I used to think living by the beach was all about the water, that proverbial patch of blue. The Holy Grail of all water to watch, sense, smell and best of all, hear. But you know…its so much more than that, Way more.
Just the sky as a daily changing canvas is worth the adoration. It is as if a painting constantly in the works is presented for you, from sun-up to sundown. Just in the last 45 minutes, I have noted the clouds go from white to cream to pale blue, and they are on their path toward slate gray any minute. Some evenings, a smidgen of lavender has melded into the closing colorful pallet. Often, this celestial blanket spread above appears soft and textured and elicits one’s imagination to wonder about the tactile feel of it all, if it were possible.
In my semi-circumference of view, are palm trees whose windy waltz interplays against the warmth of golden light that has been a constancy for eons. This bright orb that travels the coastal sky from dawn to dusk has been the subject of myth, folklore, history, science, music, art, dance, poetry, architecture, sculpture, lecture and even fashion. Every single culture that has existed on this earth has paid homage to our Sun and has revered her to the height of appointed Deity. Without our Eos, our beaches and sand, our hills and mountains, our greenery and flora, our creatures who walk the land would just not be. How poignant each day becomes at the behest of our great Star, the star from which our very own elemental existence simply could not even have begun. And what a backdrop for that shining globe- the expanse of shimmering sea!
To live by the beach is to adopt a lifestyle. First and foremost, is attitude. A bit of Hawaii in your every reaction. Is it the roll of the waves, the lull of tide, the hush of the breezes? What is it about a surfside town that makes her inhabitants so relaxed and calm? Take things in stride…”Cazh” is the word, its all cool, it’s all casual. Upon arriving to settle down and live in a beach town, the first person I encountered was a real estate agent. When he heard I was new and looking, he spilled forth: “Well, welcome to town!” Mind you this is a city, but there is a hometown heart here. My neighbors are openly friendly. Smiles, offers of aid, first names shared. Wow. Am I still in Southern California? Even my plumber who came to check out my sink the other day wore Bermuda shorts, sneakers and a t-shirt that read: “Have you hugged a Plumber today?” I mean, that’s just cute. Seriously! Cute. There’s hints that this is an ocean town…Surfin’ Donuts, a tall standing surfboard flanking an outspread hung USA flag in a post office lobby and a taco joint that has a surfer dude riding the waves for the logo. When one contemplates surfers, one thinks of the sort who take the time to ride the curl and hang a ten. These things take finesse, and devoted, carefree time. It seems that’s the seaside lifestyle. Prioritizing one’s life to commune under the Sun and in the water.
Is it coincidence that everywhere I look, I see people wearing Hawaiian shirts, sandals and sunhats as the clothing options of choice? Now, it isn’t easy to lose your temper with someone when either you or they or both are dressed in this manner. I mean really…how can you get angry when giant hibiscus flowers on a field of green are advertising peace, beauty and nature on one’s shirt, or their shirt?! Everyone has one skin tone here, regardless where they are from…it’s HEALTH tone! There’s appled cheeks, kissed from the sun noses, tans and browns of every degree. Plus, as you walk the sidewalks, a scent of suntan lotion drifts about every so often. Only those with a happy disposition spending time in the sunshine could acquire such robust coloring. A women’s clothing shop sign claims how it caters to the “Bohemian Lifestyle” with flippy, swishy skirts and sundresses. There are restaurants entitled with Patio, Lounge, Grill, Bistro, Nook and Corner on their marquees. All these terms evoke relaxation, no hurrying…tarry awhile. References won’t let you forget you are in a laissez faire setting…there’s cabanas, coves, barbecues, and there’s even dolphin inns and seahorse shanties. The maritime whimsey is all around. It coddles one’s mentality. It navigates the disposition of the people.
Everything about living along the shore is a positive. Who wouldn’t want to live where the weather is temperate, with predictable morning and afternoon cooling zephyrs? But, in my coastal oasis, the desire to succumb to afternoon siestas is an overwhelming indulgence. I can see how Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy came to adopt this integral part of the day. It is taking time to relinquish one’s thoughts to what naturally feels good. A nap in a sailor’s hammock will do quite nicely, especially if outside in the open air. To appreciate these kindnesses from nature is important. After all, we pay enough attention to the opposite phenomenons in nature- the tornados, floods, and earthquakes. Why not engulf oneself in the sweet gift the ocean offers us every day- those winds from the big blue?
I notice in my new locale, there is a wide variety of people not only from varying walks of life, but from many ethnicities. As I strolled into my new bank the other day, I saw patrons whom with normal ease were conversing with one another- each quite oblivious to any difference of any kind. This made me stop and think: why did I even notice this in the first place? Have I been living in THAT sheltered of a place in the past? I don’t think so, but there is an added ingredient here. I think it is the forward thinking acceptance. Everyone is just happy to be hangin’. Period. Living in a cosmopolitan place is definitely inspiring. Perhaps, this conglomeration of folk hails from a populace garnered from arrivals by boat, train and plane. Not too far down the coastline is a Marine Base. Some of these citizens might be veterans or relatives of those in service. No matter why people are here- they find themselves along for the wave of ease, happenstance, thrill and adventure!
Then there are the birds. At first, I thought there weren’t any. But, the other afternoon, as I ascended my outdoor stairway, I heard a mourning dove in the distance. When I reached my landing, I heard his mate answer back- and then the conversation ensued for several minutes. Funny, I felt invasive, so I stepped inside and a bit later noticed outside my door, on the closest wire to my home, sat the two birds. They were doing just what everyone else here seems to do…just hangin’ together, checking out the scenery- and perched, facing the ocean. I thought, “Wow, even the birds are romantic!”
There are many, many dogs. They are beautiful. Always on a leash and with a fit as a fiddle owner. Because where I live is quite hilly, people slip on their sneakers and everyone’s “Best Friend” leads them along, as they trudge up and over the undulating land. The day I arrived, my neighbor in the house next door introduced himself, and his dog felt he must do the same. Maybe the pooch was excited, but I did hear his dog bark quite a bit for several hours. It has been nearly a month now, and I have not heard him since or any other dog. I see plenty of them, just not hear them. So living here are content four legged ones as well? Great! People, birds, dogs…everybody is happy!
Originally, the land that comprises much of this modern-day municipality was owned by a Spaniard. All of it, for miles far beyond what the eyes can follow, was his Rancho. Then, in the 1930s, an out of place Norwegian decided he wanted to build a “Spanish village by the Sea”. He bought la tierra, and immediately set to paper a few hard and fast rules. Mainly, he wished to expound on the adobes with red-tiled roofs that were already a long-time complement to the virgin landscape. Thus, he decided to create a city ordinance stipulating that all new buildings must reflect this historic, Spanish style. Eventually, some infiltration of other forms of architecture dotted the cityscape, but for the most part, the original adobes and the initial builds for his Spanish hamlet have survived and been untampered.
The earliest village “Ole Town” streets are still here, and in fact, my home is on one of those streets. They twist and turn and there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to them. Creating a grid to follow, just did not happen. Authentically, as in the days of past centuries, roads were created more as foot and cart paths threading amongst cottage-size homes; not streets for the modern motorcar. I love this aspect, because it trains my brain to be observant and to imprint pictorial paths in which to go hither and thither. It makes living here a bold enterprise every time one sets out to go somewhere! However, in my travels, I have found a few long, intersecting -across the village- thoroughfares that do help. Out and about, are residents walking, biking, skate-boarding, as well as driving. No matter how you traverse this town, the views of homes clifftop-perched at every angle to catch a glimpse of Sun and Ocean, is breathtaking! In panoramic breadth, contemporary homes somehow harmonize with the echoing of architecturally historic visuals of young California. This serves to entice and entrance those who gaze upon it all- as they pass along. It would seem they are under a spell, perhaps long-ago cast by Neptune’s rolling waves of the sea.
Throughout the city are Spanish detail references. Over-reaching some main boulevards arch wrought iron Spanish frilled street signs and lanterns. Colorful tiled homes and buildings are in abundance. They often have original ceramic tile as exterior decoration, or in their inner courtyards. One can glimpse painted tile designed as borders around windows and doors. There are crafted large, inlaid mosaic-tile medallions set into low walls along the village main street, while others name beach access tunnels. I have even noticed old “cobblestonesque” sidewalks up and down the rows of shops. There is some stained glass, but it is that familiar red roof tile and crisp white-walled adobe that adds Mediterranean flair to the surroundings.
A colorful brush has painted this seaboard town. Blue, white, red, and the nearly chartreuse green rounded hills with abundant mustard in bloom, create a primary color feast for the eyes. In addition to these rich hues, are the violet spires of Echium Candicans, and the purple clusterings of Limomiun Statice Perizil. Orange beaked Bird of Paradise or Flower Strelitzia are everywhere. Cranberry red Bougainvillea grow prolific and spontaneously along the coast. Much of it is planted to add rich contrast to the white-washed walls of the adobes. Also, indigenous to the coastal shale soil and climate, and growing with profusion, is the Malva (Lavatera) maritime bi-color blooming shrubs, showcasing pale lilac and deep purple. Just gorgeous! Look closely, as one can see red Calistemon, or wild growing bottle-brush in clusters of ground cover. Remembering childhood, my eyes have zoned-in on the hot pink and magenta Carpobrotus Acinaciformis, a native succulent to the shoreline cliffs and crevices. With such a splash of color on every turn, it is no wonder as to how California became the land of dreams.
Having officially set anchor in this new “berth”, I’m certain there will be a bounty of discoveries in the next upcoming months, after all, summer is around the bend. I have read there are surfing contests, bowlings on the green, street fairs, farmers’ markets, festivals and outdoor concerts in the works. Meeting people and relishing the fine weather are expressions of daily routine. My gratitude for having this new zip code in which to dwell is immeasurable. It all began with the Pacific as my magnet. Yet, living by the ocean is so much more than mere gazing at the azure jewel sparkling out to the south, west and northwest. Knowing this, I still pinch myself to prove it is real.