(Just found, by accident, that "Just Sayin' " is also the name of a four-member Boston band. Nothing new under the sun, is there?)
It's been two years, but through the graces of brother Ron and sistah Claire, who have left on an unimaginably long non-stop flight from California's Central Coast to London (yes, in the UK), we're once again caught up in the sensory delights of the rugged but sweet Pacific coast.
We're in charge of their beyond-beautiful hacienda, perched on high land a mile from the beach, for two weeks, looking after the plants interior and exterior and two superior young female cats named Tinker and Belle. Belle has finally warmed up to us; she normally keeps to hidden places and much prefers being outside pursuing birds up the big squat pine tree out back. Not to worry, she's kept well amused while no birds are harmed. Tinker loves attention, petting, being picked up and ranging between the inside and outdoors. Our main job daily will be to coax Belle back inside for 6 p.m. dinner and close the door firmly. Despite hundreds of thousands of people and cars, there are coyotes on the prowl at night, and small pet owners in California learn quickly that the night brings serious stranger danger (to little dogs and cats; maybe to people too). Despite being quick, that little feline is no match for a coyote.
There are places in this country, rural and urban, where good food is scarce; I found that out while traveling for work for many years. Around here, you can fall off a curb anywhere and find the best of the best. First thing today, we stopped at Lane Farms/San Marcos Gardens' stand along busy Hollister Avenue, and loaded up on (possibly too many) strawberries and many other goodies grown right on the property. Even traveling on the interstates like 405 and 101, you can see fields stretching from ocean to mountain producing enough tasty things to, probably, cover the moon. And you don't even need to get in the car (or the bike, scooter or skateboard, also common means of transport): there are oranges, grapefruit, apples, tomatoes and hundreds of red plums circling the yard. The neighbor's lime tree dips across the fence, so they're available too.
No more morning breakfast juice from a store!
A three-mile walk around More (more-ay) Mesa along the horse paths took a little piece of the afternoon. No horses out today, and no trail bike riders, only a few dog- and children-walkers here and there. Unusual for a Saturday, there were just about a half-dozen people on the long beach below and no ships far out in the Channel as usual. Imagine growing up here -- but I think you'd only really appreciate it in retrospect. We saw a variety of lizards and several ground squirrels (called gophers here), one of whom was too busy with his dust bath to pay us any mind. A pelican zipped along the top of the sharp cliff edge, and we made a little detour around a California kingsnake, looking pretty in his dark brown and yellow bands. The tiny wildflowers only came in a limited pallette of blue-violet, yellow and white; bunches of wild fennel grew up past your head and filled the air with the unmistakable scent of licorice.
Back "home," the late afternoon has become completely quiet, so if you listen, the only sounds are the sharp buzz of the hummingbirds and the softer drone of the many bees. In a few hours, the crows will loudly claim the evening territories. With the rise of the moon, the coyotes and skunks will wander the ravines and the little cats will curl up, safe inside.
It takes a look at the weekly color real estate magazine in the newspaper to jolt us back to the reality that we'll not ever have a more permanent address here (the only affordable one -- a 1967 mobile home!). But like a glass of that fine California chardonnay, it's excellent for the moment and pretty good in retrospect, too.