Friday, January 18, 2008

California Spring - Part I

The Pacific from Pacific Coast Highway a little north of Malibu -

With two much-needed downpours, one of which ironically happened while my friend, Barbara from Pennsylvania, was visiting sunny Cal in early December, southern California has again undergone one of its regular and occasionally traumatic transformations.

But this time it’s a benign one. Suddenly the land is green again, from LA’s Laurel Canyon with its verdant, almost lush greenery climbing the claustrophobic canyon walls, to the open oceanside burn area near Gaviota north of Santa Barbara that I frequently mention in this blog.

On New Year’s Day we took a drive down to the upper Malibu coast that is really just a short jaunt from Ventura and Oxnard (if you know how to avoid Oxnard). New Year’s Day was characterized by high, almost hurricane velocity winds that nearly blew you off the bluffs over looking the Pacific. They even transformed the ocean itself, driving whitecaps out to sea and creating huge undulant swells which moved out to the distant horizon instead of towards the shore. Blasting out of La Jolla canyon the winds were so strong that they created bursts of spray that also swirled out to sea like rushes of snow flurries, reminding me of the beneficent unity of earth, air, and water.

The brilliant clarity of the day emphasized the colors of the ocean that somehow have a different hue here than other stretches of the coast in this area. The Malibu ocean often reminds me of the vivid, shifting bluegreen tones of the Pacific around Big Sur, or even of the searing unreal blue of the Mediterranean itself.

On January 1st signs of spring were also already in evidence, in spite of the chill winds. The giant coreopsis, a hardy plant which looks like a frazzled dead tree stump most of the year, are already stirring to life with incredibly delicate fronds of fern-like green. Soon they will bear the sunny yellow clusters of flowers that will uniquely grace the craggy cliffs and bluffs of this section of the coast and complement the smaller vivid off-reds of the Indian paint brush flowers, both here and on the beautiful Channel Islands, an archipelago that stretches from the Ventura coast to the Santa Barbara channel.
Then the coreopsis will dry out again in the dry summer heat and stand dormant, patiently and unobtrusively awaiting another hopefully wet and reviving winter, the likes of which we, after a frightening dry spell, are fortunate enough to be experiencing again this January.
To be continued……

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