The Cabin on the Cliff

Here’s a blast from my past that I have to share.

I watched Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” with guest Alanis Morissette this morning. At the end of the episode (which was excellent, by the way) Oprah’s voice over said Alanis wrote a song about the place that most inspires her, and they showed images that I instantly recognized as Hwy 1, followed by a shot of a cabin on a cliffside. I had a life-changing romance in that cabin 20 years ago.


I don’t know about you, but sometimes my memories become snapshots that are precious and distant and mine alone so they seem like make believe. This cabin is one of those memories. So when the voice over teased the upcoming video over the shot of this cabin, I squinted at the screen and thought, that looks like my cabin, and then I heard the words to “Big Sur.” That is my cabin. My private snapshot right there on my TV screen.

The stories I could tell from my time in that cabin are rich and juicy. We had no phones or TV. I didn’t even have a radio in my Wrangler for the long drives down from San Francisco. My only entertainment those weekends was my thoughts and him.

He was 28 and recently divorced. He’d relocated to San Francisco from the midwest and was sharing a flat on Alamo Square with his friends from college. One of my best friends from college worked with one of his friends and we all met up one night at a bar after they got off work. I was beat down from working with a bunch of sexist bullies as well as being recently dumped by my first real love. I was reluctantly out on the town and just looking to get a buzz and be distracted. He and I were introduced and he sat on the barstool next to mine. He was so out of my league, tall, dark and gorgeous, that it didn’t even occur to me to flirt. We hit it off instantly, fearlessly diving deep into real life shit and laughing at how absurd and helpless we both felt. He got angry about the jerks at my work, telling me exactly how screwed up it all was and how I deserved much better. We talked about books and discovered we had the same taste in music, both loving the same local Jazz Funk band. After a couple hours of swapping stories a Prince song came on and he said, “Oh, we have to dance to this.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the dance floor, and I’d never seen a man dance that sexy in real life. I swear to God. My friend was dancing with her work friends and when she saw us her jaw dropped and she threw me two thumbs up.

Not long into our romance he moved down to Big Sur to work the gift shop and front desk of the historic lodge that sat above the cabin. I don’t know the exact details of the arrangement, except that he’d live in the cabin while he restored it. I helped him move so I was with him the first time he walked through. The cabin was a broken mess … but look at that view! The sun was setting so we sat outside on the grass watching the coastline and listening to the waves. We cried. I cried because it was beautiful, and I told him I could see him being happy here. He told me he felt the same way. We held hands. He said he hoped I’d visit him. And of course I did.

We shared a relationship that would shape me with some of my greatest lessons about my body, my voice, my endurance, my desires, and my limits. Maybe it’s time to write a story about it.