Milky Fisk

Molly Fisk

I find it difficult, as a self-employed person, to figure out how to take vacations. Outside the obvious parameters of teaching a two-hour class or editing someone’s manuscript, it’s hard to really account for any of my time. I don’t punch a clock when stopping by the side of the road to write down what sandhill cranes look like circling overhead or when I wake up at four in the morning to catch the amazing metaphor in my dream.

I’ve always guessed I work a little more than a 40-hour week, counting the mid-day lake swims all summer and an occasional matinee, but if I were to track my billable hours, I might find this to be complete wishful thinking. So I’m never convinced that I deserve a vacation in the first place.

Plus, for writers work and play are often intertwined. My writing students become friends, my friends become students, I get ideas everywhere I look, Saturday is no different from Thursday.

In any case, I found myself last week skimming down Highway One along the southern edge of Monterey Bay. This is the point at which, when I was seven, our dad would say, “How many motels do you see?” and we’d rouse from our naps in the Buick’s back seat and get ready to count. There were either 41 or 42 — we never got the same number twice in a row, and Dad never turned back and let us count them again.

I decided to visit Carmel on my vacation because it wasn’t too far away, it’s almost always beautiful, and we had a weekend house there when I was a kid that turned into an all-the-time house for six months when my brother Sam was born. I wanted to be somewhere I already knew I loved.

I learned to tell my left hand from right in Carmel, at the corner of Casanova and Fourth St., where right was the right way to town. I checked out library books and read them in the pine needle fort in our back yard. I heard Joan Baez sing, live, at our grammar school assembly, when she was 20. Sometimes dead whales washed up on the Skin-Diver Beach. The Carmel River broke through every spring and we saw seals fishing in the pale green curls of the waves at its mouth.

A half-century later, the beaches look smaller, although the town does not, nor our old house. My grade school is a cultural center, and the “kid’s books” have moved to another library building somewhere away from downtown. But the fog still rolls in over the turquoise water at the end of a hot day, and salt laces every breeze.

It was a busman’s holiday, as most writer’s holidays are. I stopped on the beach to get out my notebook: “Five dolphins swimming in white froth about fifteen feet from shore. Look up sine wave to see if that’s really the shape their leaping and diving bodies describe.”


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  • Molly Fisk October 31, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    You’re so welcome!

  • Diane Dettmann October 31, 2015 at 9:49 am

    In 1972, I spent my honeymoon in Carmel with my husband, John. Over the twenty-eight years we were married, Carmel-by-the-Sea became our favorite vacation spot. Images of the mist, fog and the sparkle of sunlight on the turquoise waves will be with me always. Thank you for the memories and for taking me back in time to a place dear to my heart!

  • Shirley October 31, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Would like to live in a town that has a cultural center! Thanks for giving us a glimpse of such a lovely place.