February 21, 2014


Going about their business.  A typical day in Carlsbad.  A typical scene on the beach.  Saw two ground squirrels on the cliffs; we think we can identify their burrow entrances.  Several lizardy gecko creatures out sunning and suddenly zipping about.  The pelicans zooming not too far overhead in their formations, back and forth.  The sandpipers skittering, the gulls crying.  The surfers looking awkward or graceful.  The kids scampering and frolicking.  The sandcastles melting in the waves.  The stones and shells in abundance.

We tried to estimate how many stones there are on our stretch of beach.  Millions.  Maybe billions.  There were over 100 in a square foot, and there are lots of areas — yards and yards and yards — where there are piles, heaps, waves of stones,  a foot or more deep.  Carlsbad has seven miles of beach.  Unimaginable numbers of stones.  Then multiply by trillions for grains of sand.  All beautiful!  We are so fortunate.

February 20, 2014

More wave drawings
More wave drawings

As I think about where my art journey will go next, I marvel at the variety of marks I see on the beach.  This looks a bit like frosting, swirled with a wide spatula, spread in celebration and invention.

So how can my work celebrate life?  How can it define a moment or an emotion or a glimpse of something otherwise hidden?  How can it be true and authentic, yet not loudly selfish?  What shall it look like, how shall it feel to the touch, what could it present to the eye and mind, how shall I make it?

Making gives life meaning for me.  Making, transforming, presenting.  Preparing food is so direct and immediate; making art is so abstract (even “representational” art is abstract: the painting is not the object as Magritte so dryly told us!)  We are having a party at our home this weekend.  That will be collaborative performance art, guests included.  The ocean makes art every moment of every day.  Does it know its own destiny?


February 19, 2014

I didn’t go to the beach today.  I volunteered at the textile museum, then we went to Balboa Park, then to dinner with friends, then to the photography club critique meeting.

Several lovely things happened.  Perhaps some compensation for missing my beach walk?

When I arrived at the museum, the director told me that one of the artists (in the group I’m showing with) was giving a talk in the gallery to her students, and that I should go in and talk to them about my piece.  I did, waiting at the back until the teacher noticed me and invited me to speak.  That was really nice — of both the director and the teacher.  It is so seldom artists get to talk about their work and so satisfying to do so!

Later, on the way to the meeting, we stopped at the Natural History museum to ask if there were somewhere open to get a hot drink.  The head of volunteers heard us asking, and invited us to make coffee in the volunteers’ break room.  She showed us the coffee pot, got out the coffee and also the half-and-half from the fridge, pointed to the cups, and left us to it.  Now, we don’t even belong to the Natural History museum.  I had never been inside it.  I was charmed by her friendly generosity.  Who says Californians aren’t friendly?  I left a thank-you note on her whiteboard.

A wonderful day.  And I can’t wait to go to the beach tomorrow.

February 18, 2014

Potato Stone
Potato Stone

So doesn’t it look like an Idaho?  A skinny one, perhaps, but still.  The stones on and near the beach continue to amaze me with their variety and beauty.  And some of them are just weird.

The most gorgeous thing today was the formation of 22 (!) pelicans flying in various configurations.  First they were in a straight line; then they broke into a V; then they dipped and circled; then they re-formed their straight line.  22 of them!  They were intercepted, nearly, by a group of three.  That’s unusual.  They seem almost always to fly in even numbers.  Was the fourth one asleep?  Eating?  Ill?  Guarding the nest?  In “time out?!”  I did notice, though, that they took turns flapping their wings: first the lead bird flapped and then resumed soaring/floating; then the second one; then the third one.  Is it a rule?  Do they discuss it first?  I’ve never seen them switch places, but do they?  Do they vote?

It’s hard to decide where to look while I walk: up at the sky and birds, down at the rocks and kelp and shells,  out at the water and waves, or back toward the cliffs.  So I do all four, in turn.  I was mesmerized by the pelicans, so I did not take their photo.  That’s ok.

February 17,2014

Just the right light
Just the right light

I keep thinking I won’t have any “new” or “interesting” photos for this blog.  And then this turns up.  It’s the foam.  But I’ve never seen it look like this before.  (I don’t modify these photos, by the way, except an occasional crop.)  The light was making these bubbles reflect these colors — from where, I don’t know.  Jewels.  It wasn’t sunset; it was mid-afternoon.  There was no rainbow.  It was mostly cloudy and windy enough and bigger surf than usual.

The surf was “tall” enough that it  hid the horizon, at least from the vantage point of the beach.  I wanted to use one of those photos, too, because the white waves nearly met the white sky and presented a plane of varying whites down to the flat of the blue-gray water ahead of the waves.  If you follow that?  OK, here’s another photo:

White sea-sky
White sea-sky

An added bonus was seeing our next-door neighbors sitting on the beach.  It’s Presidents’ Day and there were more people than usual out even though it was gray and cool and windy.  We went back to get warmer jackets and hats after just a few steps down the block; as soon as we faced the water, the wind picked up.  I love it. Obviously.

February 16, 2014

Another wave drawing
Another wave drawing

There are gull tracks, and then there’s this…well, whatever it is…in the shape of a strange bird.   Two avian references.  The seaweed arranges itself so beautifully that it is hard to remember that it is random.

We spent a long time on the beach today, walking and looking and taking pictures, and the sun set with the teensiest of green flashes, and then it got so chilly that my ears hurt.  Ear muffs?

It smelled wonderfully fresh today.  There is no way to convey that clean and salty and sweet briny crispness with words or photos.  I can’t attach a scent vial to this post.  Maybe someday (replicators, anyone?!)

A 7-year-old boy with brilliant orange hair (giving me another moment of hair envy) explained to me that a mud pie looked solid but was really liquid.  A non-Newtonian liquid, I told him, likening it to ketchup.  Hm…quite something for a non-scientist to try to explain to a second-grader.  But he was loving the beach for sure, his joy bursting from him in non-stop chatter and movement!

February 15, 2014

I wasn’t in town,  I wasn’t walking on the beach, I wasn’t seeing my ocean, except for snatches framed by the Golden Gate Bridge.  I did see botanical gardens, and they were lovely.  But this is an ocean blog.  So here is today’s ocean photo:


So, what is it?  A fractional part of something, a kelp root, quite desiccated?  It is so very fibrous, like a knob of ginger stuffed with dried noodles, twisted and scarred and tough and delicate.  I think it is stunningly gorgeous.  It is perhaps eight inches long, and it also resembles a branch with growth rings on the outside, and little freckles and hairs.

This was apparently washed up, drying at low tide, tangled into the mounds of stones near the cliff edges.  Or was it fallen, a part of some other root structure from above?

I belong to a textile/fiber group of artists.  Three of them make basket-like sculptures.  This twisted structure would be a great inspiration to them, I should think.  Nature leads the way.



February 9, 2014

Kelp glow
Kelp glow

The light just before sunset is so soft and clear.  This kelp with its wave drawings draws me in.  Yes.

The sky was glorious tonight too but this kelp stole the show.  It is a winner in the shore olympics today.

I won’t be walking on the beach the next few days.  Don’t know how that will feel.  Don’t know if I will write here.  And don’t know how that will feel either.  I’m almost afraid.  These rhythms have become my rhythms.  Will I be able to take them with me?  And if I can’t?  Am I in some non-place, some non-space?  Out of time?  Without time?  What would be within time?  Enough!

February 8, 2014

The desert meets the sea
The desert meets the sea

We went to the Meditation Garden today.  It is one of my favorite places in the area.  It is cultivated, it is planned, it is gorgeous, it is natural, it is unnatural.  The desert meets the sea; our hands meet the earth.  There must be hundreds of kinds of plants, from ferns to cactus to daisies to pines.  There are carp and mini-waterfalls, benches and paths.  There are steps and gravel, sun and shade.  There are people meditating (some seem a bit self-conscious), drawing, reading, photographing, and, yes, chatting a bit too loudly and exuberantly, but that’s ok with me.  There are security guards (weird) and old people and young people and lovers and tourists and students.  All lovely.

We walked on the beach, too, and saw the skitterers and a godwit.  My phone camera isn’t good enough to take a really clear picture of them, though.  We collected more amazing stones, focussing on those with interesting inclusions.  The inclusions seem like poetry inserted into prose.  They are a surprise, and exclamation point, perhaps even a chuckle.  How did they get there?  What process did they interrupt, and for how long?  I wish I remembered more of the geology I studied 47 years ago!

We sat out on the patio for coffee and pastry this afternoon.  The sun was warmer than it has been for days.  We soaked it up.  All good.

February 7, 2014

Impossible tree
Impossible tree

Although I walked on the beach today, this photo from the Safari Park yesterday kept beckoning me.  I loved this unlikely tree and here it is for you.  It may be a type of acacia.

The beach was narrow today at high tide.  After yesterday’s rain, the skies were clear and the horizon distinct — until sunset.  Suddenly, clouds seemed to appear and obscure the sun’s descent.  It was crispy cool but fairly still, so the sun and our walk warmed us into removing our jackets.  The sun is setting closer and closer to the time I want to be preparing dinner.  I’ll have to get things ready ahead or push dinner later.  I don’t mind moving our rituals and mealtimes; accommodating our walks and adjusting our schedules is one more way to stay connected to what is outside our walls.

February 6, 2014

White with foam
White with foam

I saw the ocean today, but didn’t walk on the beach.  I see the water and think about the water every day.  I had wanted to use this photo another day so here it is today.  I love the contrast of textures and colors.  I love that the foam is etherial and changing and will disappear.  It seems to be bathing the stones, as if it were soap bubbles.  The next wave may be the rinse cycle!

We went to the Safari Park.  We fed acacia leaves to the giraffes.  We saw gazelles and deer and rhinoceros and a camel and some wild horses and sheep and condors and owls and flamingos and…it was cold (=cool) and breezy and even drizzled on us.  Many of the animals we saw are endangered species.  Rhinos are hunted for their horns, which have been used medicinally for centuries.  Turns out they are the same substance as fingernails and hair, and have no proven healing components.  Sigh.

I wore a hat and scarf and gloves and a jacket and sweater and pulled on my turtleneck as an insulating layer for the second time since we moved here.  It felt like an adventure to be that cold.  Hah!  The midwest was in single digits with snow.  Our visitor escaped at just the right time, leaving a foot of new snow behind.  We all had a grand time.

It was our son’s 21st birthday, glorious day in so many ways.  It would have been wonderful to have shared this day with him.  He is there, we are here.  Perhaps he will come with us to feed acacia leaves to the giraffes next time.  He, too, will laugh with pleasure!

February 5, 2014

Human construct
Human construct

I’ve mostly focused on the waves and their effects, on the sky, the sand, the birds.  People leave their marks in many ways, too. Footprints, bicycle tracks, lifeguard vehicle tracks, marks from dragged sticks, sand castles, abandoned sand toys…and lovely small monuments like this one.  Simple and elegant.  The dramatic lighting just before sunset magnifies the edges, the textures, the colors.

We were with our friend and noticing the many colors of the pebbles, the smoothed shapes, the varied sizes, the inclusions, the spots, the ones half-buried in the sand, marveling at their age, their shininess when wet, their softer-looking matte surfaces when dry.

A pile of stones.  A small pile of stones.  A small mark, I was here.

February 4, 2014

Sun dog
Sun dog

This is the first time I’ve seen a sun dog.    It is to the left of the sun,  in the center left side of the photo.  Are the skies over the ocean different from all other skies?  (That sounds like a good Passover seder question!)  The ocean seems to magnify these spectacular skies as well as reflect them.  Maybe everything seems bigger at the ocean. I feel both bigger and smaller.  Bigger inside, smaller outside.  That’s a good thing.

So many days it’s hard to decide what photo to choose.  I keep wanting to include a photo of the foam-bubble patterns left by the receding waves.  I take many pictures of them.  Perhaps tomorrow.

February 3, 2014

I can’t decide which picture to use today.  I have one of gull prints to contrast with yesterday’s of sandpiper prints.  But the sky was glorious and so was the water.  I don’t want to flood this small blog with photos.  I don’t want to flood it with words.  I want it to be simple and quiet and calm.  OK.  So here are three photos and no more words.

The water is the sky is
The water is the sky is 
Someone painted in the clouds
Someone painted in the clouds
California gulls were here
California gulls were here


February 2, 2014

Bird traces
Bird traces

We went to the beach twice today, once just to look and once to walk and look.  There seemed to be more birds than ever, including a huge flock of sandpipers that were nestling into a long expanse of pebbles. Their shape and coloring were such that they almost seemed to be pebbles themselves.

The footprints are small — and delicate.  A single wave would probably erase them.  Their distribution is dense enough to imply a large group, possibly shuffling themselves around.  Jockeying for position?  Settling in?  These must be sandpiper prints; they are too small to belong to the gulls.  They seem embossed rather than embedded.  How?

February 1, 2014

Sea traces
Sea traces

New drawings today: lower left corner in the photo.  Swirls and curls, as if a strand of grass had been drawn through the sand, or a thread curled just under the surface.  Very fine and delicate; I had to enlarge the photo to make them visible.  I saw some yesterday, too, but didn’t photograph them.  Yesterday was about the light; today about the sand.  Today I was there before sunset.  Each time reveals its treasures.

And upper right of the stone, a musical note seems etched.  Have the dolphins been at play?  How desperately we want to believe, how yearningly we want to know.  I will despair if I ever tire of this!  There is an entire fable there in this small patch of sand, waiting to be constructed.  I wait for it.

January 31, 2014

Just after
Just after

Just after…just confirming that the moments after sunset are as spectacular as the event itself.  It was colder here than usual today and is expected to be so for the next week.  Somehow the gunmetal sheen of the water’s surface communicates that lack of warmth, and it contrasts with the golden layer of the lower clouds.  Even where the color is reflected in the shallow waters, it is dimmed and diminished in its intensity.

What little sun we had did not lend much warmth today and there was more wind than usual.  I covered my ears during our walk.  It is strange to have cold hands and sometimes even feet, and the wind often makes its way through the sleeves of my fleece jacket.  My core is always warm, though, so I feel that my body contains the same mix of warm and cool as does the sky!

We had little gusts of rain intermittently throughout the day, but not enough to even make puddles, never mind ease our drought conditions.  I’ve not experienced a full day of rain in the two and a half years we’ve been here.  I’ve never been awakened by a storm in the night.  After the extremes of midwestern weather, the rain seems exceptionally tame and miserly.   I don’t miss the storms, but the earth needs the moisture.  Let it pour!

January 30, 2014

Yesterday's Fog
Yesterday’s Fog

We didn’t walk on the beach today.  I feel bereft.  There was too much to do, I thought, and that really isn’t possible.  I don’t want to let that happen again.  My group art opening was this evening, and I referenced the beach in my installation, so I was at least there virtually.  Not the same.  My day is poorer.  Perhaps this is good.  I need to feel that loss deeply.  A small thing, missing a walk?  No.  Missing it is becoming meaningful in itself.

So here is what I missed:  two miles of walking.  An hour of fresh air with its scents of kelp, salt, and, later, eucalyptus.   An hour of looking carefully.  The feel of the sand.  The sound of the waves: the rush, the roar, the lapping, the receding,  the almost quiet moment of subsiding. The gulls and the godwits and the sandpipers. The wave drawings in the sand.  The stones, the scrub, the squirrels.  The climbing and resulting sore quads that tell me I’ve pushed myself just a little.  The loosening of other muscles, their warmth after an hour.  The pinked cheeks, the shedding of the jacket.  The shaking out of sand from sneakers before reentering the house.  The relaxed shoulders, the lighter step.


January 29, 2014

Forest sketch
Forest sketch


Gray skies and low tides again.  How moody the ocean is.  So I wonder,  what combination of pebbles and tiny shells and tiny indentations made the recession of the waves create this landscape of leafless trees?  Here is an enormous mass of water painting an expanse of burnt out forest.  Or so it seems.

We collected some beach pebbles today.  They erode away from the cliffs, having been captured there eons ago.  I gathered a green one, a purple one, an orange one, a gold one, a red one,  a white one, and a black one with white speckles.  I shall arrange them on a ledge at the edge of the patio and see what becomes of them.  I would like to be collected up like a pebble and rearranged.  We all need a lot of rearranging, don’t you think?

January 28, 2014

Softly skies
Soft skies

We went to the tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma today.   It was my favorite kind of day: cloudy, cool, and still.  The air was as soft as the skies. The grayness above made what we saw below  seem even more vivid.  Here is a view of some of the area:

2014-01-28 14.19.04

And below are other photos.  I think they are shy about words.  I will respect their feelings.

2014-01-28 14.57.00

2014-01-28 14.55.37

2014-01-28 14.53.05

2014-01-28 14.36.20

2014-01-28 14.33.53

January 27, 2014

X-marked stone
X-marked stone

The water leaves its marks in so many ways.  Here the grasses, perhaps blown from the cliff sides and tossed about,  were left by the waves’ recession in the midst of foam, to be deposited and centered so perfectly on the stone.  Look at the lovely glyph that the strands created!  The loop and the graceful curves — and the shadows .  How could we not have invented writing after seeing something like this?

Some of the other water marks change radically with the washing/erasing/writing actions of the next wave.  The beach is the same, but different, from moment to moment.  But then, is it?  Would I recognize “my” stretch of beach if I were shown photos of many beaches nearby?  Will the rock formations, the nature of the sand, the cliffs, the stairways, indeed, the lifeguard stations — will they imprint their uniqueness on me after a while?  How long might that take?

The gulls especially and often the skitterers (sandpipers, yes, that’s a poetic enough name, but…) seem to gather at just about the same spot day after day.  I wonder if their convention hall varies with the season, with the tides, with the human activities on the beach?   I wonder if they are there all day.  When do they arrive?  Do they sleep there?  And how do they choose their spot?  And recognize it?

This afternoon there were perhaps only a dozen people in sight on our two-mile stretch.  I wonder where the gulls will gather when the beach is more crowded in summer.

January 26, 2014

Purple Wig
Purple Wig

Amazing things turn up on the beach.  Puzzling things.  This algae is attached to this rock.  I don’t know what it is, either of them.  The rock itself beckons, with its face-suggesting indentations.  I love the purple hair.  Maybe I should get a wig like that.  Someday soon?!

We walked down to the beach with our neighbors and their friends.  They were going surfing.  I don’t think I’ll surf.  It seems like a lot of standing and waiting and just a little of riding the wave.  Snow skiing has a better ratio of doing to waiting.  And surfing in the winter seems a bit too chilly!

The friend is a coastal geologist and he confirmed that the pods on the kelp are air bladders, and keep the kelp upright.  They do pop with a satisfying crack when you step on them, but somehow I feel guilty stepping on them.   It’s a little like crunching leaves in autumn.  Is the kelp on the beach still alive?  Is it stranded and desperate?  It certainly seems bedraggled, abandoned, sad.  We walked mid-afternoon and it was very cloudy and yet it never really feels gloomy.  Maybe I just can’t feel gloomy at the beach.  No gloom at the beach, no gloom.  “Gloomy” sounds gloomy, yes?


January 25, 2014

Afternoon sun
Afternoon sun

It was stunningly beautiful at 3 pm.  We met a couple visiting from Salt Lake City.  She had lived in Minneapolis and Boston previously.  They were taking a long weekend here, staying just across the street from the development we so happily inhabit.  There it is, there it is!

Now I look at the skitterers and remind myself they are sandpipers, and at the long-beaked pecking bird and remember it’s a godwit.  What a lovely name.

We dodged the incoming tide today, and so did the birds.  Wet toes are worth it.  I wish I knew how to wrap up the peace of the beach and tuck it away inside me.  Nothing matters there, and everything matters, but nothing bothers.  How could it?  It is so just what it is and doesn’t even need consciousness.

We saw a pair of squirrels in the cliffs yesterday.  Do they know they live in an incredibly beautiful place?  How did they come to be there?  Ground squirrels are different from suburban tree squirrels, I guess, but what strange ground it is!  The dried and crenelated cliffs with their sparse covering of scrub, an occasional poppy, a stray daisy (seed blown from the manicured homes across the road, no doubt) and the ubiquitous California ice plant ground cover trying to take hold in the parched, steep ridges…this is home to squirrels?  Seems unfriendly if not downright hostile.  But there must be something to eat, or they wouldn’t be there.

There is so much for us, so we need to be here.

January 24, 2014

White drawing
White drawing

Discovery:  These water drawings, ocean drawings, wave drawings that have so fascinated me are not what they seem.  I thought the black sand was deposited on the lighter “white” sand as the waters receded.  Ah, figure/ground, positive/negative space, subject reversal: confusion abounds.  The black sand is under the white sand.  It is the white sand that is being drawn away, exposing the darker sand underneath.  If one scrapes away the lighter top layer…there is darker sand beneath!  I verified this by drawing a deep line in the sand with my finger.  Now, wouldn’t it be fun to dig a hole, then use a trowel to slice vertically down the side of the hole and see the layers, whatever layers there are?

We assume dark writing, drawing, mark-making on a light background — unless we are doing something as retro as using chalk on a blackboard.  Or unless we are the ocean, leaving our beautiful traces.  It is such a delightful thing that there are two major colors of sand. These traces might otherwise be undetectable, by us, at least.

I wish I could actually see it while it is happening.  Perhaps I will venture into the waves.


January 23, 2014

Sand tree
Sand tree

How does this happen, this exquisite detail, these fine drawings made by receding waters?  The elegance and clarity of the black deposits, their fractal nature, the repetition along a length of sand, the texture and depth — all amazing.

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of such drawings traced by the tides on these beaches, to be seen at any moment.  I’ve never seen them at the Maine or Cape Cod beaches I’ve been to — perhaps they are there but I hadn’t noticed?  Is it magnetic sand, the fine black stuff, or just darker powder eroded from the black stones?

These drawings form around the kelp, around stones, around shells, and, I’ve recently noticed, around footprints.  When there is something that interrupts the receding wave, it leaves its marks as if in protest or in exclamation.  The next wave to come may blur or intensify the pattern; I should check to see which is the case, or it could even be that it does both/either, depending.  Depending on what?

What would we do without the idea and the word “depending?”  Certainty is unsure, I’m sure.  Maybe?


January 22, 2014


Today is our daughter’s birthday and it aches to be far away.  I want her here, but she is happy there.  I wonder if I want to be there.  How difficult it is to live in this century of independence, not being close to the ones you love.  How difficult it is to live in this century of independence, so often not even acknowledging the constant missing.  How difficult it is to live in this century of independence, feeling the skies mirroring my mood.

It was gray and, some would say, gloomy, but I did not feel exactly gloomy.  I am happy that she is happy there, and I am happy that I am mostly happy here. Perhaps it is melancholy that I feel, for today being here lost its sunshine glow.  The deepest yearning I feel is for the happiness of my children.  I spoke on the phone with each of them today, but that is not holding them, not touching them, not looking into their eyes.  We can’t all want the same things, or we’d all be in the same place.  Time is so everything doesn’t happen all at once; space is so everything doesn’t happen all in the same place.  And still the feelings are overwhelming and universal.  Parents ache.

January 21, 2014

Green gem
Green gem

It was cloudy and gray and wonderfully atmospheric on the beach today from 4 to 5:30.  This rock looks like it could have been formed from sand in a pattern similar to what it is sitting next to.  Its green is glorious and unusual.  The cycles of time…

We were walking with friends who helped me find the names of some of the shore birds:  Pacific gull, sandpiper (the skitterers!), marbled godwit, and Heerman’s gull.  I do need a bird book!

My bird photos disappoint me.  They miss the essence of bird-ness.  There is something poignant about birds that makes me happy and sad at the same time.


January 20, 2014

Water drawing
Water drawing

Another walk during which I got a crick in my neck from looking down!

We rearranged our schedule to get to the beach by sunset.  Some days I seem to look more at the sand, others at the water, and still others at the sky.  There was fog today, too, but the photos I took didn’t do it justice.  The walks aren’t about photography for me, and the camera-phone doesn’t feel as intrusive and cumbersome as a good SLR camera would.  Sometimes, though, I hardly want to take even the simple phone photos, I just want to be there.

Will I get tired of these walks?  Will I get tired of the photos?  Will a pattern emerge from the sequence of photos?  Will I start researching what I see?  Do I want to “study” the water and the plants and the animals and the geography and the tides and the weather?  Is it about “studying?”  How curious am I?


January 19, 2014

Another glorious sunset
Another glorious sunset

I was aware of how eager I was to leave the party, even though that is so uncharacteristic of me.  We were even getting a house tour and I wanted to just go.  Why?  Because if we didn’t leave soon,  we might miss the sunset.  Curious, that wasn’t even on my radar six weeks ago.

You can see we got there on time.  Sunset isn’t a time, though; it’s a series, an expanse, of changes that you miss if you blink too often.  I’ve perhaps seen more sunsets in the last month than in the last several years, and what’s even more pertinent is that I’ve truly looked at them, truly seen them with more than a passing oh-that’s-pretty glance.

My friend said the temperature today in Kansas City was nearly what it was here.  The seasons…I don’t miss them.  The smaller changes…I’m trying to notice them.  I did really like autumn, especially the scents and the feel of the air, perhaps even more than the colors.  The crispness is invigorating.  The sharpness put a spring (pun intended) in my step.  Funny, spring slowed me down.  The expectation of summer’s heavy heat and humidity wasn’t…well, it just wasn’t happily received.  But fall was energizing.  Perhaps because fall meant school and I always loved school.

Maybe the ocean is like autumn all the time.


January 18, 2014

Sand art
Sand art

Sometimes the treasures on the beach are left by humans rather than by “nature.”   We are,  although we usually forget it, part of nature, so why do I say that?

It is Saturday, it was lovely and warm, and there were lots of people on the beach.  I’ve come to think of it as “my” beach and am a bit taken aback to see perhaps a hundred people scattered along the two-mile stretch that I walk.  More often there are only a dozen or two.  In summer I’m sure those numbers will multiply hugely.

My beach has no parking nearby, no parking lot.  This keeps it less populated.  There is a state campground that extends along this stretch, and one must pay for the privilege of setting up in the allotted spaces.  During this time of year, only part of the campground is open, further reducing the number of people on the beach.  There was an exercise class being conducted a ways down the beach, with perhaps thirty people participating.  That in itself was novel.

I was charmed to come across this piece of sand art.  I have no idea whether it was invented or is a common symbol.  The details and textures were inviting.  Thank you, someone.

January 17, 2014

Delicate trace
Delicate trace

Walking on the beach with friends for three miles.  Clear skies, sparkling waves, low tide creating deep expanses of sand, warm air, embracing sun.  It smells good.  It feels good.  It moves good.  It talks good, it listens good.  It is good.

I made lunch and we ate on our new table in our backyard.  Suburban utopian dreams?  Blessings.  Wild-caught salmon, salad, warm rolls, fruit.  Iced tea, fresh-squeezed lemonade.  I feel very alive, very vibrant, very much of use, when I prepare food for friends or family.

First blush at sunset
First blush at sunset

And then we went back again at sunset.

January 16, 2014


The sky was nearly cloudless today at 3 pm.  The few clouds that were visible were painted onto the intensely even, consistent backdrop, and hung fuzzily at the horizon, that magical place where sky meets water on our retinas.

The sand patterns, the traces of the advancing-receding dance, continue to fascinate me in their variety and delicacy.   Does the ocean have a pulse?  Is this its EKG document?

This little loop extension seems to be a witty comment about individuality and quirkiness.  No one told it to get back in line.  No one laughed or pointed.  No one criticized.  No one teased or bullied.   No report card, either.  It’s so hard to just be, and when just being is right there in front of your eyes, it’s good to notice.

January 15, 2014

We went to the zoo today.   We spent about 45 minutes in the Kenton C. Lint hummingbird aviary.  The photos labeled the birds as tanagers.  Confusion here; gorgeous birds there!  This is quite a delight.  The colors, speed, and delicacy are amazing.  I could have spent much more time there but we went at the end of the day and they close early.  The fading light gave the birds an other-worldly glow.

Then we went to see the giraffes, including the new baby only three weeks old.  She was 6’1″ and 157 pounds when she was born.  Giraffes have impossible legs, necks, and eyelashes.  That is why they are so wonderful.  I love looking at them.  They seem like a miracle of ungainly grace.  Are there giraffe chiropractors?!  The new baby was the mother’s tenth child.   What would she say if she could?  Yes, the baby.  Yes, the mother.

Walking in the zoo was another kind of wonderful, but it’s walking at the ocean every day that soothes me.  Tomorrow!

January 14, 2014

Long-beaked loner
Long-beaked loner

The light near sunset is confusing to me.  The sky is made yellow by my new phone’s camera when my eye sees pinks and lavenders, and thus I’m never sure how true the other colors will be.  This photo, though, seems to capture both the softness and steeliness of the water at this time of evening.  The lone bird mirrors the relative emptiness of the beach; although there are people out walking or watching the end-of-day show, there aren’t many: perhaps a dozen or so along the mile  that is within easy sight.

My walk ends with some reluctance.  It gets quite cool quite fast.  It was 77 today at 4 pm, but probably around 68-70 when walking back home at 5:30.  The sun sinks and the mercury does too.  As if many of us still have mercury thermometers?!  And tomorrow is forecast to be warmer.  We will be downtown and at the zoo for the afternoon and evening.  I will miss my ocean sunset.  It has become an expected given in my day.  How fortunate I am.

January 13, 2014

Conservation conversation
Conservation conversation

The gulls were in town meeting again today, with the skitterers mingling inconspicuously.  I wonder what they discuss and how they vote.  There are nearly always an even number in a group, although the brown ones tend to disappear with convincing camouflage into the stones when that’s their meeting place, and I may sometimes miss counting them.

This convention was making its headquarters at the edge of the tide.  They mostly face in one direction, but not all and not always.  Hm, maybe it was a caucus.  Which party?  The conservation party?  Or were they conversing?  Conservation conversation.  I could hardly type that.  Saying it would be even trickier!  Ah, the “s” and the “v” change places.  Well, I’m still a linguist…

I’ve never thought of myself as much of a naturalist, or that observant of “wildlife.”  The water slows me down, though.

On the way back up the beach staircase, I stopped to talk with a couple visiting from Britain.  Portsmouth.  Much colder than here, they said!  We talked about jobs and travel and restaurants and I almost asked them over to eat dinner at our house.  They are staying at the hotel across the street.  I was worried they wouldn’t know how to say no if they didn’t want to; I was worried I wouldn’t be relaxed enough to suddenly have two more, strangers at that, at dinner; I was worried they might be axe murderers (Kate?!)  When I got home, I was disappointed that I hadn’t asked them anyway.  An opportunity lost.  Next time, I shall just do it.

January 12, 2014


I connect even more with this than with the sunset, I think.  I love the moodiness, I love being protected,  bundled up in the wind; I love  the near flatness of the color, the narrowness of the beach at high tide, the all-oneness of sky, water, sand, and the elemental feel that speaks of vastness,  mystery beyond comprehension of a mere photograph.

The receding waters make clacking sounds — like a stick drawn across a picket fence — over the smooth pebbles that are brought in to prevent beach erosion.  What a lovely side effect!  It wasn’t audible with every wave.  There must have to be the just the right depth and density of pebbles and the right amount and speed of water.  I’d never heard this before.  Gift.




January 11, 2014


We have house guests from Kansas City and didn’t get home until rather late last night.  So no blog post yesterday.  I don’t like that, but there it is.  I mean, I don’t like that I didn’t write; I really really really like having “company.”

It’s especially nice because I didn’t really know these two women that well, and it’s lovely to feel comfortable with people even when you don’t know them.  Maybe it has something to do with being comfortable with yourself, and they too are comfortable with themselves?

I like cooking for people, especially when I don’t have to and when they are undemanding and appreciative.  I once considered (very briefly indeed) having a B&B, but it would have had to be a B&D, as I am not a morning person.  Also, there is a limit to how much I am willing to fuss.  We are using cloth napkins tonight, and they need ironing, but I’d rather be writing here than ironing.  I mean, nice crisp unwrinkled napkins might be lovely, but are they that much lovelier than slightly wrinkled ones?

So, there it is.  Am I at a stage in life (I hate that expression!) where I often end with “there it is?”   First paragraph as well!  What does that mean?

Walk on beach did happen.  Photo at top.  Bliss.

January 9, 2014



Today’s beach walk was unexpected — with friends.  Had I not taken the photo above, we would not have known that Cheryl and Jerry were in the area doing an errand.  I sent them the photo because she had introduced us to a different bakery nearby, and we ended up meeting there, then going for a walk on the beach, and finally eating lunch together.  I rustled up a meal from leftovers and we had a pleasant and leisurely time.  Leaving downtown was leaving friends, and this unexpected, last-minute get-together relieved my worries that thirty miles might just be too far.  Not really!

It was also special because they had just — within the hour — received the news that they were grandparents, first-time.  So we oohed and ahed over darling new-baby pictures messaged via phone, then enjoyed the near-deserted beach, the marks of the waves in the sand, and the glorious sunshine.

We were going to hang art today.  It will wait patiently against the wall.  Being with friends is for the now.

January 8, 2014



Getting off track, it seems.  But perhaps it only just seems.  The water goes around stones, shells, kelp, footprints; but it doesn’t have a destination, a direction, an agenda; it just goes where it goes.  Why, then, do we feel that we get “off track?”  Is there a track?  Or is it all the same track, however it appears to meander, stop and start, reverse, abruptly dart, get entrenched.

I walk and look at the footprints.  I don’t want to walk where no one else has walked since the tide came in, intruding on the smooth stretches of sand, but also I don’t want to walk where others have walked, for those spaces seem disrupted, corrupted somehow.  I love the pristine surfaces but then hate marking them.  Conundrums, contradictions, dilemmas of an aesthetic and philosophical nature.

The kelp pods (are they pods?) crack and pop under my sneakers.  I see a pelican for the first time at “our” beach.  The skitterers move in groups, looking like speeded-up caricatures of themselves.  The sea roars and ebbs — on its eternal track.  I pinch myself; I get to see this.  It is right here again.

January 7, 2014

Sandwatersky stripes
Sandwatersky stripes

Writing “2014” is bound to feel awkward for a while.  Whoosh!  The old year is out, the new one in, with a rush.  Just like the tides…

Curious how one’s internal clock can change.  I was out shopping and it was nearing 4 pm and I was suddenly aware that if I finished up and skipped the last errand, I could be home for sunset.  We all must have been far more attuned to the rhythms of our days when artificial light didn’t exist and we could count only on a home hearth fire.

So I got home and turned around and went back out and down to the beach.  The sun seemed to set very quickly and suddenly, especially compared to last night, and there were far fewer people around than there were on the town beach.  One person commented on some vague black shapes rather far out into the water and wondered if they were divers or even perhaps shark tails.  In the quickly dimming light, we never did identify them.  Mysteries of dusk.

The camera seems to intensify the yellows and oranges of the sky.  I don’t feel right with that, but it’s my new phone camera and I haven’t yet learned if it can be adjusted.  The photos here are just to create a sense of place, not to provide precise documentation.  Setting the mood, perhaps.  Definitely moody.

January 6, 2014

Carlsbad sunset
Carlsbad sunset

We were driving back from further north and pulled over on the coast road so as not to miss the sunset.   We had installed my art piece “Altarpiece” today at Soka University and it took on a new form.  It had previously hung with the hundred crocheted “nests” at somewhat random various heights, reminiscent of notes on a musical staff,  but this time I sketched out a wave form and hung it differently.   Not surprising.  Art reflects life reflects art…

Our sunset venue was further north in Carlsbad rather than at “our” beach, and there were many people lined up at cliff’s edge to watch the sun sink ever-so-slowly into a black-bordered sea.  It is comforting to see crowds stop on a Monday afternoon at 4:45 and gather companionably to watch.  Diverse in age, color, dress, prosperity, and health, we all thought it important to witness this stunning expanse of sea and sky.  No skittering birds tonight, but thoughtful people briefly together in a communal gesture of awe.

January 5, 2014


It was hazy and rather foggy in the distance.  The tide was low again, but not as low as it has been the last few days around sunset.  The cycles of moon and tides and, indeed, weather itself, are more available at the beach, more accessible, more visible, even palpable.

Those skittering birds seem like a caricature of themselves and always bring smiles of amazement.  They make me feel a bit giddy, and I would like to skitter along with them.  I wonder how fast they move.  And whether they ever move slowly?  We counted four kinds of waterfowl today: skitterers and gulls and long-necked gull-shaped birds (but not gulls)and fatter duck-resembling birds.  Might need to buy a book so I can name these creatures!  No pelicans around here at this point, though we have seen them in the La Jolla area.  We see ducks in the harbor but haven’t seen them in the open.

Walked a mile and a half on the beach.  Lovely.  It’s right there.

January 4, 2014

Today was a downtown day.  So it was a walk along the harbor at Seaport Village rather than a walk along the beach in South Carlsbad.

The harbor is not the ocean.  It is salt water, but that is almost as far as the likeness can be stretched.  The harbor is calm.  It is fairly smooth and flat.  It has no surf other than the wake of (mostly) small boats.  It has people working and moorings and sailboats and boats for hire and rocks and tourists and sunshine and trees and Coronado across the way and the Midway up a bit further north.  But having spent the last few weeks at the ocean — it seems pretty clear that the harbor is to the ocean as the city is to the country.  The harbor is enclosed, protected, built, constructed.  It seems small.  Confined.  The ocean just is.  Out there, endless and tough and rough and beckoning .  Moored only in itself, in its own it-ness.  My son said time is like a Mobius strip, both linear and non-linear, looping back along itself.  The sea seems like that.

Now, I loved walking to the harbor the last two years or so.  It was bustling and stimulating and hinted at the open ocean beyond.  My friends asked if I missed downtown.  Well, yes, I do: I miss the activity, the proximity of so many conveniences, the walkability, and my downtown friends.    Driving home on a highway clotted with heavy fog, I could hardly wait for tomorrow’s beach walk.  I’ve been missing the ocean so much longer.

January 3, 2014


It was so overcast that there was no sun, so no sunset.  Yes, of course there was a sunset, it just wasn’t the usual flashy dramatic show of fiery color that has been so prevalent.  It was subtle and set off only a small horizontal band of brightness that faded quickly, then left its reflections dimly bouncing over the surfaces of water and watery sand.

It was cool and damp and the cool went into my bones in that heavy way that seems counter to it being sixty degrees — certainly not cold, really, but still weighty.  The kind that sinks into your skin, under your jacket, under your shirt, bypassing layers of thermal protection as if to tisk, tisk at you for thinking you could be immune to its effects.  I wonder what it’s like on the beach at 4 am.  It gets down to forty around here in what passes for winter.  Sixty and sunless felt cold enough; I don’t need to check out 4 am.

All of that made the sky and the water and the very low tide, sheen-of-water sand glimmer, faintly as a pale silvery baby blue, as if they were all one surface, a surface of flowing damp and cool and tantalizing shimmer.  The sky and water and sand lost their boundaries, lost their separateness, lost their linear distinction.  And it wasn’t really foggy, just blurred.  The coasts have their fogs, and I look forward to them.  This was perhaps pre-fog.  If I were the early-rising sort, I’d be up tomorrow to see if the dawn were fuzzed by fog.  (And to see what it’s like if it’s forty degrees!)  But someone else will have to do the early morning blog and fog, for I am still a creature of the later hours.

January 2, 2014

Today it was mostly about how the scents can dominate the memory.  The tide was extra-low, and the beach extra-deep.  It seemed like a whole new place, with very shallow long ponds forming bands parallel to the tide lines where the sand was normally submerged.  Another map forming.  Maps shift; they are not static.  Ponds and sand and waves and ponds and sand, all shimmering in the setting sun.

But walking back, the eucalyptus was suddenly on the wind, filling its breath with its pungency.  The salt and seaweed faded,  only wisps from a few moments before.   The shrubs and cacti bent away from the wind; perhaps they too were bowing grandly to the fullness of the eucalyptus.

I hadn’t noticed the eucalyptus there before.  It was new to me in my three weeks at the beach.  How could that be?  And what will tomorrow give me?

I write this and fill myself again with the unusual peace.  I am restless as the water and yet the water calms me.  It seems of me, yet out of me.  Such is the world of otherness?

January 1, 2014

Who:  Vavara
What:  A blog
Where: Southern California
When: 2014
Why:  It’s all why, only ever why

January 1

Water.  The ocean: the sea.  The vastness, relentlessness, colors, scents, dampness and softness and freshness and crispness of air, sharpness of salty smells; slight rich rot, redolent of recently alive but no-longer-so kelp; bubbles, foam, curves of waves, roar, ascending incoming rumble rush, gentler pulling departure; delicate lines in the sand, traces of deliberation; mini-mountains of recession, tumble of pebbles, tangles of seaweed, deposits of shells, small deep lives exposed; distant curves fading into fog, local puddles, eroding tunneled cliffs, monumental perfect dunes; crashing, lapping, tugging; blue, silver, turquoise, aqua, navy, royal amethyst, yellow-green, emerald, murky brown, clear, lemon-yellow crystalline carbonated peaks, pale blanket-baby-blue toward white nearly smooth expanses, gray, deeply cloudy darkly blue-black, metallic menacing graphite, reflective as night; shimmering, swirling whirlpools, rumbling boulders tumbling in a storm, moving and still, the same and not; permeating the sky so that it’s all just ocean-sky-oneness-blueness; reflecting the clouds, reflecting the fiery intense piercing oranges of sunset; holding its treasures close then flinging them upon the shores; permuting our days and hours into an eternal transformation of water, wind, sky, air, breath, life.

I trail my mind’s fingertips across this world with reverence, with awe, with joy, with anticipation.  I now live a short walk from the ocean, and for this I am grateful.

Pondering the ocean as art