Ever since we started taking little road trips around northern California, I have been looking for the perfect photo opportunity, one where I could show the uniquely local combination of dairy farm and sea. Who knew that cows could be raised and grazed right up to the ocean's edge? Not this east coast/midwest girl. It seemed incongruous to me that such a thing ever existed, much less continues into the twenty-first century. It seems, somehow, impossibly romantic. Incongruous.Profligate.
I don't know why the quest to record this bucolic paradox has taken on increasing importance in my mind, but the idea of capturing the Pacific Ocean and a grazing cow atop an impossibly steep ridge in the same frame has become a little goal of mine. It's not that the image is hard to come by. It's more that there's never a place to stop the car on an ascending curve, never a straight stretch with sufficient shoulders, never the right light, the perfect cow.
This morning we woke early with the intention to follow the dawn across the hilltops of the Point Reyes national seashore, no ambition other than a few shots of the newly verdant hillsides in impossibly golden light. These protected lands share space with historic ranches that at one time produced all the butter for San Francisco , sending their sweet golden product by ship to the bankers and miners that founded the town just to the south. The scattered ranches remain today tucked into the hills; most of them are still producing milk and cream for the local cheese industry, think Cow Girl Creamery and Point Reyes Blue. Their names are most pedestrian: Ranch "H" Rand "I", Ranch "J." Their settings are beyond compare.
Turns out this was the day. Everywhere we trundled along the ridges and the valleys, cows posed compliantly against the rising sun and distant sea. Mist rose from the deep pockets and indentations, diffusing golden light to frame the shots.Elk grazed in meadows just beyond the fences.
The morning's glory went well beyond the satisfaction of getting several of the shots I had been coveting. It was one of those ephemeral moments when one feels completely untethered and glad to be alive. Wide open spaces, equally open heart. Joy, it was, that caught me there, high above the ocean and the mist. Grace and thankfulness. Peace and wonder. Like the light around me, the feeling didn't last, but in that perfect moment, I felt a little tug of heaven there among the cows.