For many of us, Pescadero offers a promise of uncertainty. The marsh floods, or it doesn’t (usually it does). Wetlands encroaching upon our main artery out of town requires us to be a little creative and able to handle last minute changes. The southbound lane of Highway 1 crumbles into the ocean, so CalTrans fixes it, only to have the sea pull it down again. There is no name for a resident of Pescadero. We are not Pescaderoans or Pescaderites. If you ever hear someone refer to themselves in this way, you’ve either found yourself a newbie or a liar. This place cannot be easily defined. Wind and water carve new pathways and erase our various markers of humanity. Telephone poles, roads, homes, all will be reclaimed eventually.
Pescadero is a reminder that change and uncertainty are natural. This is what drew me here—it’s so easy to get caught up in the anxieties of life, to create facades of control. When those false structures come tumbling down, I start to panic. Change scares me, even when it’s positive. When I find myself worrying, I walk. Usually I walk from my house up in the hills on Ranch Road West into town. I watch hawks, bobcats, deer, listen to songbirds, and enjoy the crunch of dirt and gravel beneath me. Occasionally, I find foxes or coyotes pouncing on rodents. By the time I reach Stage Road (about an hour’s walk from my home), my mind is centered and my body has let go of the tension that plagued me. Sometimes my anxiety is kicked up like a dust storm that refuses to settle. On those days, I walk the Sequoia Audubon Trail at Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve.
The flora is scrubby this close to the ocean. Everything is hardy and stubborn. The landscape is swept clean; walking through the watershed I began to feel my anxieties about the future get swept away, too. I startled birds. I clomp through thickets and disturb coots and Great Blue Herons. I may fancy myself an amateur photographer, but a nature photographer I am not.
I come to this place because it shows my fears in action. The waterways will not remain stagnant and calm. The lagoon won’t be recognizable to me the next time I see it. We can try to exert control over the ocean and creeks, but these are ultimately fruitless acts. I am always reminded of Robinson Jeffers’s poem “Carmel Point” when I walk through Pescadero. Although he lived and wrote about the Monterey Bay, he was pressed up against the ocean, just as we are. He lamented the development of his beloved Ireland-substitute, his “beautiful place defaced with a crop of surburban houses.” I think of the last few lines of this poem while I wander through the marsh, my worries worn away like sandstone:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.