Happy Fourth of July, and Welcome to California!
This is a post about California, in conjunction with the "Pikes Peak Promise Project."
California is big. This isn't bragging or merely stating the obvious. This is a disclaimer, because I can hardly hope to write a post that represents or summarizes an entire state as large and varied as this state. If you need a history refresher, I offer this Wikipedia link for a California overview. My post is personal and reflective, a pictorial tour of places I've seen and people I have met in California.
A is for Apples
There are apple orchards in California. I've been to several in Julian, where we picked our own apples, and where they are famous for their apple pies. Last year we discovered Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, where we saw apple trees and ate Olallieberries. While in Watsonville you may want to "Drink Your Apple a Day... Watsonville is home to world famous Martinelli's Sparkling Cider. I still enjoy drinking their apple juice and remembering how much I loved having it as a treat when I was growing up. Wherever you live, it's a treat to eat locally and discover what's growing in your state and community.
B is for Balboa Park
Balboa Park is a cultural haven located in San Diego. It's home to the San Diego Zoo, museums and theaters. It's the kind of place you can go and find something to do or see, something to appreciate, no matter the time of year, no matter your budget. I used to volunteer at the Old Globe Theater, where I could see live theater and enjoy evenings with my boyfriend. We were married in Balboa Park. Now we take our children to the museums, the gardens, the playgrounds and to this reflection pond. Walking alone can fill an entire day.
C is for Cannery Row
For me, John Steinbeck's writing evokes California, the beauty and the darkness, the promise of its fertile valleys and bounty of the rich coastal waters. I learned about my home state from his tide pool descriptions and my compassion for men and women deepened from reading his stories about Cannery Row. True, Cannery Row today is a tourist destination and souvenir shop-riddled-jumble, that Steinbeck would have scorned, but if you've read his books, if you've pictured the places he painted in words, you can still find his Cannery Row. I still find it worthwhile to visit.
D is for Daniel
Daniel cuts our hair, and he has been cutting our hair for 8 years. He knows our names and remembers our interests. He's one of those people that makes you feel at home, like a part of the community. I like to set aside time enough for haircuts and for visiting when I go to Daniel's. Someone always pops in and then we get to meet someone new from the neighborhood. There are cold sodas and water in his mini-fridge and he keeps a great selection of magazines next to the bench by the window. It's so nice to slow down and enjoy the company at Daniel's.
E is for Eureka
This quote is from the California State Library web page, where they describe all kinds of state symbols: "The Greek word "Eureka" has appeared on the state seal since 1849 and means "I have found it". The words were probably intended to refer to the discovery of gold in California. Archimedes, the famed Greek mathematician, is said to have exclaimed "Eureka!" when, after long study, he discovered a method of determining the purity of gold. In 1957, attempts were made to establish "In God We Trust" as the state motto, but "Eureka" was made the official state motto in 1963." I found our "Eureka" on the side of the San Diego Museum of Man building, in Balboa Park. I guess it's been there since the Panama-California Exposition of 1915.
F is for Flowers
There are a lot flower fields in California. These flowers are growing in Carlsbad. They're ranunculus, which bloom in the spring. It's amazing to be in the center of these fields, with acres of bold color all around. The California Poppy is the state flower. I can't think of a flower I haven't seen growing in California, from commercial grower's poinsettias and the beautiful floral bouquets that are grown organically to the backyard roses, zinnias, sunflowers and bouganvilla... I love the bounty and variety of flowers we get to enjoy.
G is for Guest
Maybe you have family or friends in California. It's so nice to be a welcome guest in someone's home. We've had the pleasure of being tourists in our own state and we once were overnight guests at the historic and beautiful Hotel Del Coronado. It was an anniversary celebration, and yes, we brought the children. The Del sits between the Pacific and the San Diego Harbor, and the sights are wonderful. We rented a boat and toured the harbor, where there are fishing boats and Navy ships. At Christmas the Del sets up a skating rink, so that it's possible to walk on the sand, then ice skate, then enjoy a sumptuous brunch in the Crown Room. Okay, so this isn't something to do every weekend, but as a special treat, it doesn't disappoint.
H is for Horse
How about "H is for Humor?" There's plenty of good humor in California, and I thought this was a particularly artful example. Last year the children and I were visiting the Central Coast and we stumbled on this horse on the porch. I never tire of the drive from Ventura County along the 1 or the 101, right up to San Francisco. In between the sight of small farms, the rugged coast, the majesty and serenity of Big Sur, the rolling hills dotted with oaks... it all inspires me. I marvel at the abundance and variety that is represented in this small section of California. I think how luxurious it would be to visit the entire state, driving and stopping as the mood hits... it would be a very long, very full road trip. It would take a good deal of humor to manage it with four children.
I is for India... The Star of India
The San Diego Maritime Museum is home to several historical ships, including Star of India, and from "Master and Commander," H.M.S. Surprise. We've toured these ships with the children... it makes for a fun explore. Grade school students sometimes have an opportunity to spend a working night aboard Star of India. I've heard it's quite an experience and one that teaches tough lessons in ship life. The times we've been aboard these ships we are always struck by the tight quarters and the challenging circumstances people must have endured during long sea voyages. After the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill thousands of people 'rushed' to California from all over the world on ships like these.
J is for Juggle
I guess California has a reputation for being hectic... it's true for the big cities where people are juggling a lot of things, and staying wired. Probably places like Santa Monica are most notorious for a rat race pace. Traffic, cell phones, agents, personal trainers, life coaches, nannies... it's all there. It's fun to visit. It's fun to see the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu, the Beach and the Canyon. There is a strange buzz there, an expectancy. There are paparazzi lurking, waiting, and then there are homeless people lurking and waiting. And then there are the People Magazine cover people slipping past in fast cars, strolling in dark glasses. Seen and unseen. Societal extremes are existing in the same square blocks, together and yet far apart. I get the feeling that if you could package Hope, you could sell it in Santa Monica.
K is for King
My apologies. I haven't got a king. I offer you a Queen: Niki de Saint Phalle's "Queen Califia's Magic Circle." We discovered this and more sculpture in a neighborhood park with winding trails, that went on seemingly forever. Everything was still under construction and we felt like we had discovered a magical land. They were building a fantasy of shapes and colors, all from the imagination of Niki de Saint Phalle. We haven't been back to see the finished park. I kind of enjoy remembering it in the twilight, when it was emerging and we were alone to unravel it's magic.
L is for La Jolla
The Jewel. Joya is spanish for jewel and this coastal community is quite lovely, especially from the water. We used to snorkel and dive here. Jumping from the cliffs was strongly discouraged then and it's illegal now. For a small fee you can climb the stairs from the Shell Shop that lead down into the cliff where you can look out the cave and to the sandstone cliffs of Torrey Pines and Scripps Institute of Oceanography. It's a marine sanctuary and still a wonderful place to snorkel and swim.
M is for Mariachi
California was once a part of Mexico, and it wasn't so long ago either, so the music of the mariachi is very much at home here. We like Mariachi Divas. The day we saw them performing our daughter, Maria, stood up and danced to every song. She was in love with their powerful voices, the rich music from the violins, guitars and trumpets. She danced and they played for her. Because children can be so enthusiastic, sincere and expressive, it became one of those unique experiences that is emotionally moving and happy.
N is for November
This is the sunset from last Thanksgiving. I can enjoy Thanksgiving anytime, anywhere. Like the 4th of July, it's one of those holidays that most of us, as Americans, can enjoy and appreciate together. We have our individual traditions and expectations, but for the most part the rituals are universal. For Thanksgiving it's all about the shared work of preparing a feast and then sharing our gratitude for all we are blessed with. Thanksgiving in California has all the usual trimmings. I know it's just as special in Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada, Oregon and Hawaii.
O is for Oaks
A few years ago I bought a book all about oak trees in California, and as soon as we unpack it, I want to read it and finally learn all about one of my all time favorite trees. I feel like I am not doing the tree justice by merely stating that I really, really love oak trees. I do really, really love them though. They strike me as wise and weathered, enduring. They are not smooth and welcoming, in a "climb me" sense, but I do feel invited to sit beneath their broad and shady canopy. In noon day sun or in morning mist, they stir my soul with romantic notions of Old California, pioneers, and ranchitos. If I could fly, I would be over the rolling hills and visiting the oak trees.
P is for Pipes
If you come to California, make your way to the coast and when you get hungry talk to the surfers. The surfers know where to find affordable, tasty food served by people who understand Aloha. Surfers work up an appetite, they live to surf, so money can be tight and the aloha? Well surfing is Hawaiian, so I guess they just pick it up along with the waves. We like to go to Pipes. Everyone likes to go to Pipes. The service is always with a smile and sometimes with music too, and the food is tasty.
Q is for Quiet
Mountain quiet. Idyllwild is a place with mountain views and quiet forests. We like to go there in hopes of finding snow. When we haven't found snow, we've still enjoyed hikes, playing games in front of a cabin fireplace and walking in to town for dinner. We like to meet friends there and enjoy a long weekend of breathing pine scented air and wearing wool socks. It's nice to find a place different home, and yet not so far away from home. California offers plenty of choices when you want to enjoy something different.
R is Rocks
We take them for granite! All over California, there are a lot of big granite rocks. No, I don't really take them for granted. I love them. I love the bold boulderness of them and how much fun they are to climb, cross, jump, and sit on. When our youngest son remembers this county park, he always mentions the huge rock he climbed, without any help. I hope he always enjoys that sense of power and pride that comes from climbing something that seemed insurmountable.
S is for Swami's
Dude. All long the California coast are hot little surf spots, where the locals chill and the surf is superfine. Check the surf report before grabbing your board, but you don't need to surf to enjoy the view. When the tide is low, you can visit the tidal pools. Animals are protected here, so no souvenirs, but take plenty of pictures. Watch for dolphins, and in winter, gray whales migrating south.
T is for Tall Trees
These are the big trees of Calaveras Big Trees State Park. California is blessed with big trees and big, tall trees. On the Northern California coast are the world's tallest trees: The Coast Redwoods. They have been verified to be as old as 2,200 years old, and are as tall as 350 feet. Inland, around the Sierra Nevada Mountains are the big trees, where one tree, the Discovery Tree, was measured to be 24' in diameter! We walked across the stump of the Discovery Tree, where many years ago they used it as a dance floor. We hope these trees can be left to grow, protected and appreciated.
U and V for Unbelievable Views
There is a great little mountain I know of where the views are big. It's called Stonewall Peak and if you're lucky enough to know some climbers, or you are one yourself, then you can enjoy the added bonus of doing some rappelling. My brother has taken me twice, and though I have no natural inclination to drop from great heights, I have to say rapelling is an awesome way to spend the day. Not far from Stonewall is a place where you can stand on the mountain and look straight to the desert floor below. The views from there are quite dramatic.
W is for Wild Sage
If I closed my eyes I might still know I was in California, if I could smell the sage. It grows wild and the fragrance of it is spicy, herbal, almost pungent. It is a sacred plant and used in healing and cleansing rituals... I thought I'd include a link here, but all the sites I found were supposedly spiritual and yet they all too anxiously rushed the customer to the Paypal button. My mother taught me how to gather small, personal bundles of sage, not harvest it for commercial profit, and to keep it handy, for use like incense.
X,Y and Z are for California
This van was parked in Santa Barbara, and I dare say it must have an X, Y and Z on it somewhere. It had something all over it. California... I've heard we're like granola, a bunch of flakes, fruits and nuts! That's cool. I love it here. I love the people and the optimism. I love the creativity. I love that we are home to research centers, technology and development, that we make movies and music, and waves and we ride out the storms, earthquakes and fires. It's not just for this state that my heart feels a kindred tug. All these 50 states, each blessed with strengths and grace, are good and beautiful and home. We like to feel a sense of pride for where we live and grow, and I like to remember that our greatest blessing is our union, as a country, as a society. We are more capable and more beautiful when we unite... "America, America. God shed his grace on thee. And crowned thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!"
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