What can I say about this place? That I came up from L.A. thirty years ago for air and stayed? That I'd grown allergic (literally) to the L.A. smog? That Santa Barbara called me here, then swallowed me like a blotter absorbing ink? Quietly, painlessly, the years dissolved. When I drive through the city now, on my way to the library, or to buy a gift for a friend, I coast the familiar streets with their rock-lined hedges, their bougainvillea, oaks and palms . . . and I wonder . . . how it could be that all those days have washed away and left barely a ripple?
Today, under dense clouds, while most of the world is churning, and I can practically hear it groan, I've decided to stop at the beach and take a peek at what lies beyond the hedges and the rock walls. What color is the ocean today? My guess is that it's opal. And who waits on the sand? It's safe to say seagulls. But what I know deep down, is that there, beside the water, no matter how cloudy or sunny, at high tide or low, what I'm certain to find, hovering in the mist -- is some kind of magic.
Yesterday, when I took myself to the beach, after writing that a visit to the ocean guaranteed magic, I found myself on a cloud-shrouded shore at high tide. To my left, a cove lined with cottages, arced to the south, with only a thin strip of private beach untouched by the high tide.
To my right, beside the beach wall, sat a girl in a turquoise T-shirt, with long, blonde surfer-girl hair. Perfectly still, she stared toward the inaccessible north coast.
I stood on a small patch of beach in front of a storm drain. This was not what I'd had in mind when I predicted magic. I had pictured myself walking beside the water with my arms and legs swinging in sync with the rhythms of the surf. Instead, I perched on a pile of rocks and gazed at the agate ocean as it pushed and pulled and pulsed.
When I looked back toward the cove, I saw a tiny being on the sand: a squat toddler in bright blue shorts. He took solid steps and seemed amazed that he was upright as he planted each foot like a stake in the sand, fully at home in his world.
To my right, the girl at the beach wall, like a painting by Andrew Wyeth, continued to sit and stare. Behind me, stood a mass of concrete, etched and pock-marked with erosion. On closer inspection, I found within it and around it an eerie gallery of strangely stunning modern art.
And that was the picture, nothing dazzling, nothing bright -- a quiet diffused scene.
Later in the day, while hiking in the hills, after the sun had finally broken through, I caught a glimpse of The Islands and was amazed to see that they had completely changed from what they were earlier in the day. In the morning, at the beach, The Islands had been fuzzy and charcoal gray; now, from out of nowhere, they bared the clearest typography I'd seen in years.
**Be cool all of you lovely people. I'll be posting again on August 20th. ~ Anitra