Pacific in Pacific Grove

Seaside paintbrush

Counting my dear sons’ wives, which I very thankfully do, I now have five daughters. It’s sad to think how I spent several years complaining that I didn’t birth more children; during that time I never anticipated the familial wealth that in-laws can bring.

Point Lobos

In an effort to enjoy our family friendships we women spent a few months planning our first mother-daughter holiday. When continents stretch between, the grandchildren have pressing needs, and the young women pressing schedules, so it’s a tribute to our devotion that we even tried. In the end, only half of us, two daughters and I, were able to get together recently, on California’s Central Coast.

Seaside daisy

Pacific Grove was our home base. Every morning I woke with the feel of long-ago visits to my Aunt Margaret, whom I knew mostly in my teens. She lived in Carmel in a cream-colored house with white carpets, under a sky that was often white with fog or overcast, and the mood was so quiet. The sort of quiet that is filled with the sound of surf and the cry of sea gulls.

Our gathering of last week was a quiet group, too, in spite of our much talking, which I imagine was still on the low end of charts that might be made of all-women excursions, as we often stood in silent wonderment over our surroundings.

In our Keen boots — really, no one one had coordinated our foot attire, contrary to all appearances — we walked a lot, up and down the hills of Pacific Grove and Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. And we looked at flowers and trees and birds and tried to identify them all.

Flower is California hedge nettle
ceanothus in Pacific Grove

On Point Lobos especially the sweet smell of ceanothus blooms was filling the air, along with the buzzing of bees who were crazy over it. We liked the challenge of photographing busy bees. They liked how the pollen was offering itself to them on vast fields of stamens.

Carrying great loads of pollen
Protea behind Cannery Row
Lucky for us that Mrs. Bread showed us a Protea in her garden our first afternoon, so that we could guess their identities when we kept seeing them everywhere from then on. The genus includes a huge variety of forms that are really striking. I came home to find that our bottlebrush tree is not a Protea, however. Proteas seem to have come originally from the southern hemisphere, but they definitely like growing on this patch of the globe.

Behind Cannery Row murals have been painted along the bike path, evoking the culture and history that John Steinbeck depicted in his books. I liked browsing this lane better than the touristy shops which carry, as Joy pointed out, all the same stuff from China that touristy shops all over the nation carry.

Oh, except maybe the otter dolls. I was expending so much mental energy drumming up buyer’s resistance that I didn’t even think about how I could have taken a picture of one. There were three stuffed toy versions of the captivating creatures that we watched lolling and playing in Monterey Bay, and I can’t find one online that is as cute, to post here.

fava plant in bloom
While in Monterey it was quite fun to revisit the Cooper-Molera House so soon after our last visit, but long enough that the plants were further along in spring, as this fava bean plant with its black-and-white blossoms. There were even little bean pods forming lower on the plant.
Another Protea
Pacific Grove is called Butterfly Town, because of the Monarch butterflies that migrate there every year. I’ve long had a vicarious and romantic attachment to the place thanks to the book by Leo Politi, and now it has become a direct relationship with the same feelings.
Updated adobe cottage in Pacific Grove

The weather we experienced was surprisingly mild in spite of frequent short showers of drizzle or light rain — but I might find it difficult to stay long where the sun doesn’t show itself often enough to keep the spirits up.

Flowers seem to glow more vividly under grey skies, though, and that makes up for the drear a little bit. People paint their houses in cheerful colors. And peace and quiet count for a lot.

The Pacific Ocean is not always peaceful, but it was fairly calm this week. The tsunami from Japan didn’t make a big wave here. You can’t see them, but two otters are playing in this picture. And peace and serenity and love were all playing some quiet music in our hearts.

15 thoughts on “Pacific in Pacific Grove

  1. Thank you for the reminder that in-laws add children, too. I am still quite broken inside over not being able to have more children. I never thought to be comforted by their future spouses!

    I am glad you had such a wonderful trip, GJ. 🙂


  2. It's really nice when your family is huge…when I married my husband my family tripled! There's always someone with a birthday…and lots of people wanting to spend the holidays with us or invitations…
    I LOVE that photo of you and your Keens. I still haven't gotten myself a pair and really want to…


  3. such lovely photos and it sounds like a wonderful time. I have also thought about how in about 10 years I could have 12 children (and without morning sickness too! LOL).


  4. What beauty. I loved looking at the variety of blooming plants you have now. What a gift to have an all-girls gathering with your daughters-in-love.

    Blessed are you.


  5. What a wonderful trip you all had! That's such a beautiful place. Makes me want to jump on a plane and go! Have you ever visited Robinson & Ona Jeffers home in Carmel? It's fascinating.


  6. This is a lovely post, not the least of which you were in my hometown. In the past few years it has been nearly impossible to organize group get togethers with my high school friends or female cousins. Sometimes, I think the quick electronic “contact” makes us feel like we've already caught up in a meaningful way.

    You asked me for some ID help the other day. I've made my best guesses: first pic = Castilleja latifolia (seaside paintbrush), not your usual C. affinis; third pic w/ bumble bee = Erigeron glaucus (seaside daisy); fifth pic = Stachys bullata (CA hedge nettle) and unknown. At first I thought your unknown was fennel, but I spotted something like it on the Rec Trail and have no idea what it is.

    If you like Protea, UC Santa Cruz has an incredible Australian display of Protea and Banksia:


  7. Wow! What beautiful scenes! I've never been to California, and mostly my images are of crowded freeways and heavily-populated beaches. But your California is so different–it seems like a paradise, at least in pictures.



  8. Gigi, I haven't visited the Jeffers' home, but now you've caused me to add that to the to-do list for next time. Thank you!

    Thanks to Katie, I updated the labels for the flower photos.

    Frances, next time you come to California let's go exploring!


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