(field of mustard flowers, Malibu Creek State Park, California)
When the Spring comes, I do feel a sort of epiphany of renewal. Suddenly, things seem to burst forward, then float gently, and then bloom.
So many times my business trips involve movement from one conference or courthouse to another--the endless repetition of conference room decor. This week's trip to California, however, brought me not one but two opportunities to enjoy nature on the fringes of the day, after the business was done. I'd like to just revel a bit in nature, whether in Texas, in California, or, really, anywhere pleasant--literally anywhere.
I never visited California prior to 1987, nor did I have any desire to do so. A large case I began handling then, followed by many other cases over the years, began to take me to Los Angeles quite often.
We ended up living there for the better part of a decade, after years in which I commuted between Texas and California a lot.
At first, I did not understand the flora and fauna at all. Gradually, though, I came to love the elfin forest and the somewhat elfin culture that accompanies it.
California has this image, largely media created, of having some inner mystical streak. While it's true that religious exploration is part of the California landscape, one can trace about as many new religions being founded in "show me" Missouri as in southern California. Yet, new visitors, including myself, always hunt for that elusive, mystical California--that Huxley California, that exotic ferns California, that California of mist and dream. They often find instead a crowded region, often parched, characterized by extremes. But beneath the kelp of complexity that afflicts southern California, there's a real surge of beauty--not that faux palm-tree, plastic surgery beauty, but a chapparal beauty--wild, unfettered, so very exotic, so very free. It is that California, unhip and yet complete, to which I instinctively gravitate.
The Santa Monica Mountains are just inland of Malibu, rolling, short mountains filled with gorgeous chapparal. Malibu Creek State Park is perhaps 15 minutes from the ocean to the west, and an hour and a half from the desert to the east. It has very temperate weather, although it can often be a bit dry. It features many extremes, though, and the floods in one part of the cycle will be superseded by fires in another. The whole ecology is built on those two things--flood and fire.
The winter time, and in particular January through April, are the times when the grass is green, the wildflowers bloom, and the animal life is abundant. Summer, by contrast, serves as a dormant season, much as Winter does elsewhere. When I hiked this week at Malibu Creek State Park, many things remained in bloom, including this ceanothus tree, with its blue flowers:
I love hiking like this, in great weather in the hills and chapparal.
Friday my court hearing and meeting ended in time for me to just miss my early plane and catch another later plane. I took a taxi over to the Long Beach Aquarium. I love this place, with its bright colors and many facts about the Pacific Ocean. I spent an avid ninety minutes wandering from tank to tank, soaking up and learning and just enjoying a marine reverie.
I wanted to get a throwaway camera shot of a leafy sea dragon, but they eluded me. There is some metaphor for how that misty, secret California eludes me, yet I find it hidden in chapparal. But I'll ignore metaphor, and close with a small shot of the related weedy sea dragon, which the Long Beach Aquarium is one of the few to have successfully bred.
I love California, but it is not the only place that I enjoy. Here's a Spring shot of our local "historical landmark", the 19th Century creek dam used by the railroad line that gave birth to our little town:
I love to hike through creekside woods to this little dam, insignificant though it might be.
Along the same creek, Spring gradually is making green headway. Here's a shot from a few weeks ago--it would be greener now:
For some reason, only the kite comes out at the size I wish it to display, and so the weedy sea dragons, like their leafy cousins, must remain elusive.
North Texas and Southern California are very different places, but I love them both. I also loved my native Arkansas. I must be fortunate, for most places I've lived are places I enjoyed living.