Monday, June 18, 2007

Lessons of Beauty

I spent the last week in California doing a little book touring. From San Diego I made my way to Los Angeles, then San Francisco and back to San Diego. Along the way a few readings, a few visits to bookstores, hanging with some old friends and, as it turned out, a serendipitous stumbling upon object lessons in Beauty.

On Tuesday morning I woke up in LA. I had a reading in San Francisco Thursday evening. There are several ways to get from LA to San Francisco by car. On the advice of my local friends I took Interstate 5 north through the middle of the state. Now, I'm no expert in these things nor have I had much exposure to the open spaces of the West, but it seems to me that if the Spanish had been forced to travel up I-5 when they arrived, they would not have settled in California. I'm not kidding, this may well be the ugliest stretch of roadway around. And I'm including the northern stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike.

After traveling for several hours that felt more like two years along a brown desolation, I arrive in one of the most beautiful cities I've visited. The sun was shining in San Francisco; t he weather warmer than usual.

Lesson #1: Beauty benefits from contrast. This isn't always a kind set-up, particularly for the contrastee, but that would be Lesson #2: Beauty itself is amoral and does not care.

On Friday, against the advice of my local friends, I drove from San Francisco to LA via route 101, which travels south from the city through the mountains into the Salinas Valley , toward San Louis Obispo and then along the Pacific to Los Angeles. I left at 8:00 a.m. and arrived at the northern edge of the LA sprawl at 4:00 p.m. Unlike the seemingly endless few hours on the I-5, the 10 hour trip south on Friday, offering a beautiful panoramic view of the state, seemed to go by in a moment.

Lesson #3: Beauty will not be hurried, but, if you do it right, it refreshes more than it wearies.

4:00 p.m. on Friday is one of the ten times each week that the people of LA commit the bizarre communal act of madness known as "rush hour." I spent three and one-half hours reaching the southern end of the sprawl at San Juan Capistrano. This is what my friends warned me about when they cautioned me against the long route south. The trip across LA was just a boring and tedious as they said it would be. But that was all right by me. By then, I'd remembered yet one more lesson - Lesson #4: Beauty has a price. In this case, a price I was happy to pay.


Mark Combes said...

I'm an admirer of Ralph Waldo Emerson and he is famous for his quotes. One of my favorites is:

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."

Keep on truckin' that beautiful heart of yours around Chuck!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

It was great seeing you in LA Chuck!

And whenever I travel north, I always take the 101 at least one way, usually going. There's nothing quite as beautiful as the central coast of California, especially in the early morning.

Glad you had a good trip and are home safe and sound.

G.M. Malliet said...

Beautiful post, Chuck.