Cliff Houses on the Pacific Coast Highway


You see them from the road,
sprawled on cliff tops,
those weathered gray homes of untold value–
who can put a price on views like that?


At least I think they are homes.


You never glimpse any people,
or cars winding up the drive.
Where are they?


Funny how all you can imagine are rooms
with no one in them. Empty sofas, empty beds,
plates and glasses waiting on polished tables.
Maybe, by now, a mouse in the pantry,
steadily gnawing through a box of linguine.
Long-legged spiders crocheting in the corners.
Decks turning spongy, hinges rusty.


But that first day,
when the moving van left,
and the owners stood at their immense window
and looked at the endless blue ocean,
what triumph they must have felt, what joy.
Mine, they must have thought. All mine.


You wonder if they stopped looking,
if the windows kept clouding with salt,
if the drive to the store grew tiresome,
if they missed good restaurants,
if their guests stopped coming,
if the fog hung on too long.


Or was it the ocean itself
they tired of:
all that splendor and might.
Maybe, at night, they could hear the waves whisper:




Photo credit: GD Taber via / CC BY-NC-ND


Published by

Jean Ryan

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in Napa, California. Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. She has also published a novel, LOST SISTER. Her short story collections, SURVIVAL SKILLS and LOVERS AND LONERS, are available online. STRANGE COMPANY, a collection of short nature essays, is available in paperback as well as digital and audio editions.

6 thoughts on “Cliff Houses on the Pacific Coast Highway

    1. I think you’re right, Pat. Thank you for this. We are presently enjoying a Bodega Bay getaway to celebrate our anniversary. It’s lovely here, without national news or cell phones.

    1. Thank you, Ann. And I so enjoyed your “Things I Learned The Hard Way.” My own list goes on and on! Given a little distance, everything becomes forgivable and often amusing.

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