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Blog: Close Encounters

On its website, Point Lobos is described as the greatest meeting of land and water in the world. That and more is what we found on a recent visit to this Northern California nature reserve.

My husband and I trekked along trails that unrolled the most spectacular topography before us. As we climbed up, the hills appeared to grow higher towards a perfectly blue sky. Exotic trees perched at perilous angles on jagged cliffs studded with greenery we’d never seen jutted out into the clear air hundreds of feet above the azure waters of the Pacific.

Along another trail, we walked up into a low mist that made the place seem mysterious, mystical. A deer emerged ahead of us. We eyed each other carefully. It had impressive antlers. I wasn’t sure it would appreciate the flash of my camera. I waited till it turned away from me and snapped a few poor quality shots.

Turning off we found another trail that led us to a starkly different topography, I felt as though I’d landed on another continent. Here the climate was chilly and grey, the landscape rocky, the vastness and solitude awesome. I imagined this must be what walking on the moon is like.

We were curious about the inconsistent rock formations and the odd noise somewhere in the distance. A man with a pair of binoculars who seemed to know his way around stood nearby. Forgetting his usual reserve, my husband approached him, hoping for some insight. He gave us some background on the pebbles and cobbles that have over the years become stuck together forming huge rocks, and pointed out other curiosities.

He then generously offered to let us use his binoculars, giving us a better view of the sea lions who were making a ruckus out in the distance. Parked on giant boulders in the water, they waited for the tide to come in and help them roll their fat bodies back into their wet habitat.

We returned the binoculars and thanked the stranger. He smiled kindly and asked us if we were from “Habad.”

“How would you know that?” I asked, more intrusive than polite, not expecting an encounter like this as I stood marveling at the sandstone formed by volcanic rock and tectonic plate shifts beneath the surface of the earth.

“You aren’t Jewish,” I assumed, correctly.

No, he was not, but his wife is. “We live nearby in Carmel, and have another home in Wyoming.”

And in both places, his wife found Chabad, and on occasion he’d gone with her to their Shabbos table.

“I understand the Habad are all over the world. And they have open homes and are always welcoming people and inviting them for meals,” he said, incredulously.

Yes, it’s true, I said, my mind wandering back to my cousins, Dena and Yosef Levin of Chabad of Palo Alto who were hosting us along with dozens of guests over the course of six consecutive holiday meals, and then some, along with 9 of their 13 children who were home for the holidays.

There in Point Lobos, where the water meets the land in one of nature’s most inspiring settings, the gentleman with the binoculars reminded me that with a bit of distance, we get a better perspective, allowing us to sustain the inspiration of great phenomena, even the kind we fortunately take for granted.

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