Tag Archives: beach

San Diego flowers and freeways.

It’s been a week since I departed on my trip, which took me first to my childhood home and family that I wrote about in my last post. After a very full day there, I drove to the San Diego Airport, where I fetched Annie. She and I spent the night slightly inland, where the most temperate marine breezes blew through the windows that our hosts like to leave open as much as possible. We were wined and dined along with other guests including their daughter whose birthday it was. We slept like logs.

San Diego freeways had a good reputation in my mind, even before I drove them a bit six years ago with my husband. When I’m whipping along where frequently there are four to six lanes — sometimes seven! — in each direction, and merging and exiting and noticing other freeways crossing above and below, it seems that much of the land must be covered with them by now. But no, it’s a large county, and there is lots of the sunniest part of California territory still left to walk on, closer to the earth and at a more human and humane pace.

Our first full day we drove to my cousins’ place in Vista, even more inland and at least ten degrees hotter. I first saw their property six years ago with my late husband, and was looking forward to the tour that Joe might give us again of all the self-started trees that he calls “bird drops,” and the succulents and cacti that thrive in that climate, like the tree-climbing cactus above that found a post supportive enough.

By late Friday afternoon Annie and I had made a big loop-de-loop, stopping by her great-great grandparents’ graves that I had last visited in 2015, and we ended up at the condo where most of the groom’s (my daughter Pearl’s) family from Washington and Wisconsin were staying. We joined a group weighted strongly to the young: five or six of my grandchildren and their significant others between the ages of 17 and 24. Toddler Lora, my great-granddaughter, was the youngest in the group. I slept in another Airbnb close by — with plumeria near the front door — and hung out with them a lot as we got ready in various ways for the wedding that was Sunday.

That first evening in Encinitas the boys had groomsmen events, and the females gravitated to the beach, which we got to by jaywalking across a busy street, picking our way over the railroad tracks, down through a gate…  then a run across four lanes of the coast highway and on to the path descending to the rocky shore. Dozens of surfers were silhouetted against the setting sun. I was the only one of our group who kept farther back from the edge while I took my views and pictures; the others all had fun getting drenched to some degree by the surf breaking right there. The next morning boys and girls alike were out early to surf and swim.

That was the day that I went south again to meet in person for the first time two long-loved blogging friends. Emily’s large family will soon be moved from Coronado where she has been cultivating a beautiful garden for several years. It was one son’s birthday at her house, too, but no one seemed to think it strange to have a strange grandmother drop in. Emily sent me off with bags full of starts of many of the succulents that grow enthusiastically all around the house and pool. It was delightful and really heartwarming to meet in person six of the family who were just as happy and gracious in the flesh as they appear in the tales and pictures I’ve been enjoying for so long.

Sara lives about a half hour mostly east of Emily, on a hill with a wide view, and the perfect patio and small waterwise garden in which to sit and take it all in; huge jacaranda blooms show in the tops of the trees from their steep hillside below. But first, we went to lunch, and she took me to the water conservation garden nearby. I had inconveniently come in the hottest part of the afternoon, but we wore our sun hats and strolled in a very leisurely way among the paths.

The garden has been there long enough for the Australian trees to grow to great heights. There was a butterfly garden/cage where evidently those creatures weren’t bothered by the heat. I took so many pictures! My heart was overflowing with flowers and plants way too many to process or learn much about, but because I was discovering them in the company of my friend I was content to let them remain a somewhat anonymous backdrop to our time together.

I had wanted to sit for a spell on her own patio, too, which we did, and I got to chat a little with her very kind husband. Sara gave me gifts of printed prayers like this beautifully illustrated one:

After I said good-bye at their door, on my way to my car, it was then that I spied this gardenia, a rare encounter for me, and it immediately seemed the perfect emblem of Sara and her blogger’s voice that is such a refreshingly sweet and reserved one in this noisy world, saying, “Here is beauty: look!”

My grandson Pat got married the next afternoon! His whole family was handsome, and we sang all the verses of “Be Thou My Vision” during the ceremony. The choice of that hymn tells you a lot about the bride and groom. May God bless them!

The day after the wedding was our last day of San Diego freeways, at least for a while. I was driving on them for about three hours before we got out of the county and on our way to my mountain cabin. Daughter Pearl rode with me, which made the day pass very pleasantly, in spite of it consisting mostly of driving, at least half of it on freeways, for twelve hours. But as I write, I am in recovery, and composing the report on this next portion of my outing, the vacation part! First installment coming soon: Summer in the High Sierra…

A story of creamcups and scouring pads.

The washcloth and the scouring pad were right there, and plenty of (salt) water, for cleaning up, but my grandson Scout and I didn’t need them for that, as our recent snacks had been eaten out of hand. We were at the third beach of that morning, earlier this week when he was down here by himself visiting all his grandparents.

Scouring Pad Alga

On the way we had traveled over “Wildflower Hill,” as I’d named it two weeks ago. Most of the April flowers had faded, but foxgloves were in bloom!

Our first stop at the coast was at my most frequently walked beach, where we spent the most time and effort around the adjoining lagoon, and climbing up and down the dunes.

Beach Wormwood

Our family and other homeschoolers used to play here 20 and 30 years ago. I found a few pictures showing us back then, when Kate was an infant:

Scout wanted to see the beaches that he’d gotten to know last summer, so next we went to one of those, where we noted the layers of different colors of sand, and the color of the ocean.

Yellow Sand Verbena

It was chilly and breezy, so we were glad to have our windbreakers. He was swimming in his borrowed jacket (but not in the ocean!), and I was squeezed into mine that I’ve outgrown, but they worked fine.

Creamcups

California Goldfields

At the last beach, after our snack, Scout wanted to explore “on the other side of those rocks,” and he soon came back to tell me it was urgent that I come, too, and see the tidepools.

I was so surprised. All the times I’ve been on that beach, and I never knew… It was the most interesting collection of creatures I’d ever seen in tidepools. And all around, new plants as well. Thousands of mussels grew crammed together on the rocks.

California Mussels
limpets
Gooseneck Barnacles
Lots of Feather Boa Kelp still rooted to its rocks.
Giant Green Anemones hiding in sand.
Turkish Washcloth
Black Pine Seaweed
Rockweed

Besides the plants and animals whose names I’ve mentioned in captions here, we also saw Black Oystercatchers, Bee Plant, Dogwinkles, Sea Thrift and Silverweed. These many evocative names began to swim in my brain and tried to form themselves into a fantastical story… but in the end all I could extract was the vision of me at the sink with those seaweed dishwashing tools, the Turkish Washcloth and the Scouring Pad Alga. We picked off the real live leaves of various kelps to bring home; I’ve yet to make soup out of it.


It was quite a stimulating day. Scout and I shared the feeling that our minds were buzzing, our hearts full with the excitement of such life and beauty lying quietly under a few inches of water or briefly exposed, shining with the glory of God. He’s already planning his next visit to this spot, and how his mother must join us to share the joy. Sounds good to me!

More wildflowers than beach.

Wild iris

When I drove up the last hill on my way to the coast this week, I found that in the last week thousands of wildflowers had bloomed along the roadsides.

As there is little traffic on that particular road, I took my time and drove slowly, looking not only for the spots of color but also for wide spots where I could pull over. Several times I had to hike back a ways to where I’d caught the glimpse. This went on for about an hour, after which I ran out of hill, and made my way down the last slope to the beach, where I saw still more new flowers since my last visit.

Sword ferns with detail below.

There was lots of cow parsnip with manroot crawling all over it, and swaths of yellow capeweed. I saw potentilla, Mules-ears and buttercups. This trifolium dubium below is called Suckling Clover and other common names I’ve never heard of. The flowers are darling, and barely a centimeter across. It’s said to be the traditional Irish shamrock. Unfortunately I didn’t read that until just now, and I didn’t get a good picture of its leaves.

Another wildflower I identified for the first time was the Shepherd’s-needle:

When I pulled into the lot where I most often park, it was empty. Maybe because schools in our area are back in-person, and parents are no longer free to bring the kids to the beach on weekdays. (That’s my car.)

Or maybe because people knew enough to stay away — the wind was up! It was so brisk and blowy, I didn’t walk in the waves but on the dry part of the beach, and found myself headed behind the dunes where I could get them between me and  the worst wind.

I sat with my back against the dune and my feet in the hot sand. This was my view of the lagoon:

It was a perfect reading spot, until the wind shifted and started blowing from my side! That signaled the end of my beach stay, but I sat longer in my car on the bluffs above, to get some more reading time in before my mini-retreat would be over. It had been an unusually dry outing, but oh so satisfyingly full of flowers!

Hot sand, then fog.

Today’s beach trip kept getting put off, until by the time I got out to the coast it was already afternoon. These flowers had opened sometime in the last week; I don’t remember ever seeing them on the California coast before. The daisy flower looks like something that might have escaped a back yard, but the plant as a whole definitely does not.

However, the Seek app tells me it is redpurple ragwort, Sinecio elegans, which is in the aster family: “Native to southern Africa, it is cultivated as an ornamental plant… It has been known to escape cultivation and become naturalized in areas of appropriate climate.” I guess that’s why it doesn’t look like a typical Pacific coastal plant.

The sand was surprisingly hot on my bare feet at first, a new thing after many months of fall and winter. But then the fog, which had been thin and drifting away, changed its mind, thickened up, and cooled everything off. I didn’t walk fast today, and I didn’t walk in the ruffles at the edge. I sat on a stump to read, behind the labyrinth, with this view:

Then I walked on up the beach a ways and sat to read a little more.

I saw this new sign, “Sensitive Wildlife Area: Do Not Enter,” one of many posted along the rope that surrounds an area not twice as large as what you can see in this picture. The dunes are of course always in flux from the changing winds. It seems odd to guard a relatively tiny spot, and also not to say what agency is forbidding the children to play there. [See more about this in the comments.]

In the car today I finished listening to The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, which I also read last year sometime. It is one of my favorite books. When I got home I read a lot of The Eucharist, and created a recipe for vegan tapioca pudding using leftover ginger pulp, agave nectar, two sizes of tapioca pearls and mostly almond milk, with a bit of coconut milk, too. It was good!

Mondays seem to be a good day to go somewhere to be alone and quiet, and not try to accomplish too much. The high school class that I teach on Sunday afternoons will end soon and maybe my Sundays won’t be so brain-deadening, but for now, I’m glad for these Mondays and for the beach that is always there, and willing for me to participate in whatever it’s doing, if only by breathing.