I grew up on a little spit of sand in Southern California back when Disneyland hadn’t been invented yet and there were no freeways. The front yard was surf and infinite horizon, the back yard was salt water marsh. Pacific Coast Highway had just a few cars, and the Santa Fe freight train rumbled past every day. We lived in a tiny beach front bungalow perched on spindly pilings driven into the sand, with the vibrations of breaking waves always resonating through the floor. Day and night, the ocean was an immediate presence - the sounds and smells, the salty wind, the changing colors of the water. The mudflat at minus tide was the center of my universe, the tide table my calendar.
The ocean filled us with constant uncertainty. One night as we slept, the bedroom floor partially washed out during an especially high winter tide. A neighbor came over the next day and put plywood over the gaping hole where the bed had been. My life there didn’t contain the idyllic picture of a sunny beach covered with umbrellas, but the wildness of that environment formed my true education and my interest in all things marine.
Our little house was torn down a long time ago, and that area is now gentrified, choked with traffic and pricey stucco boxes. Even though I’ll never return, everything is imprinted from that early time and place, coloring my work and influencing many facets of my life. These days I live in Northern California about five miles from a rocky coastline, in a handbuilt house at the edge of what was once an old growth redwood forest. After winter storms, the ocean roars with white noise in the far distance, like a homing signal.
In my wanderings, I’m always pulled to the narrow boundary between sea and land, collecting outcasts from both worlds.
Everything rusts in the salt air. I try to keep it from rusting me.