The woodsy scent of the pines mixes with the salty ocean air, and it is quite possibly one of the cleanest, purest, most intoxicating scent on Earth. A scent that draws you in, like the burning of the sugar cane fields in Hawai’i, a field of lavender, fresh-picked mint, or tangy barbecue in the southwest.
But the meeting of ocean to a forest, those two things put side by side are a divine gift that only those who appreciate it deserve to behold. Only those who see the ancient history and epochs past, know what a spectacle it is. If you can’t see where the water level used to be, or catch the tail of a sea monster out of your peripheral vision, you should move on down the highway and try to find techno music on a jukebox. It’s over your head.
The tall trees on the ocean cliff give depth and character to the landscape more than a clearing overlooking the Pacific would. And tucked behind some of the shorter trees, and a path of flat stones with moss tickling the edges, is my writing retreat, my solitary cabin.
Enough space exists beyond my porch to see the waves crashing on the craggy rocks. All I see when I look straight out over the cliff is white water splashing up like a standing ovation. All I hear is water crashing then hissing as it pulls back out to the break. Then another waves crashes. And another. It’s rhythmic, predictable, nature’s music to set my internal clock by.
Soon the sun rays (because you can’t see the sun behind the clouds) fade into a bluish-gray sunset and the moon, that looks like a pearl, takes over the sky like the main event. And the water dances and sparkles beneath it, the surf that crashes becomes opalescent. Some sea god spread his fingers under the tide and splayed electricity into the water causing so much brightness, and it makes me hope the night never ends.
The smoke from my cabin’s chimney is so welcoming now, pulling me back into the cabin though I want to stay outside watching shapes dart in between the tall, dark trees. I want to watch the water shimmer. But the cold reminds me where I am, that I am better off inside, and the owl in the distance is the final answer. Owls scare me with their foretelling, so I crunch on pinecone shards beneath my boots as I approach the steps to the cabin. The hammock is swinging with the ghosts who love the night. I should bring them out some shots of agave tequila.
Inside the rustic cabin, the Navajo rug — a nod to my deceased mother — hangs above the bright screen of my Macbook, and I know, who the hell am I kidding…I want a fairy tale setting somedays, a roughing it feel on other days, but my modern conveniences comfort me as much as the traces of generations come before me in this sturdy, wood-paneled house. The coffee maker, microwave, computer and satellite dish pacify the modern girl in me. The quilts, stained glass window in the bedroom, and brick chimney take me to a place in time I require to connect with the people in my head who try to come out through written words.
I light some candles, including the taper tucked into the iron sconce on the wall. Can’t fall asleep with that lit. Need caffeine. I grab the coffee creamer out of the mini-fridge. It’s past 5 o’clock, so I add liquer to my oversized ceramic mug of java. Write drunk, edit sober, I saw somewhere once.
During the day I would put on a playlist — Stevie Nicks, movie soundtracks, something on Spotify with the pre-text “Celtic” — but at night, why would I override the magic that happens outside? I’m a writer and I am supposed to close my eyes and hear sprites bouncing off leaves as the bells on their slippers jingle. I am supposed to hear a seductive cello as a vampire approaches. I am supposed to hear the screams of someone caught in the surf below. I am supposed to let the soundtrack of nature infuse stories into my mind.
Outside, a crushing of leaves underfoot should scare me, but it’s just one crush. A few more, I’ll bring my shotgun from under the bed next to my writing table. No human, no matter how twisted, desperate, or evil, lurking outside my window who was attracted to the dim light of my cabin from a mile away, scares me as much as that damn owl. That owl is commiserating with the ghosts in my hammock, I’m sure of it. I’ll get your damn tequila in a sec.
I close my eyes, breathe in the crisp air. There’s a whirl of dirt outside the right corner my porch. There are wings of a bird moving restlessly on a branch. The log in the fireplace cracks and spits out sparks. And the ocean in the background and forefront simultaneously, pounding the rocks. I’m safe, so safe.
I can write something scarier than anything that wants to invade my perfect little writing retreat. And I can imagine twenty-five thousand ways to defeat a dragon that tries to make me think it’s real. My created heroes are undefeated, clever, and soulful. They’ll save me.
As I bring them to life. In my woodsy cabin on an ocean cliff.