Thursday, November 18, 2010

Still a tourist after thirty years

It's not difficult to paint Santa Barbara as idyllic. But the truth is, every place has its problems; and when things get especially chaotic, like the construction that's been going on in my neighborhood for months, I can feel overwhelmed by the noise, chemicals and dust. That's when I need to spend a day away.
I'm no fan of traffic jams, or the hustle and bustle of city streets, and given a choice, I would almost always rather stay home. But when I'm forced to spend the day away, I've come up with a game. I turn the tables on myself and pretend to be a tourist. It's great to shed the blinders -- that tend to thciken over 30 years -- and to look at this dear city anew.
When I play tourist, I bring a cooler full of food, a writing pad, my camera, and I wander.
Now, last Tuesday was a Santa Barbara day designed for wandering. It was unseasonably balmy and warm -- a languid 82 degrees. The edges of the Santa Ynez mountains were etched sharp and clear. And while the workers on my street drilled, bulldozed, and revved their jackhammers to beat the band, I took myself to the majestic, Santa Barbara Courthouse, rode the elevator up to the top of the tower and looked out at the 360 degree view.
Later, I went to Alice Keck Park, sat on a bench in the shade, and to my surprise, beyond the typical droves of turtles basking on rocks in the sun, the pond was full of mallards. I watched the marvelous creatures, floating, circling and true to their name, ducking under the water.
The blue sky fell liquid on the pond, and reflections of sunlight -- mixed with the green leaves of trees -- co-mingled into patterns. And as I followed the ducks and watched the patterns on the water ripple and spiral into gold, I felt suffused with peace, and I noticed that my face had settled into the natural, soft expression of a smile.


  1. You know, that's a very interesting role reversal. I've never thought of trying that-although I certainly do plenty in my beloved city that is quasi-touristy-and I try to reach out to the tourists I encounter. The Europeans are terrible. Southerners generally rock.
    But, that's just me.
    Great photos. What does the Santa Barbara Courthouse look like?

  2. Hello Joe,

    Your comment makes me curious as to what city you're from. It's so nice to hear someone praise where he lives. And yes, it is wonderfully liberating to turn all of the "shoulds" and e-mails off and just be present in one's own backyard. Thank you for your complements.

    I really don't mean to brag, which is part of why I haven't made a post on the Courthouse. I'm sure you can find photos of it on their website. It is...a treasure. Spanish architecture, hand painted tiles, spiral staircases, wrought iron lamps, sunken garden-- whew! I took the photo on this post from the clock tower.

    Glad you delved more deeply into this blog :) Again, Joe, so good to hear from you. Sending my regards, ~ Anitra