The meaning behind the stones of Big Sur

Spanning eras, coastal rocks inspire a poet and photographer.

  • Double Surf, 1966.

    Morley Baer


Round-edged knuckles of rock rise from sand. Sunlight slants across the stone, highlighting cracks and pits stretching across its planes. The image, captured by photographer Morley Baer in 1969, is one of several dozen collected in Stones of the Sur. Each is matched with a poem, either excerpted or in full, by 20th century American poet Robinson Jeffers.

The rugged, rocky coast of Big Sur, in central California, inspired both poet and photographer during their lives. The beauty of the stones and bedrock that form the landscape’s backbone awes both visitors and residents, even as the area is continually transformed by winter storms and landslides. As Jeffers scholar James Karman writes in the book’s opening pages, “Rocks can serve as teachers, revealing much about themselves — their own unique personalities — and about the meaning and the mystery of the world.”

Stones of the Sur
Poetry by Robinson Jeffers, photographs by Morley Baer; edited by James Karman.
176 pages, hardcover: $70.
Stanford University Press, 2001.