Here it is, the holiday season, the four-week stretch by which, beyond all reason, our retail economy measures its success. Can someone please explain the logic? It's also the time of year my, well, eclectic religious background gets a workout. I was born in Paris and baptized Catholic, moved to the U.S. where my grandfather, an unwavering Tsarist to his dying day, took me to his Russian Orthodox church. Then, via a parent's re-marriage, came a decade of Judaism. In college, via a cute boyfriend, came Buddhism. Turns out, God is everywhere.
So each December we have Hanukkah and two different Christmases (Russian Orthodoxy follows the Julian calendar) and -- my personal favorite and, if you think about it, the true new year -- the winter solstice. We also get a living Christmas tree, a Monterey pine if at all possible, since it's a California native and loves the coast.
For a few years Monterey pines, beset by killer beetles, vanished from our local nurseries. They're back now (these are at Treeland in Calabasas, where I've bought my
solstice Christmas tree for the last 15 years) as strong and green and fragrant as ever.
It doesn't rain often here in Malibu, but it's always an event. Storms edge in, a thin scrim of light, bright clouds that slowly turn to steely gray. The rain starts, a few dusty drops, a shower or two, a rainbow or two, and then the deluge. The morning after, the final coda, a horizon rimmed in layered, textured, churning white.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Thank you for the lovely cards and emails -- I'm grateful for each and every one of them.
The light today has been amazing -- the gray and gloom of rain on the way, the filtered glow of sudden sunlight, a chunk of rainbow rising from a ridge. Beneath the branches of a pepper tree, so thick the rain can't reach, a hummingbird hunts spiders. The cats, entranced, watch from a window.
Every few weeks the pink Corvette shows up at Ralphs, which means a top-heavy woman in a really short skirt is pointing at items on the grocery store shelves while a slightly freaked out clerk fills her cart and tries not to look down her blouse.
Sometime last year, Heather Armstrong linked to a fledgling web site by Shreve Stockton, who was raising an orphaned coyote pup in the wilds of Wyoming. Since Heather, aka Dooce, has a vast and loyal following, and since Shreve is a gifted photographer with an irresistible subject set in a gorgeous part of the world, the story of Charlie the coyote soon went viral. (And promptly -- and predictably -- started some fairly acrimonious conversations about whether it's right or wrong to raise a coyote.)
For a time, Shreve's first blog went dark as she worked on a book. She's back with a new blog, The Daily Coyote, and recently began posting again. Long story long (sorry), this is a video Shreve posted of Charlie playing with his new pal, Chloe. (If the Beastie Boys played at high volume don't sound appealing, get your mute button ready.) And if you're in the market for some good workplace distraction, the archives of both blogs are worth a look.
It was soon after we moved here that, while kayaking one morning, I came across a set of odd buoys randomly spaced throughout the Cove. Scientific experiment, a label said, and I just assumed it had something to do with fish.
What it was, though, was the seeding of kelp beds, replacing the underwater forest that once grew throughout the Santa Monica Bay. Now, all these years later, the buoys are gone but the kelp beds remain. Their health and breadth fluctuates depending on water temps, urchin populations, and pollution levels. During El Nino, they all but vanish. In colder years, they come back strong.
See that flat spot of water in the photo of today's daybreak? That's a kelp bed, keeping the water still, sheltering an ecosystem of fish and other creatures. You'll see seals there, dolphins making their rounds, pelicans diving and eating and just floating about.
Kayak out to the west and an enormous bed rises like magic from the ocean floor. Paddle to the middle and the floating fronds catch your little boat, hold you still, hold the water so still it's clear all the way to the bottom. You watch sea rays and see sea stars and catch the occasional golden glitter of a garibaldi, and you're held the whole time by that kelp bed, the tide slowly moving, the kayak gently rocking.
Anyone can use the tennis court here in the Cove, whether you can play an actual game or merely enjoy raising your blood pressure while slamming little green balls into a net. All you have to do is sign for the key.
The group of tennis regulars who play a few times a week always remember to lock up when they're done. Casual players, kids and visitors pretty much never do lock the court, and that's Jake and Maisie's favorite time. They see the open gate and dash right in.
There's something about the gritty clay surface that they love. The ball, when thrown, is utterly predicable. Unlike on the beach road, where it's easy to spin out on a hard curve, their feet have perfect purchase. The games are quick and hard and the rules are fast and loose. And the score? Always the same -- love, love.
I've been blogging on the front page of LAO (fire, fire and more fire) for a few days so forgive me if I'm a bit pooped. Not so the dogs, who spent a good hour chasing each other in the surf on a hot and smokey Saturday, where we were almost alone on the beach.
After a calm night and peaceful morning, the winds are here. The temperature just spiked 10 degrees and every vertical thing is in motion, trees swaying, brush rippling, grasses laid flat. The dogs are in the shade, panting. The cats are in the shade, also panting. And here's a spot near the barn which, if you were teaching someone English, would be the perfect place to explain the concept of "dry as tinder".
Check it out -- these glads, grown, Trader Joe's assures me, in California, spent three hot hours in the car when I bought them on Saturday, got knocked over once by the rambunctious dogs, ran out of water once because really, who knew flowers could be so thirsty, and still they're glowing bright and opening new blooms.
I'm not a fan of Daylight Savings Time, which steals a morning hour from us each spring, then dumps us into darkness every autumn. We don't get to know that the summer sunrise comes at 4:45 a.m. We don't get to feel just how full and quick the day actually is. And while that extra hour of light at night is nice, the abrupt end, the rough return to real time with its endless adjustment takes a toll.
Anyway, here's today's dawn, in actual time, 6:17 a.m.. The sun broke the horizon five minutes later.
Two weeks ago today I joined the vast (and ever-growing) legions of Americans who have been laid off. It started with a phone call while I was in the midst of writing my first blog post of the day for LA Now. So instead of "Good morning", I wrote "Goodbye". Being a Web 2.0 kinda gal, I also Tweeted and updated on Facebook.
Just 24 hours later, the separation packet landed on my front steps. It's the most efficient thing the Tribune Co. does, this jettisoning of journalists. And now, as you can see from the photo, I'm wrestling with paperwork. Trying (no luck yet) to decipher the language in the packet which, in places, somewhat approximates English. Trying (no luck yet) to get a call back from HR. It's hard and disheartening but that's just the way it is.
I want to clear up a few things: I didn't lose my job because I linked to Tell Zell or LAO or other items critical of Sam Zell, or because of my Zell Hell bumper sticker. And I didn't lost my job because I linked out to other blogs and newspapers on LA Now. That was always part of the vision, part of the plan. I know LA Now isn't linking as much right now, but when they regroup, absorb this latest blow to the workforce (75 people left the building for good, after all, added to the 150 in July) I bet they'll start linking again.
I'm not angry and I'm not bitter and I'll never trash the LA Times. I know too well how hard things are for the journalists who are left behind. They're among the smartest and most dedicated people I've ever worked with, and they never asked for a vulgar vulture to buy their newspaper and bleed it dry.
I was picking the dogs up from the vet, saw this huge backhoe about to start work on the much-discussed and possibly mythic Heritage Park project, so I got a (crummy) snapshot.
And while I was at it, thought this sunset deserved a (crummy) photo as well.
No one knows (well, someone does know) just who it is driving down to the beach and onto the sand in their truck or jeep or whatever for the last few nights.
What we do know is they've torn up the steep and fragile incline everyone uses to reach the water, making it harder for the kids and moms and older people here in the Cove.
I told Maisie, the little black dog, that Americans just elected their first black president.
She wants to know, does he have a tennis ball?
Can you believe how important and thrilling and scary and thrilling and, well, thrilling today feels? I'm fresh out of words (thus all the "thrilling" trilling) so, on the jump you'll find a little series of snapshots of this morning's vote.
My polling place was in the dining room of Beau Rivage:
At 7:30 a.m., about a hundred people were already in line and here's where we were all headed. Malibu's a small town and most of us knew at least one of the poll workers:
In the tiny little voting booths, we inserted our ballots:
Top of the ticket -- president of the United States:
And at the end, I was so, yes, thrilled, I didn't even manage to frame this shot so it was at all attractive. Yep, I'm an emotional and sentimental girl, not that that's much of a surprise to anyone who visits this blog with any regularity. ;)