Tuesday, January 17, 2012

the beauty of a place

Once upon a time there was a Texan visiting the northeast.  He had heard about the beauty of the place and was excited to see it.  Standing on the side of a Vermont mountain, looking across a valley he turned to his host, shrugged and remarked, "I guess the scenery is nice... but it is so hard to see with all of those trees in the way."

I have been very few places that did not have real beauty.  I love the stark beauty of the desert with the shapes of the rocks and colors of the hills.  I love the impressionist like landscapes in the northeast.  I love the rolling hills, dotted with grazing cattle and sheep that we saw in Scotland.  I love the fecundity of Hawaii where the flowers bloom everywhere and the mountains fall into the sea.  I love El Junque, just east of San Juan Puerto Rico where everything literally drips with life, the green is overwhelming, and the oxygen so thick it is almost oppressive.  Oklahoma didn't do anything for me... and I've been a few places in the central valley of California where it was also difficult for me to see anything truly beautiful but I expect that if I spent even a few more hours in either place, I would find something.

All that said, where I live is astoundingly beautiful.  While I lived in the northeast, the picture I often had of California was of the sprawl of Orange County or the urban blight or extreme wealth of parts of LA (thanks television!).   Those are certainly part of the picture here but the one piece that really surprised me, and still does at times, is how wild California is.  About once a year we hear of a sighting of a mountain lion, often in a place where significant populations of people live.  A few months ago, I was driving home along the Gaviota Coast and looked over to my right only see a golden eagle take off from a telephone pole.  This past Friday, I was driving along the same coast in the other direction and looked out to the ocean only to see a whale spout about 200 yards off shore.  It was the second time I'd seen a whale from my car while driving in that area.  Then there are the more common wildlife - coyotes, hawks, hummingbirds, dolphins, sea birds, sea lions, elephant seals, varieties of lizards and snakes, and tarantula...  And while we live in an area that is technically semi-arid, there are always flowers blooming of one sort or other.  The hills are usually golden brown dotted with live oak trees, but after a rain, they turn green and then in spring they turn yellow, covered with mustard flowers.  The sides of the mountains along with rock faces are often covered with the dirty green of chaparral, live oak, and evergreens.  The mountains rise and fall into the ocean.  In winter when the air is very clear, you can look south across the ocean (the coast runs east-west in the SB area) and it seems that you can reach out and touch the Channel Islands, the closest of which is 22 miles out. 
Gaviota Pass

Driving from Santa Barbara to Buellton, where we live, you go along the coast for about 20 miles and then turn north, paralleling the coast which also turns north a bit further west, and drive through the Gaviota Pass through the Santa Ynez Mountains... the mountains are glorious with the southern end of the pass being particularly dramatic.  Once you get to the Santa Ynez Valley, you're in wine country with some of the best Rhone style and Pinot Noirs in the world surrounded by vineyards, cattle farms, and other produce. 

So, I highly recommend a visit some time and I expect I may hear you sitting at a breakfast spot either in Santa Barbara looking out at the dolphins playing in the ocean or in the valley, enjoying Danish pancakes and in either place, talking across the table, wondering whether you might somehow be able to move here.

1 comment:

Jessica Winters Mireles said...

Boy, you are really mellowing out, my friend! Your descriptions really resonated with me. Being a native Goletan, there's just no way for me to live anywhere else. Glad you're here enjoying life with us in the good land.