Sep 27, 2022

At the Inspiration Point: soundscape, vision and what is observable

Not long ago, I walked here with a young novelist who I befriended recently. Since then, I have been coming every once in a while, especially when I need to get out of my daily routine and alleviate stress, which has become a regular occurrence these days. Every time I visit this spot, I see people standing, taking photos in groups, chitter-chattering, some with their arms stretched out holding cell phones, their eyes staring at the camera, trying hard to smile while tilting their heads right and left as if trying to find enough space to capture the ocean in the background. This particular spot is called “Inspiration Point.” It is a famous site in the seaside neighborhood of Corona Del Mar. A couple of weeks ago, this area was closed to visitors due to an oil spill. Not many people knew why it was closed though. I saw them being frustrated. Not only this spot, but the entire coast of southern California was shut down; dead animals washed up the beaches, some were injured and stranded, and others were buried in the sand. It’s reopened now and everyone visits here to enjoy the sun, sand, and salty sea. 

The Inspiration Point is located on a small blufftop park, overlooking the ocean, the Newport Harbor, and the Corona Del Mar beaches. It is around 3:00 p.m., but since the clock has moved backward for daylight on November 7th, it seems close to sunset time. Looking at a distance in the ocean, there are big fleets; from afar, they look like they are carrying containers, heading towards the Newport Harbor, which is not far, perhaps about 10 miles away. There is a white yacht near the coastline. I eagerly put on my eyeglasses to see the boat clearly but wished to have my binoculars, a gadget that is now part of my excursion into nature. 

I see some small boats and a few jet skis moving fast around the yacht. A few people were moving leisurely on the deck, music was blasting, and I could only recognize the beats from the background noise and chatter that filled the space around me, although much of it had to be blamed on waves and water that impeded the sound to travel smoothly. People come and go; they speak different languages and wear other clothes and colors. No one is hurried; you can tell it from their leisurely walks and their lazy legs that are being dragged behind them. You do not see many white people though, and if you see them, they are mostly tourists. In more than an hour, I saw people from diverse walks of life, but one thing was clear to me: class-wise they mostly belonged to the lower and middle classes. 

Some people who come here stand on the edges and stare at a distance in the ocean for a long time as if they are waiting for a loved one from a long voyage and yet to arrive. Some people are walking their dogs, and a few people strewn their blanket and sat on it while facing the ocean but looking directly at sunset. A lot of people come around 5 pm to find a spot to watch the sunset. I read a lot about the evenings, and one thing I realized from all my labor; you cannot describe the sunsets l. It is a subjective experience. 

I heard some music. Two people who seemed to be college students were playing their guitars, the sound was disappearing through the background noises of cars, people, the sounds of the ocean’s waves battering the bluffs and cliffs. 

After observing the people coming to the Inspiration Point, and taking pictures of the ocean, I was tempted not only to see myself as one of them and perhaps experience their feelings but also to appreciate the enduring beauty and inviting nature of the sounds of the ocean that cluttered the soundscape. I love how sounds glue together, especially that it arouses a different curiosity in the brain, you try to decipher, but you cannot. I walked to the point and stepped on a piece of wood, maybe cedar, used as a curb that was smoothed out by years of enduring the trampling of feet. Not to lose balance, I clasped the wire used as a fence. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my palm as if a needle had pierced through the skin. I lifted my hand, and suddenly, blood started oozing out from a few places. I had accidentally clutched on the knot where the wires were sticking out, perhaps due to constant stretching or natural wear. I pressed my finger against the holes where the blood was coming out. Then I rubbed my hands together to vanish any traces of redness on my hand, but the blood kept seeping out from punctures.  

Thinking that I was here for observation, the practice that I needed to learn as an anthropologist, I decided to stick around for over an hour. It was hard to take notes on people who were constantly moving. How can you observe when people are always on the move? What precise actions are lost in those movements and activities? It is hard to keep just one thing, then miss the whole thing. I could only see their patterns of performance on this particular spot, although a few times I wanted to ask people what they were thinking about this specific spot, the Inspiration Point, and whether they have ever felt inspired. One time I realized a person was standing close to me, and so I decided to verbalize something, perhaps my feelings about the ocean and the scenery. I said to myself out loud, “what a beautiful scenery!” and looked to the left to expect confirmation from the person next to me. It seemed that she either did not hear me or didn’t give me any mind. 

Then I started walking down toward the paved ramp on the south side of the Inspiration Point, which led to the overlook. My palm was wet, I clasped a bunch of grass to clean it. There were a few boulders, unlike the spiky wire fence at the Inspiration Point that pierced my palm; the fence at the overlook was a thick rail made of metal. Some people were holding the railing, constantly bending over, as if their eyes were foraging for something unseen beneath the cliff. The noise from the constant chattering of people faded in the background of the ferocious sounds of the waves crashing against the tall, jagged rocks that formed as a result of constant battering. Looking at those rocks that are partially eroded by the ocean water reminded me of the lesson my father tried to give me when I was ten years old. One day, far from our house, we were in a deep gorge searching for dried grass for animals. We came upon some holes in the granite rock. Some of those holes had water in them. My father stood and asked me to look up. At one point, a glacier existed over the cliff, and the glacier water came down over the cliff, and droplets of water hollowed out the hard rock. He asked me to take a lesson from the soft water and the power of persistence as well as consistency of it. As I was looking down through the jagged rock with darkened sellouts, the sun starting sinking the Pacific Ocean, it’s glittering raises diminished, I was left with a pang of nostalgia weaved into soundscapes, people, and sights that I had to retreat from. Undecidedly, I walked over to my car, turned on the radio, and left the shore but the sounds and sights and people did not leave me.