Today’s photo from the San Diego Reader struck a heartstring bc this is literally THE spot I fell in love with San Diego. I had just touched down, wheels still warm, from first-time landing at SAN. (’02) I was two months shy of a long-awaited move back to Cali after 10yrs in NYC. I had no idea the hills pouring out of the harbor would one day be my home (’04-’15), but this was where my double take and dilating pupils widened and wondered: “What are THIS?!”

I sat in this spot at a stoplight, tight in a tiny rental and gaining my bearings 3000 miles away from my 5-story one room walkup un the upper west side, unaware I was idling in heaven. Converging several joys, I was heading to rehearsal for Lauren Moore Smith‘s wedding, then to a CBA Conference in Anaheim, both of which fed me deep. Good things were before me, behind a new harbor, naval base to the right, airfield to the left, and between two rolling ribbons of SoCal bungalows, a chipper l’il Southwest Airlines plane tail bounced trippingly along at eye-level, happy to be the best plane in the best place. It fell on me there like fairy dust mixed with jet fuel and dolphin chitters – like the gold in the sand at Coronado – like beach bubbles – like the tell-tale grit in the Santa Anas – like the mist of the sea when it breaks against “The Strand.” Oh this place. Where planes and cars share streets near ships, and you can see across the sea.

I hadn’t met it yet. Hadn’t turned rocks from Laguna to Pt. Loma. No knowledge of ceviche at Primo Foods – Oceanside, charcuterie at L’Auberge Del Mar, balconies with blankets at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, the welcome in the wave at The Greeters Corner, open windows with Coast Highway views at Vigilucci’s Restaurant Group, Paulo Specials at Two Brothers From Italy Pizza or a life-changing ministry New Venture Christian Fellowship. I would hike the Pines where Stegner wrote (and I read) “Where The Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs.” I’d run the shore to race the dolphins in November migrations, steer horses beachward on the Mexican border one rainy Independence Day, and weave everything in and out of a life lived in worship on Cannon Road, where the paint color changed daily but the Name On The Wall remained the same. Endless evenings ended wrapped in sweaters as coasts cooled, but with feet still warm from sun-soaked sands, staring, loving, soaring, smearing ink on pages, seeking, singing outbursts into the expanse of sea. Early morning mics bagged against salted air were held with freezing hands to proclaim He’s Risen Indeed. My mother would be baptized, and the whole of the ocean would turn warm in winter to say that she was seen.

I hadn’t met it yet – I’d neither known nor loved – and now I know it all. Every sticky eucalyptus. Every 13th pelican in the squadron. Every glittered boulevard the setting sun daily paves across the waves, and the prairie dog humans who stop to stare. From Batiquitos to the Bay, all the speckled, purpled, rugged-rocked and powdered-pathed breakaways, waterways and Harbour Days; every palm and pepper tree, every Via de la, Paseo de, Pio Pico and Camino, from Caesar Chavez to “Beach Cities Next 10 Exits.”

The coast of California crests at San Clemente, with sagebrush and coconut, windgusts and gulls, and bends the sun off tilted land, like opening briefcase full of gold.

I didn’t know you were here. 
Now, I can barely contain you.