Pigeon Point, CA
I had taken a rest day at Pigeon Point for another shot at the hot tub. It had been a grey day and Fred, as tall as the lighthouse, had driven me north a few miles so I could complete the journey I had begun the day before. It was a grey, unremarkable coastal day.
At 2:30 am, a shock to the sleep of a hostel dorm room filled with placid snorers came from an excited knock on the door. The hostel manager burst in, emergency radio in hand, notifying us of a dramatic earthquake in Japan and heeding a warning that a 10-25 meter high tsunami was headed our way, with an arrival time estimated for 6 hours hence. We registered this news through collective bleary eyes. Some people left the hostel for higher ground immediately, while others filtered out into the hostel’s main sitting area.
Annie, an upbeat bike traveller from Quebec, took the opportunity to play ukelele as some of us fretted about the end of the world while others watched iPhones for breathless reports of the damage overseas. It was a new ukelele, and she knew four chords and one song, a tune called Wagon Wheel by an American country band. There was nothing special about the quality of either her playing or her singing, but the heart and joyfulness she put into playing was infectious, and soon the ragtag group of us were singing along with the chorus:
So rock me mama like a wagon wheel
Rock me mama anyway you feel
Hey mama rock me
Rock me mama like the wind and the rain
Rock me mama like a south-bound train
Hey mama rock me
At 6:30, the manager re-emerged with a sheriff’s order to evacuate the west side of the highway in anticipation of the tsunami. Fred suggested driving several hours south to the high cliffs over Big Sur to watch the enormous tsunami erupt against the rocks, but latest updates out of Hawaii suggested that the wave would be much smaller than initially expected. We made due by heading several miles south by car towards a high bluff over the sea. En route, we stopped at a popular rookery for elephant seals at Ano Nuevo, where Fred wanted to perform a humanitarian act by notifying the elephant seals of the impending wave. When we arrived, the beach was empty; clearly the seals knew what was up.
We were met at the clifftop by several surfers and other interested locals waiting to see the tsunami. We hung around for a half an hour after its expected arrival, didn’t see too much, and returned exhausted to the hostel. Annie and Joan had themselves up on the beach, and Annie was painting Joan’s head in anticipation of her upcoming brain surgery on Tuesday. Joan had come to spend a few nights at Pigeon Point, her favourite place, in anticipation of the surgery. I watched and photographed as Annie spread her love, thankful and gracious to learn so much from the company of another lovewallah. With infinite patience, Annie decorated every inch of Joan’s skull with animals, birds, lizards, and, on the back of her skull, an enormous oak tree.
I never heard what happened to Joan after her surgery, but I’m sure that her chance meeting with Annie at the hostel helped whatever was coming to pass to come to pass. Funny how strangers can come together when an earthquake hits the other side of the world.