It was a bright sunny day – the sun wintry and weaker than it is most of the year – on a wide open coast, with huddles of cars belonging to hikers, bikers and surfers parked here and there along Highway 1. Some uncertainty as I try to figure out where the break called “Three Mile” actually is, as I don’t know this area very well.
A walk through fields of brussels sprouts along a dry dirt road, across some railway tracks and down steep embankment to the water. Jump with the board off the rocks into the water when the waves are just so, avoiding a rasping on the barnacles and a long slow paddle out, looking back at white, chalky cliffs.
Steady rolling waves, a translucent deep blue green with the sun behind, breaking on rock shelves occasionally visible in the dark of the water. “Boils” indicating points where the rock shelf is near the surface, a paddle through browny yellow beds of kelp – feeling at first creepy and then somewhat comforting. A shimmering jelly fish moves slowly under my board. A pod of porpoises ducks and dives in a steady rhythm along the horizon, making their way north along the coast. Some seals playing out beyond the break.
I catch a wave, wobble, make the drop and a execute sweeping right turn along the face. Exhilaration! Then – Boom! – the top of the wave collapses on me and I am buried in tons of cold brine. I bumble my way through the dark water to the surface gasping for air and make may way outside for another try.
I consider it a great blessing to be able to surf regularly (I should stress here that I surf quite badly, going several sessions in a row without catching any meaningful waves. But like any enthusiastic hack, I am more than happy to blab on about it as if a pro.)
We had an extended cold snap this fall, with temperatures below freezing many nights and frost visible on the garage roof every morning. The furnace fired up as we awoke – a comforting sound. It shuts down just after breakfast and, as our house is more than 100 years old, uninsulated and drafty, I spent the days working at my desk huddling close to a small space heater. This leaves parts of my body closest to the element unbearably hot and the rest of my body chilled.
Jennifer’s only niece Margot was married in Calgary this summer so we attended that event and stayed on to vacation. The wedding was very nice, with family coming from all over Canada and the U.S. and Lexie and Liam making a cameo appearance from California where they were both working. I think they were on the ground less than 36 hours. Such is the life of a celebrity.
Some friends kindly offered us the use of a cabin on a lake in B.C. where I had spent time as a boy. The lake was much as I remember it over 40 years ago, with clear clean water, a sun dappled surface and looming tree covered mountains above. The smell of fir and birch trees and moss in the forest, the buzzing of motor boats towing skiers in the distance. Plenty of time to read and nap. Games of cards by a hissing Coleman lantern at night, with moths and bugs flitting around the glow.
We also hiked and camped for a few days with some friends in the Canadian Rockies. Sharp, clear air, chilly mornings around a crackling camp fire of pine. Swirling mists and cloud along the tops of the mountains, breaks revealing glaciers and the ragged edges of the young mountains. A lot of laughs and stories, reminiscing about times we spent there when much younger. We were unstoppable then.
Lexie is becoming her own independent self: she is a junior (3rd year) at U Vic and plans to travel to Indonesia this spring using an airline ticket we gave her as a high school graduation gift. She spent the summer counseling at a camp near Yosemite’s south gate where we went to visit her one weekend this summer. There was a massive heat wave on (it was hotter in the Sierras than it was here on the coast – close to 100 degrees F (37 degrees C)) and we abandoned our sauna-like camping spot for the hotel at a nearby Indian casino so as to be able to access air conditioning and sleep.
Casinos at the best of times give off a peculiar vibe – I find that time spent in Las Vegas induces an out of body experience – but even more so when they stand alone and are surrounded by miles of wilderness. Lexie goes for the glam: we fed her in the over-the-top restaurant and her friends came down from camp to shower and cool down.
Liam graduated from high school in June; some of his skater buddies attended the ceremony at which he sported Ray Bans and made what amounted to a three sentence speech about his vision and future (Each graduate gave a talk). He is living in Venice (Los Angeles), a couple of blocks from the beach and working as a marketing assistant with one of his sponsors. Liam is stylish, hardworking and discrete.
It wouldn’t be a Morgan Christmas letter without a terrifying skate video: this is one Liam shot at a place called Signal Hill in Long Beach.
Jennifer continues to insist on complete anonymity and plans to exit this life without having had any presence on the Internet. As far as we can tell, the NSA is unable to track her; Edward Snowden wanted to friend her on Facebook but couldn’t find her.
I continue to bake and will do a week long sourdough baking course at the San Francisco Baking Institute in the New Year. I have my chops down on five kinds of sourdough, baking 20 – 25 loaves a weekend to distribute to friends and neighbors. I appear to have a loyal following – I send out alerts by text and email and there is often a run on available loaves. I am itching to build a brick oven in our back yard so that I can get the dark crust that you see in professionally baked bread (You cannot do this with a domestic oven).
The holiday season is here with a full crop of fruit on our lemon tree and early communion at the local Episcopal (Anglican) church. Delivering hand crafted egg nog to friends – a mix so strong that it is best handled wearing a hazmat suit and must never be stored near an open flame. Attending a performance of Handel’s Messiah by the San Francisco Symphony in the city on a cool, glittery, evening. How does one man create something so beautiful, overlaying it so deftly on such powerful scripture? And how is it communicated across the centuries and performed so skillfully by folks today for our listening pleasure? A small miracle. And one sorely needed in a world that carries much difficulty and sorrow.
We pray that God will bless you and your family this holiday and give you peace through the coming year.