everything and everyone. Being there begins to feel wrong. It drives you out like the ocean spitting something out onto the shore. The Monterey Peninsula knows whether you are meant to be in its undomesticated grasp or not.
The dominant negative vibration of Carmel is: Discerning. Discern is one of those vibrations that has a clear upside and a clear downside. Carmel possesses both. To discern is to perceive, recognize, identify or distinguish something by sight or with the other senses. This allows you to identify things as separate and distinct. This opens the door for discrimination. Someone may use their power of discernment to clearly discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad, tasteful and tasteless, smart and stupid etc. and then reject one or the other. In fact, the town itself was founded on the principals of doing so. For example, the founders had to discern between city and village and then strongly reject anything “city-like” in order for the town to have a central post office, with no addresses on the houses to deliver mail to. Or no street lights, so the pre-Edison blackness envelops you on any given night.
As a town, Carmel is an epicenter of individuals who discern and then reject. It has given rise to an uninviting arrogance in the consciousness of the town. Ironically, it means the collective consciousness of the citizens of Carmel is not open and warm. Instead, it is closed and cold. It is intentionally segregated, promotes polarization and is highly resistant to change.
The dominant positive vibration of Carmel is: Dear. To say that Carmel is regarded with deep affection by a select many is a gross understatement. It both was and is cherished deeply. The place itself has been discerned as being special by many great thinkers. As such, the minute you enter the area, it feels as if you are entering into someone’s personal hoard. It is a land and town that the locals wish to keep secret and which they carefully guard. Visitors are… tolerated. The degree to which the town of Carmel is cherished, shrouds it in a thought form of ‘being held dear’ as thick as the fog that so often covers the town. Those great thinkers, and those who have found their belonging there were not mistaken. Carmel is quite special.
I walk the perfectly manicured streets of this quaint town that was and still is the collective vision belonging to a batch of moody people of exceptional mind. The twisted arms of the cypress trees appear gnarled by the wind and the splash belonging to the feral Pacific Ocean. The silvery speech of the ocean breeze catches the lichen on the branches in its current; and lifts it like an old man’s beard. A curious mew gull flies past the line of tourist that have collected themselves around an outdoor heater just outside the Cottage of Sweets. For a block in every direction, the air is dominated by a fight between the buttery sweet scent of fresh Caramel and the creamy brine of clam chowder.
The sidewalk ends. I find myself back at the car that we parked in front of a garden style cottage on a side street. With the passenger side door open, but before I get in, my visit to Carmel is completed with a view of a sight memorialized by the words of John Steinbeck, a man who held this area dear to his heart: “It was purple dusk, that sweet time when the day’s sleeping is over and the evening of pleasure and conversation has not begun. The pine trees were black against the sky, and all objects on the ground were obscured with dark, but the sky was as mournfully bright as memory.”