Let’s not even pretend that this is because I’ve just returned from my annual Cali trip and I’m finding it impossible to switch out of Vacation Mode.
While it is true that I have a hard time doing nothing, it’s also true that I pretty much want to do only what I feel like doing. In other words, I enthusiastically avoid all enterprises that can be classified as Work. As legitimate retirement age approaches, this tendency seems to be intensifying.
In my role as a “gardener,” this means I lean toward landscape citizens that not only take care of themselves but actually wish to be left alone. Natives and well-adapted species are the only plants I’ll buy unless I am in some weird mood and feel that something lovely and amazing will save me. At the moment I am contemplating how my two potted bougainvillea will be brought through the winter since I am without a greenhouse. Dope.
Anything that wishes to volunteer in my landscape is likely to be given free reign; one exciting benefit of that policy this season has been the proliferation of inland sea oats and American Beautyberry. Even if I don’t know who you are, if you look nice I am probably going to let you claim a place in the yard.
All this is by way of saying that this is a Vacation Photo post. Essence of Lazy.
The battle to learn the new camera is ongoing. Really, I ought to take a class; but you know how I feel about signing up to sit indoors for several hours, especially when registering for a class means the weather will be so spectacular I’ll feel like flying into molecules while I’m supposed to be listening to someone blather on in a room full of fluorescent light. What I need is a tutor who will take me on a photo field trip.
But I decided to take only New Camera with me to Mary’s, so apart from those times when all I had was a phone, I was forced to practice. (Practice is one of those gray areas that is way too close to work for my taste. Even if it’s something I love doing, I would much rather just be able to do it, no practice needed. Lazy.)
Mornings began as they always do at Mary’s: she with her coffee in the living room, me with mine on the sun porch. Naturally I set up the tripod and took what shots I could from my seat at the table between sips. If that’s not lazy, I don’t know what is.
A new member of Mary’s garden is this Duranta, whose purple flowers I just love. I knew mine at home were blooming in my absence, so it was a treat to enjoy hers. In a way I wish the spider web wasn’t stretched across this photo, but in another way I like nature scenes exactly as they are. I also love spiders, so there’s that.
California as you know is in a paralyzing drought. We were even more fastidious than usual about collecting house water for use in the yard. But one of Mary’s backyard lantanas is absolutely thriving and lent itself to a number of photo ops. This is one of three abandoned cats who have adopted Mary’s yard as their own for the past several years. They have no names, as Mary likes to pretend she is not attached to them in any way beyond supplying food and water; but Mary has always been a cat person and as we try to convince these kitties that they truly deeply want a few tickles, we fondly reminisce about past kitties such as Black Beba, Dumb Beba, Tiny Bits, Pepper, and Beige Kitty.
One last butterfly shot and we’ll move out of the back yard. This swallowtail did not hold still for even half a second. I tell you, it was worse than hummingbirds. But the way the sunlight came through those wings, and the way the colors of the butterfly and the colors of the landscape play together! This kind of thing makes it fun every time I pop the memory card into the laptop and see what the camera saw. I know the photo is super busy, but you can’t exactly go out and ask the butterfly to stick around while you trim the foliage back a little. Just as with innate talent (or lack thereof) and seventh-decade physique, you have to work with what you’ve got. Sigh.
This was a wonderful late August to be at the beach. I’d read that el Nino (sorry, I can’t figure out how to get the tilde to sit atop the n!) was producing warm Pacific waters, and it turned out to be true. Having experienced the thrill of the Atlantic at such locations as the bay side of Cape Cod and the rocky coast of Maine, I’ve never found the SoCal ocean particularly cold, but this year everyone was exclaiming, It’s like bath water! I couldn’t get enough.
From the top of the Hermosa Beach parking garage, my first beach embarkation reminds me every year of being a little kid napping in my bottom bunk upstairs in our family’s Connecticut cottage. It feels like yesterday that I was waking up in slightly salty, slightly sandy flannel sheets, hearing the shouts and shrieks of kids across the street. They were swimming without me! They were having fun without me! I couldn’t get downstairs and across the street fast enough. I can never get to the beach fast enough.
Although this year’s waves weren’t as enormous as the ones a Mexico hurricane produced last year, they were impressive enough. Watching intrepid kids head into the surf stirs all my grandmotherly panic: I want to march up to the lifeguards and make sure they are watching that kid! Fortunately we saw no rescues and heard no cries for help – merely the ear-splitting screams that seem an essential part of playing in the water.
Speaking of laziness, there are always those seagulls who eschew making their living from the sea despite living alongside a vast array of fishing boats and schools of tiny fish. These gulls prefer to go from blanket to blanket hoping the sunbathers will drop something. Or, if the sunbathers happen to be taking a swim, to explore towels and beach bags for healthy morsels like Cheetos, much beloved by all birds. The gull in this photo, having been given a couple of peanuts from our trail mix, took up residence on the blanket while I swam and Mary read, only giving up my lying-down space with reluctance and an annoyed shake of the tail-feathers. He or she then stood three feet away, glowering at me, hoping I would get up and go back in the water.
We took time for lazy lunches almost every day, a couple of times taking up space on the deck of the 22nd Street Landing, from which I could take phone photos to post immediately on Facebook for purposes of inciting envy in all my friends. This photo shows our lunch view, with one non-lazy seagull perched on the fishing boat awaiting a more suitable lunch than Cheetos. There are always a few harbor seals drifting about, but they refused to cooperate with my idea of a photo op.
Tootling around town on our vintage bikes, we’d also head over to Cabrillo Beach where we spent an inordinate amount of time watching mammoth cargo ships come and go. There’s something about watching an enormous vessel enter a harbor, meet up with its wee tugboat, and navigate the channel to a berth that captivates me – kind of like my father, I could also watch planes take off and land all day. It’s like watching the impossible happen over and over. Naturally, these would be excellent moments for a camera with a 2000X lens; naturally, I would only have my phone. Too lazy to carry a backpack in what was on some days very hot weather.
At the docks of San Pedro where last year the tall ships (and hotel-size rubber duck (I mean the size of a hotel, not the size of a duck in a hotel bathtub)) drew masses of people each day, Mary and I were virtually the only humans in sight. It’s amazing how quiet some places can be, right in the midst of one of the world’s busiest harbors. In the background you can see the Vincent Thomas Bridge arching across to Long Beach. I can’t think of the last time we ventured that way, but I remember on one of my first visits to SoCal the kids and I saw the round Holiday Inn all strung up with Christmas lights in midsummer. I bet they’re filming a movie, I said. It turned out to be the hotel in the early scenes of the first “Lethal Weapon.” A brush with the classics?
On other days we took to Redondo Beach, a different stomping ground for us. It shaves about fifteen minutes from a drive to the beach, and road work on our usual route to Hermosa was making the trip decidedly unfun. This made strolling through the shops of Redondo Beach’s Riviera Village inevitable, and I made a few absolutely necessary purchases. Only mildly annoyed when Mary paid for my new hat before I could even get it to the cash register.
All around Riviera Village the lamp-posts are decorated with thin steel “R’s” with palm trees laser-cut into them. Naturally I wondered how Floyd might pitch such a project to the City of Austin, but realized he would find making a great number of such things very tedious and boring. He would try to get me to do it. When I mentioned it to him he said simply that he doesn’t have a computerized laser cutter – merely the old-fashioned manually operated kind. This gave me hope, as Floyd likes nothing better than to need a great new piece of equipment to do a job. I just know a big letter “A” with a guitar cut into it is just what every downtown street is clamoring to have!
Anyway, these letters are hung from a horizontal post high up under the streetlight. On the other end of the post hangs the most wonderful thing: a big ball of succulents. If only I lived in a place that never freezes, I would hang globes of succulents and bromeliads everywhere.
As it is, in Austin we mostly have ball moss – a perfectly lovely little bromeliad that many people mistake for a parasitic plant. I myself only learned it was a bromeliad from a neighbor who asked for a particularly large specimen from our yard, telling me she likes to keep a bowl of them in her foyer.
Back at the house, other breakfast-table photo safaris yielded a couple of fun photos. Twice a day mobs of House’s Finches came by for breakfast. Mary’s fig tree was drooping with ripe figs this summer, so many and so heavy that they littered the ground each morning. I took dozens of shots catching the feathered marauders in the act, looking for all the world as if they held not a trace of remorse for their blatant thievery. I think next year we should make jam. Fig, I mean, not finch.
Of course the hummers were in and out, keeping both eyes on the kitties, darting from flower to flower in hummingbird manner then beating a hasty retreat to the wires overhead. A hummingbird who is kind enough to sit still for a few seconds is a friend indeed, at least for a very amateur photographer. One cloudy morning I captured an image of this wire-sitter, the sky a background of solid milky white.
Naturally it always turns out to be the case that vacations come to an end. I knew before I even departed Austin that I was going to have a hard time coming back; I always do. On our last evening Mary and I ended an afternoon of biking down at Cabrillo walking in the mild waves and watching wind-surfers fly into and away from the setting sun. I just had to feel that water one more time, and see Catalina off in the dimming distance. Little wonder I feel in no hurry at all to head back to the workaday world.