Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Santa Cruz

Today I have been to Santa Cruz.

What a wonderful place, but then California seems to have a lot of wonderful places.  More than its fair share one might say (particularly if one doesn't live in the state and is suffering recurring bouts of envy).

Otters were playing, just close to the shore - barrel rolling and turning somersaults in the water, sticking their paws up and generally looking as happy as could be.

A sea lion was watching all the goings on from his throne, a prominent rock poking up through the sea.  Seals were lying on the beams under the pier and barking at each other.  There were humans too, sitting astride surf boards waiting to catch the next, green glimmering roller.  There was a back drop of mountains and yachts -white sails billowing in the wind - criss crossing in front.

The walk to the beach was bordered with exotic flowering succulents, which cascaded down the rocks towards the sand.  Large yellow and pink blooms growing like you might expect dandelions to in Britain, casually just appearing, like it was no bother at all.

The sand was golden, fine grained and warm underfoot.  It was very obliging sand, moving spontaneously as you laid upon it to make you as comfortable as possible.

Kind sand.

With eyes closed, you were left with just the sound of the ocean breathing.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Just Popping to the Shops - I might be gone some time......

One of the things I hadn't really taken into account on arrival here was that I can't just pop across to the shop when I run out of something.  At home, the 'store' was two minutes walk away, and a flat walk at that.  I didn't have to think ahead to make sure I didn't run out of milk for my tea, or bread to go under the marmalade.  Here, the nearest store is one mile away, and down a near vertical slope.  For those of you familiar with the Lake District, it is akin to a mile of the Kirkstone Pass between me and my chocolate.

This is of some concern.

Not to be outdone, today I prepared my rucksack, a bottle of water and some comfy shoes and set off.  On arriving at the store, I realised it is an interesting discipline, shopping by weight.  As I added each item into my basket, I was thinking, do I really need a heavy tin of tomatoes?  Do I really need another jar of jam?  The pasta twirls seemed quite a bit lighter than the spaghetti and I definitely didn't fancy any potatoes or (and this rather sadly) any watermelon.

I filled up my rucksack and started up the North Face of the Eiger.  I wondered about the thinness of the air as I ascended, (but realised this couldn't be an issue as the kettle takes an age to boil).  I wondered whether the Yeti had been seen lately, but decided it was too warm and he would have melted.  I wondered who I would eat when rations ran out, but remembered I had sufficient supplies on my back, which meant I wouldn't have to take a chomp out of my own arm.

It actually only took 30 mins to get back to the snugness of my apartment.  I had just enough energy left to shrug the shopping onto the counter and roll onto the settee, kicking my shoes off as I did so.

A bit later, I decided that due to all the exercise, I was in danger of experiencing a calorie deficit, so enjoyed opening the fridge and deciding which of my hard won treats was going first.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Little Weed?

The more I learn about redwood trees, the more astonishing they become.  The bark is fire-proof, so some trunks are burnt out in the middle, with just the bark shell remaining.  This gets covered in soft moss and looks rather beautiful.

Also, when a tree is brought down, more shoot up from the stump.  They remind me a bit of celery stalks, but with the middle cut out first.  It seems like they are really just the biggest weeds on the planet.  It might be lucky that they only grow in quite particular conditions, otherwise 'The Day of the Triffids' would have to be rewritten.

When you think about it, any tree that can get to around 2000 years old must have quite special survival techniques.

The area of California I find myself in used to be part of the Gold Rush, so I walk quite hopefully along the streams, watching for any particularly bright, glimmering pebbles - although I suspect the real treasure here takes a non-tangible form.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Finding the Keys

It's hard to put into words how beautiful this forest is.  You step into it and it almost feels other worldly.  I heard a quote that says the English build cathedrals, the Americans grow them, which seems about right from what I can see here.

I have been for a walk to a waterfall, criss-crossing the stream.  I have seen the light mist illuminated by the afternoon sunlight slipping between the trees. I have watched the deer standing on their hind legs to munch the lower branches of the fruit trees on the lawn.

I also found the grand piano in the building next to my apartment.  It was wonderful to unpack my music and to start playing, something that has been neglected for too long.  To start with my effort was rather dismal, but after a while something happened, and I was engaging with the music in a way I haven't done for some time.  Having a large room to myself, I started to throw off my inhibitions and sing along, or simply to sing in the missing notes when my fingers missed, and occasionally to shout out in frustration.  It was fun.

I have been to the store to buy a cell phone, and seen lots of those American trucks with the big bonnets (oops, hoods).  I still get a thrill from the mail boxes on sticks and the hydrants, although it has to be said that the UK postal system is superior in being able to put letters actually through our front doors.

It has been sobering to hear a couple of discussions about the problems of paying for health care.  We must treasure our NHS.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

California Dreaming

After months of planning and preparation and a few last minute hitches (why did the washing machine decide to spring a leak the day I was moving out?) I have finally arrived in California at the start of my career break.

I have swapped the concrete suburbs of London for the peace and tranquility of a redwood forest.

It was a good decision.

I have been shedding layers of stress and each stride taken on sun dappled soil feels more springy as a result.  The majestic redwoods compel your eye to travel up the long, straight trunks to the canopy, swaying gently in the breeze.

Mesmerising oscillation.

While lying on a bench, looking up and admiring the magnificent trees, I started thinking they were like my friends grouped around me, with hidden roots intermingling and helping each other stand upright.

That's what happens.

An improved lightness of being lets your mind start doing what it does best.