Elizabeth Adda Robinson Ratcliffe
In Memoriam
Martins Beach Rock Painting, oil, by Elizabeth Ratcliffe
Martins Beach
by David Ratcliffe

Just as my Mother, when she was a child, delighted in summers spent at Peitaiho on the Pacific Ocean in Hebei, China, so my siblings and I were gifted with her at Martins Beach, south of Half Moon Bay when we were children. Every summer for a week we lived at Cozy Cottage, perched on the edge of the beach, with a significant slope down to the water. (Viewing Note: scale your web browser window wide and high on your computer screen to click/view high resolution copies in their fuller dimensions.)

My family began going to Martins in the mid-1950s. It was one of two places during childhood that came as close to heaven-on-earth as I’ll ever know. Cozy Cottage has since been reclaimed by the sea, the entire building washed away in a storm. So it, and now my Mother, exist only in the memory, treasured and revered for as long as the breath of Life fills this human overcoat.

The above scene, painted by my Mother with oil paints, is of The Rock on the north end of the beach. Since then, weathering from Sea and Sky, has changed The Rock as well from what resides in the memory. Like an old friend, The Rock occupies a special place within of this space and time. Reflecting the nature of Life and Mother Earth, that all things must pass, I am deeply grateful for memories of moments revolving around the pounding surf, air filled with the smells, moisture, and energy of the sea, fog and brilliant sunshine, coarse sand, and my Mother and siblings and friends who reveled in Life shared on the edge of the world in this hallowed place.

Reflecting back on her childhood, my Mother remembers “Peitaiho...where we went for the summers and it’s beautiful, wonderful Pacific ocean, down at the beach where we spent lots and lots of time.... Loved it, it was warm and we had total freedom there.”

Jim, Hal, Harold, and Elizabeth in Peitaiho, circa 1927
Jim, Hal, Harold, and Elizabeth in Peitaiho, circa 1927.
Although the photograph is worn, the expression on Elizabeth’s face comes through loud and clear. She felt very connected to her father.
Jim, Hal, Mary, and Elizabeth in Peitaiho, circa 1928
Jim, Hal, Mary, and Elizabeth in Peitaiho, circa 1927.
Elizabeth at Peitaiho, circa 1928   Elizabeth at Peitaiho, circa 1928
at Peitaiho, latter half of 1920s
Hal, Elizabeth, and Jim in Peitaiho, circa 1928

Fast forward 25-plus years from the eastern shores of the Pacific at Latitude 39.86, Longitude 119.41 to the western shores of North America, latitude 37.37, Longitude 122.41. In the following, Ann Berson, a friend of my Mother, stands with Patty, Steve, and Bruce outside an entrance to the north side of Kozy Kottage. The following six photographs appear to be from 1955. I have no memory of the entrance on this side of the building as by the time I was old enough to recall, this walkway and exterior door no longer existed. The family "woody" station wagon was named Roxanne.

Ann Berson with PAR, SRR, and BAR outside Kozy Kottage, circa 1955

Elizabeth with Steve, Bruce, and Patty at a pond behind the crest of the beach between Cozy Cottage and The Rock.

ERR with SRR, BAR, and PAR, at pond north of Cozy Cottage, circa 1955

Ann Berson has switched places with Elizabeth.

Ann Berson with SRR, PAR, and BAR, at pond north of Cozy Cottage, circa 1955

Patty, Steve, Bruce, and my Father standing on the western side of Cozy Cottage facing the ocean.

PAR, SRR, BAR, and JWR on west side of Cozy Cottage, circa 1955

This is the front porch I remember on the south side of Cozy Cottage. Patty and Bruce are wearing cherries around their ears. When I was young, gazing at these pictures on my own, I thought they had put balls of mud on.

PAR and BAR wearing cherries on south front porch of Cozy Cottage, circa 1955
PAR and BAR wearing cherries on south front porch of Cozy Cottage, circa 1955

Looking through a cave viewed from the western side of The Rock. At low tide a rock shelf containing tide pools could be walked out onto providing this view of the beach immediately to the north of Martins that we called the Mystery Beach.

Cave on north side of Big Rock to Mystery Beach

The caption from the family photo album Elizabeth made reads, “Pat Rose came with us to Martins this year” (1957). Patty and I are with her and the pond is off to the right. The rightmost (eastern) portion of The Rock is visible in the upper left corner. I think it was Pat Rose who originally told my Mother about the existence of Martins Beach.

Pat Rose (w/PAR & DTR) came with us to Martins this year

In 1961 a man named Tune visited us. I believe he knew my father from the Hope hospital ship my surgeon dad volunteered on in later 1960 that went to Bali. The beach had a quite a slope to it and the surf and undertow could be very strong. At the start of the film, Patty and I may be making an instance of a “death wave castle.” We would dig a hole and pack the sand as a wall surrounding the hole with its highest side facing the ocean. As the tide came in, it would eventually wash over the wall and fill the hole. In the background of this scene I believe it is Bruce digging a more significant “death wave castle,” as was his wont. He was, and ever since has been, exceedingly industrious and consistently inspired in whatever-it-was he concocted. Our eternally precious black Labrador, Pingo, is next up chasing a ball tossed into the surf by brother Bruce. Whenever she came out of the water we were all treated to her “squirt-gun tail” wagging with great abandon, showering all nearby with the mass of water she would shed. In the final segment Bruce is talking with Tune. At the beginning of this part, two rocks can be seen that are out from the shore and were iconic in the memory similar to the way The Rock was and is. (Starting at 1:19 the white of a wave cresting over/through the space between the two rocks is visible.) I believe my Mother also painted this pair of rocks as I can see the painting in my mind’s eye. Unfortunately I have no sense of what became of her creation.


Tyler Grady, a friend who lived across the street from us during childhood, stands with myself and Patty on an airplane tire. Bruce figured out how to obtain one of these and we reveled in and were fascinated by its multiple uses including here as a trampoline.

DTR, PAR, and Tyler Grady on airplane tire

Steve and dear Pingo (named by my Mother), join in the picture. Two people are barely visible in the distance through the magnificent, dream-like, thick, salty fog.

Pingo, SRR, plus DTR, TG, and PAR on airplane tire

With Patty and Tyler on the beach in front of Cozy Cottage. Another cottage is in the background. It stood to the north of C.C., set back behind the peak of sand on the beach, and nearer to the pond.

PAR, TG, and DTR on beach

From August 1965, this picture is taken by Patty. It is in the back bedroom, off the kitchen in Cozy Cottage. Now, long forgotten, something had occurred that caused me to retreat into this room. I had been crying. Then everyone came in to cheer me up: Mom playing the guitar and singing, Steve sticking his head through the window from the enclosed porch where we would sleep at night (the pounding waves very close outside the westward facing windows would lull us to sleep evoking a nonpareil dreamtime), Bruce in front of me and dear Pingo in the center, as she was for all of us in our family. This period was a very significant and difficult time of transition in our family. I am struck anew by the ways in which our Mother did all she could to hold the fabric of our lives together and comfort us.

ERR, SRR, Pingo, BAR, and DTR in Cozy Cottage back bedroom, 1965

Here I, Bruce, and Tyler are building something in the sand—perhaps a death wave castle as it appears to be low tide. A purse (maybe Mom’s?) is in the foreground. Memory says Cozy Cottage is quite close off to the right of the photographer, perhaps at about 3 to 5 o’clock. Being built on the edge of the beach made it possible for the Sea to reclaim it when it did. The ever-present Rock stands majestic in all its splendor and glory to the north of us.

DTR, BAR, and TG possibly building a death wave castle, with The Rock

Post Script

In recent years my Mother followed the story of the man in 2008 who bought the 53 acre parcel containing Martins Beach from the former owners, “the Deeney family, [who had] dedicated the road leading to the beach for permanent public use by charging a parking fee, operating a convenience store, and advertising that the beach was open to the public.” (“Martins Beach: Appeals court hands Khosla win and loss,” By Aaron Kinney, The Mercury News Apr 28 2016) In time, the new owner closed the road denying people access to the beach. Mom would rage about this billionaire whose hubris was beyond contempt.

The situation recalled for me a segment from a biography about Carl Jung by Barbara Hannah. Born in England, she became associated with Jung in Zurich beginning in 1929. Hannah recalls an experience Jung had with a financially wealthy person from the United States:

Jung used to say in later years that his tormenting doubts as to his own sanity should have been allayed by the amount of success he was having at the same time in the outer world, especially in America, where his realization that sexuality could not be taken only concretely met with immediate sympathy. Not only was he constantly asked to lecture there after his first 1909 visit, but he was also sent for in consultations and, in 1910, went to Chicago for such a consultation, although he could remain only seven days in the States. In 1913 a fabulously rich American, daughter of a multimillionaire and wife of an unusually rich man, made up her mind that she needed an analysis. She calmly informed Jung that a far better house than his own was being bought for him in America and that all the arrangements were being made to bring his family over from Europe! She could hardly believe her ears when Jung flatly refused her offer, remarking that he analyzed in Switzerland and that if she wanted an analysis she must come there. She had to recognize, like Mohammed, that, since the mountain so unreasonably refused to move to her, she must go to the mountain. This was the first of a series of shocks that she had to undergo, for she was so convinced that there was nothing that money would not buy that it had entirely divorced her from reality. This alienation from ordinary reality is a common phenomenon with millionaires, because they have been able to buy their way out of difficult situations too often. In fact, when the money is inherited, as it was in this case, they have never come up against the struggle for existence that so much matured the student Jung, for example.
Jung, His Life and Work, A Biographical Memoir,
by Barbara Hannah, Perigee Books; 1976, pp.109-110.

Enjoying the privileges financial wealth affords, is only one in a group of privileges that can separate and isolate and divorce one from reality the majority of humankind has faced on Earth from time immemorial. I am beginning to more profoundly understand the privileges I have received, taken for granted, and been mostly unconscious of in my life including being white, male, and heterosexual. Early last year, reading Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz’s An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, has driven home more deeply privileges I have largely taken for granted throughout the journey.

Beginning in the early 1600s, the land in this present time called the United States, that was stolen from its original inhabitants dating back millennia, brings into focus the fundamental issue concerning who “owns” land, at Martins Beach or elsewhere, across the Western Hemisphere. Recently I found my way to cartographer Aaron Carapella, producing, as he writes,

the most comprehensive maps of pre-contact and at-contact Native North America to date. These maps use Tribal Nation’s original indigenous names for themselves, and show where Tribes were just before contact with outsiders . The intent of these maps is to instill pride in Native peoples and to be used as teaching tools from a Native perspective. These maps are part of my Tribal Nations Map series—which cover the Nations indigenous to the “United States,”, “Canada”, “Mexico” , “Central America”, “South America” and “Alaska.” Your purchase supports multiple upcoming maps. I credit the many hundreds of Cultural directors, elders, educators and linguists that have helped me centralize these names onto one visual display.
—Aaron Carapella, www.tribalnationsmaps.com

Consider a segment of the North American map centering on what is today called California:

segment of Aaron Carapella's North American Map

Many nations, peoples, and communities lived here long, long, long before my European ancestors arrived. Learning more about my ancestors from my Mother’s and Father’s lines is becoming more vital as the days progress.

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