Attics of My Life Part II

Our California visit continues – more talk, more friends, more music, more beauty, and more avocados…. (read Part I here)

In the attics of my life, full of cloudy dreams unreal.
Full of tastes no tongue can know, and lights no eyes can see.
When there was no ear to hear, you sang to me.

Robert Hunter

Day 4

Our dear Ojai friends have lived in this tiny town for a long time. Every time I walked out their door my eye was drawn to the mountain standing over us, almost close enough to touch. This friend joined my online writing group last year and our friendship has taken on a new layer of intimacy. It seems that while I have music friends, writer friends, and homeschooling friends (and probably others), the categories rarely overlap. It’s been fun to merge our old friendship with a new one.

The view from the front yard

They showed us some cool places, and I learned about the community, politics, hiking, flora, and history. Also aging parents, where we grew up, cousins and… we talked a lot. We walked downtown to The Dutchess for breakfast on the patio, lingering over eggs and potatoes and avocado, and more wide-ranging conversation. And oh the gluten-free almond muffins. The GF world is finally better at baking; resistance is futile. 

We explored the Ventura River Preserve, transformed by the record breaking January storms. (Nordhoff Peak got 18 inches of rain!) We walked along the now widened river bed, full of boulders that had tumbled down from the mountains. Trees standing in the way had been knocked over or stripped bare. The desert-like landscape was wintry with low scrubby plants growing out of rocky soil. Still, the air was redolent with toyon, a variety of sages, lemonade berry, and ceanothus, among others, some flowering, some bare. Scrub jays scuttered in the brush, and turkey vultures soared on the thermals. The wind and sun fought over whether I should wear my jacket or carry it.

More conversation, more food – chicken soup WITH AVOCADO! and a visit from an adult child, all grown up, which means I must be too. It was good to connect again with the younger generation, and hear about their challenges and changing lives.

 I felt embraced by the calm, their beautiful home, ancient adobe colors, a crackling stove, and years of friendship.

Day 5  Tired, but going strong

Breakfast at Zaidee’s at the Soule Park golf course (isn’t Zaidee Soule a great name?) meant another meal, more avocado, and a new view of mountains, along with the joy of seeing another high school/musical friend of Alan’s. I met Alan’s friends when I was 21, in the first throes of love with my lifelong partner. This didn’t keep me from eyeing his buddies who lived by the beach, drank, smoked, and played music day and night, and lived the most romantic life I could ever imagine back then. What was I in for, I wondered. Another case of being in the right place at the right time. 

Driving down 33 we completed our tour of most of Ojai’s major arteries, recalling the time long ago, when traffic had mostly shut down southbound I-5, and we took “a shortcut” on 33 from the east over the mountains. It was a tortuous, endless, twisting drive, never to be repeated, and for which my children will never forgive us. But this stretch looped gracefully and ended in Oxnard for a visit with Alan’s aunt, and his brother and wife.

At 94 years old, Alan’s mother’s sister is still vibrant and sharp, with a great sense of humor. I loved hearing about her writing group, and how she drives herself to a mah jongg group because the folks at her facility are too slow. We raised our eyebrows. “I only drive to Starbucks, my hairdresser, and mah jongg, and never at night,” she defended herself. A 94 we all hope for. We ate take out sandwiches from Danny’s Deli in Ventura – our traditional family meal. Not great, but dependable, with a noticeable absence of avocado.

Northbound Highway 1 leaving Ventura and approaching Santa Barbara has been an oft-traveled, cherished drive. It snakes along the coast, hugging both the ocean and the hills, bright green with a hint of the yellow flowers to come, a color palette we loved so much we’d used in our old kitchen. Always a mesmerizing, thought provoking stretch, and I pondered what had changed. Me? Others? The world? We are who we are through and through, like the view from the road, but we’ve all experienced a wide array of events and changes since we were last together. With “the plague” (as one friend called it) layered on top, I felt the changes more deeply than what has stayed the same. What happened in the world was an overlapping shared experience, but our day-to-day pandemic and quarantined life varied widely.

At East Beach the sun shone on the water’s surface like a million diamonds winking and shimmering in dancing beams of light. The islands rested in a dark outline on the horizon, a featureless silhouette in a slight haze. Several people with metal detectors and shovels walked up and down the beach looking for buried treasure, either a post-storm activity or a regular occupation. This beach was closest to our house, and a place of many breakfasts, several summers of Junior Guards, and many long walks.

East Beach sparkling
Our posse

Our last Santa Barbara stay was with yet another set of wonderful friends. I worked with this friend for many years; her active extrovert balanced out my organizing introvert, and we ran a wonderful homeschool program together. She’s still fun to be with, and her partner is a musician and gardener. ‘Nough said.

Their densely planted and vibrant succulent garden was a delight. With several blooming cactuses, it was nice to see color again, in contrast to our own brown and grey winter yard. They have an impressive array of clay water collection jars which get pumped into a 500 gallon holding tank. Woodpeckers kept up a steady chorus and finches and sparrows flew among the flowers. I’ve always swooned at the magic of the PNW, but I was happy to dwell in the desert for a while.


That evening, the old jam crowd gathered; what a kick! Just three of us started playing together in 2010 and it grew like wildfire, with people who never played a note outside their bedroom to folks who perform. Sometimes our living room held a big crowd of all ages, a cacophonous and amorphous melange. Over the years newbies learned to lead, teach, and play with others, and many continued meeting after we left. When I called out, “Bring it down for the mandolin,” they knew just what I meant. I felt like a proud hen, though of course many of them are better musicians than I. Such a joy to be with them again. Too busy for photos but here’s one of our last 2014 jams. More hugs and kisses, friends of friends, also singing in a small space; I took a covid test that morning, but had otherwise given up on caution.

Day 6

Another (cool) sunny day? Yes! I met an old work friend for lunch at Savoy Truffle, my work days favorite. I had my old favorite meal, a turkey fritter and kale salad with blueberries (alas, no avocado) There’s something about repetition, about reaching back for the same experiences in order to… what? My past has been flashing before my eyes all week, but thankfully while still alive and well. It’s like going through old photos or journals: I’m comforted, and then ready to move on.

We took our usual walk, along Cabrillo and West Beach (where I once rode my bike to work), out to the harbor, past luxury and working boats standing side by side, parallel masts poking upright, against a backdrop of dark green peaks rising up, the hillsides dotted with the red tile roofs. Time collapsed. We spoke of the same things and new things, grandkids, writing, retirement, life, travel, more. This is the warp and weft of my days now, and I love to hear how others find their way.

Finally, things slowed down a bit; we’re only human. Older humans. We played a little music, made some dinner (avocado! Lots of it!), and learned to play four-person cribbage. Have I ever played cards with these friends of 30+ years? That’s what you do when you have sleepovers. So fun.

Day 7

We walked around the lagoon at the university on our last day. Alan had spent 30 years of his working life here, so there may have been a little PTSD, but we stayed close to the ocean, gazing at the wonders around us, a fitting bookend to our trip. Ducks, cormorants, and killdeer plied the water, bright blooms lined the shoreline, a few surfers bobbed on the mostly flat waves, and we even walked a labyrinth, a moment of peace and expansion.

Super Rica!

We had one last #16 at Super Rica (with guac, duh!), our go-to place down the street from our old house. I gazed up at the familiar view of “the Riviera,” the hills that rose above my windows and balconies, where I’d watched flames race down the mountainside too many times. I admired the familiar view of red-tiled roofs, but we didn’t go past the old house this time. It’s just a house now.

Finally we seamlessly boarded our plane, watched the mountains and ocean slip away, and settled back into our quiet lives.

I write while watching fat snowflakes falling out my windows, remembering, considering, reliving the many sweet moments. I’m grateful for the warm welcome, the kindness and generosity, and the re-connections. Poking the embers of friendship brought the flames to life, just as I’d hoped. Your old life doesn’t just disappear when you move on to a new one, but it does take attention.

This wasn’t the sort of travel seeking new adventures and novel sights. This was a trip through the past to connect it to the present and future, and make sure the ties that bind are healthy and alive.

Also, sunshine and avocados.

13 thoughts on “Attics of My Life Part II

  1. Hey, I didn’t give you permission to use my pic – esp. cuz I look so short next to you 🙂
    That was a great day, and a happy flashback to our previous work lives together. Glad we have stayed in touch and your photos and writing, as always, are gorgeous.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love the beauty of a spare landscape and I would never tire of the ccean nearby, but the heat of California and sun every day would never draw me in. You show a really beautiful contrast in the landscape and in the terrain of the heart of your two “homes”. Good friends are always worth whatever it takes to remain connected. Really interesting to hear your observations of life post-Covid (is it really so?) too. It still seems surreal to think about those long months of isolation. How wonderful it must have felt to wrap your arms around friends. That, and music seem like such good medicine as you step into a new comfort in the world. Thanks for the lovely romp in your old stomping ground 💕


  3. Who knows if it’s really post-covid? Certainly people are still getting sick! I keep escaping though, as do others, so it spurs us on to less careful behavior. I don’t know what I think about that. But it was clear from this trip that I needed it, very much. California is portrayed as heat and sun every day, but it’s not really that way, certainly not the whole state! I’ve never felt as hot in SB as I have up here because we had the ocean air to cool it off, and in the Bay Area the SF bay often keeps it cool. I never needed AC til I came here! Anyway, we love what we love that’s for sure. Thanks for romping and stomping with me!


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