A Winter Visit


Very difficult to know where to begin with my recent visit to my girl Mary’s house. So I thought I’d start here: the amazing artist Julie Bender. I hope she won’t mind.

I hadn’t been to San Pedro since that time I tripped on a curb broke my wrist in a couple of places and needed surgery. In the interim, Julie Bender and her assistants have been hard at work rendering a couple hundred feet of concrete wall an astonishing work of art.

Immense and somehow at the same time deeply personal, the mosaic pays tribute to the history of this port town. There are boats


and of course mermaids


and a great number of tiles personalized by individuals and families from all over town.


There are landmarks


and tiny tidbits of history and civic pride.


If we’re so big on building walls, this is the only kind that would get my vote. When a Facebook friend, ready to send all those billions to erect walls like these rather than the vicious kind asked what would be on the other side, I thought it would be nice if both sides were decorated.

We would decorate their side, and they would decorate ours


and then we would all read what everyone had to say.

Just wait till I’m elected Queen of the Universe.

I haven’t been to California in winter since my internship thirty years ago. It was good to be back. I’d almost forgotten how excitable winter tides can be


especially when there is weather. Here’s a rare sight along Paseo Del Mar:


And that’s no marine layer. I kept watching the blue-grey parts for lightning, but on this day the rain missed us. It didn’t miss us on most of the other days, tho.


No matter. We managed to take care of some house chores (right before we started making bracelets and necklaces with beads, and knitting kitchen scrubbers, and emptying closets and creating a new unholy level of chaos) and stole relatively drier moments to appreciate the flowers. Jade plants in bloom, for instance.


Or just an assortment of flowers that reminded me how in a Texas winter I miss flowers.

When I first started trying to learn to paint in acrylic, I swore I would not give up until I could paint translucence. No luck so far, but I did try to shoot some reference photos.


We did a reasonable amount of cooking, considering it was vacation. One great success was 101 Cookbook’s white bean soup with pesto herb dumplings.


This was a very good idea because Mary’s house doesn’t really have heat, since old-school Californians don’t really believe in seasons. I carried a little space heater with me from room to room and slept with a heating pad. Now I love a cold sleeping space, and I love my bed at Mary’s as much as it is possible to love an earthly space. But I had to hang a wool blanket on the wall beside me, as old-school California builders didn’t much believe in insulation, either.

No matter. I had Jane Austen and a heating pad.


We spent a lot of time down at White Point this trip, where on a few days we could see Catalina floating in the distance.


On this day we encountered a true heroine.

Humans being humans, some charmers had abandoned their cats down here years ago, apparently believing they could fish and make a very good living for themselves.

Today there are only three kitties left, thanks to the efforts of the woman who for the past fifteen years has fed them, trapped them, had them spayed and neutered. She told us that not too long ago one of the males wasn’t looking well. He allowed her to carry him to her car. She brought him to the vet and held him as he was put to sleep, ending his suffering with the cancer that was causing him slow starvation.

Of course we gave her a little money, a microscopic drop in what she has given over the years.

The hawks, on the other hand, seem to make a very good living indeed. I have never seen so many hawks in such close quarters.


I don’t often wish I’d packed something for a trip, but I chided myself for coming out this time without a camera. Just goes to show, over-packing is always the way to go especially when two bags fly free (love you, Southwest!).

In an unusual move, Mary and I stayed up long enough to catch the sunset on a day when the air was sprayed from an atomizer.


Most days, there was no sun. No sun at all. But as you know, even rainy weather cannot diminish the beauty of a seascape.


On my last full day we headed again to White Point, to see how the cliffs were holding up. This is a matter of some interest when this part of the country experiences unusual rainfall.


As we started down the steep driveway to sea level, we saw that some chunks of the cliff face had lost their hold.


As I lacked the classic “banana for scale,” you’ll just have to trust me that the foreground rock was a cube about twelve inches on a side. Who doesn’t love a hike in a falling rock zone?

At the bottom, just to the right of that photo above that shows the swirling cliff geology, a highly unusual waterfall seemed to make it very much worth the risk. This is easy to say, as we were not obliterated on the walk back up.


Back at the house, I caught some color in one of the teacups that reminded me why I love to go rummaging through Mary’s house so much. We’re never altogether sure about what we’ll find.


As always, I can hardly wait to go back.


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