I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the idea of inspiration. Where it comes from, when it arrives, how it is born. Like many, my earliest and most powerful source of inspiration was the outdoors. Recently I’ve been reflecting on the literal source of these feelings: the first place I discovered them.
This weekend I visited my family in San Diego, where I grew up, and went for a run on the cliff trails at Torrey Pines State Reserve. It’s a place I have spent countless hours in since I was a child, exploring and discovering the quiet wonder of the earth. While I think of it as a profound spot, it was not until this trip that I realized how important it was in my development of a relationship to the outdoors.
Growing up in Southern California, my true first outdoor bond was with the ocean, learning to swim, bodysurf, surf, spearfish and sail. But despite this deep connection, it was at Torrey Pines that I had my most impactful moments, simply sitting and looking out at the sea, charting the clouds’ paths, and occasionally getting to see dolphins play in the surf. Returning there days ago, I felt myself shift as soon as I entered the reserve, running on the sandy paths down the cliffs to the water. Without thinking about it I began reeling off the names of all the plants, learned years ago and only rarely mentioned”big sage and wild buckwheat, stray blooms of Indian paintbrush and creosote, yarrow and mallow in flower. My memory of plants and place, horizon and history”my own, that of the places I love”began there, fostered by a setting of intense beauty and peacefulness. I feel lucky to count many spots as inspirational, but it was here that I began to connect words to the outdoors, where I began to think about how stories and the natural world were inextricably intertwined, and capable of driving each other to new, more profound places. I felt deeply at home as soon as I left the pavement, literally and spiritually, and I’m thankful to be able to know this place so well, and have it welcome me back no matter how long I’m away.