sauntering by piney trails …

About Carmel in the early days Mary Austin wrote:

” … when I first came to this land, a virgin thicket of buckthorn sage and sea-blue lilac spread between well-spaced, long-leaves pines. The dunes glistened white with violet shadows, and in warm hollows, between live oaks, the wine of light had mellowed undisturbed a thousand years … We achieved, all of who flocked there within the ensuing two or three years, especially after the fire of 1906 had made San Francisco uninhabitable to the creative worker, a settled habit of morning work … But by the early afternoon one and another of the painted and writer folk could be seen sauntering by piney trails … there would be tea beside driftwood fires, or mussel roasts by moonlight — or the lost of us would pound abalone for chowder … And talk -ambrosial, unquotable talk … There was beauty and strangeness; beauty of Greek quality, but not too Greek, ‘green fires, and billows tremulous with light,’ but not wanting the indispensable touch of grief; strangeness of bearded men from Tassajara with bear meat and wild-honey to sell; great teams from the Sur, going by on the high road with the sound of bells; and shadowy recesses within the wood, white with the droppings of night-haunting birds. But I think that the memorable and now vanished charm of Carmel lay, perhaps, most in the reality of the simplicity attained, a simplicity factually adjusted to the quest of blood and fuel and housing as it can never be in any ‘quarter’ of city life.”

Photograph at University of Virginia Literature Archives

Mary Austin 1868 – 1934

Author, Land of Little Rain A biography:

A biography:

Mary Austin sites: (contains links to many Austin stories in Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, Overland, Century) (A Mary Austin Reader – University of Arizona)

An essay:


In her autobiography Earth Horizon (1932), Mary Austin explained that her goal as an author was to “write imaginatively not only of people, but of the scene, the totality which is called Nature, and . . . I would give myself intransigently to the quality of experience called Folk, and to the frame of behavior known as Mystical.”

Lincoln Steffens, who crafted the American of art muckraking, wrote and became friends with her in Carmel. He wrote an essay in which he said,

“There was nothing to write about; that is to say, there was nothing to write about that was like anything that had ever been written. So she wrote what had never been written. She wrote the desert. “

‘I wrote for the great world outside,” she says, “and I kept in touch with it. There were no papers, no news, no books, no theatre, no music, but — by a sub-sense of some sort, I moved as the world moved.’ “


Writings online by Mary Austin

Mother of Felipe, Overland Monthly, 1896

And, more in a great collection of her writing:

Back to Carmel-by-the-Sea

Pelican Network front page

For Mary Austin books: Bookshop Santa Cruz


If you are not familiar with Austin’s writing, sample this:

“In the open places rise weird phalanxes of yucca palms, and among the hills little dark pools hide their treacherous margins in unwholesome grasses, and the white leprous crest of alkali. A country to be avoided by the solitary traveler, with its hard, inhospitable soil, and its vast monotony of contour and color. A country sublime in its immensity of light, and soft unvarying tints, — fawn, and olive, and pearl, with glistening stretches of white sand, and brown hollows between the hills, out of which the gray and purple shadows creep at night. A country laid visibly under the ban of eternal silence. “