I believe we are ever-evolving into who we're meant to be. I am constantly uncovering new parts of myself as I walk one day to the next and experience one thing after another. In our community, we recently lost a valuable friend, who really hit his stride late in life. Father Jon-Stephen, we miss you, and I am inspired by your story.
When we first moved to Santa Barbara over twenty years ago, Father Jon was an assistant pastor, and frankly, he wasn't that good at his job. He was unorganized, didn't like the day-to-day stuff of the church, and was often somewhere else when you wanted him. But a few years into the early 2000's Father Jon found his way. His love for the underserved blossomed as he began a homeless ministry, was ordained a chaplain, started working with the mental health services in our town, and joined a foot patrol. He had a poet's sensibility and a servant's heart--he saw beauty in each and every human--and released from his work behind a desk he sprouted like a young tree, spreading himself over so many who needed shade and prayers and covering. If you're fifty, or sixty, who knows what may come next for you. All of your first fifty years could have been the foundation work for a powerful relay race during your second half of life.
Father battled several ailments as he moved into his early 70's and, from my earthly perspective, we lost him too soon!
We mourn and joyfully celebrate the forty days after his passing today, and because were fortunate enough to witness his coming to life over these last twenty years I didn't want to miss this opportunity to write his name in print and share his giant grin.
Because of all the rain this winter, the next few months in California and the surrounding deserts aren't going to be dismal. Hurray! We've had five years of dry and dismal...
My son and I met up with a family to explore the Carrizo Plains last Friday and though it took hours of driving to get there (I kind of went the long way round in the morning,) and it took hours to get home (drove my handy Subaru on a real dirt road!) it was worth it. Parts of the drive were so fragrant with blooms it smelled like honey was being harvested. Because there were so few people out in this part of California (which is the strangest thing!), and because the landscape was flat-ish, and rocky, it definitely felt moon-like. Except with wildflowers. It reminded me of parts of Wyoming. Anyway, right now the yellow blooms are prominant; there will be fields and fields of blue and orange, as well as yellow as we move toward summer.
I wish I'd had a guide when I was there--to help identify the names of the flowers. I love the botanical names of things. We definitely found yarrow (achillea), fiddleneck (amsinckia), and baby blue bells (nemophila menziesii). I would love to know the name of that little yellow fairy flower above? Anyone know?
I may take some time this spring to go through two blogs that I found that are learning tools for folks like me who are weird about knowing the names of things. Are you like that too?
Hope spring has come to you as well!
A day away from the Santa Barbara beaches. A needed excursion out of the house... With two boys--one with an awesome playlist on his phone, the other so excited about an adventure that he packed beach umbrellas, coolers filled with drinks, boogie boards, and beach blankets all himself. Loaded up, we headed to Jalama, a state beach a little over an hour away.
We spent only the morning there, before it got too busy, when all the surfers were out in the water. We ate burgers at the grill, played soccer in the sand, threw a lot of rocks... We admired the huge globs of natural tar, and of course got some on our feet. Getting away, even just for a few hours, visiting a new place--it's one of the things I love about summer...
It's about an hour's drive from our home. Figueroa Mountain is one of our favorite day trips--especially when there is snow. We fill a thermos with hot chocolate, run around the house trying to locate snow proof clothing, grab the boogie board, and away we go. We'll even take the kids out of school to spend an afternoon there--snow is rare in these parts and worth ditching school for!
But this time of year, especially after a winter that included a wee bit of rain, the California poppies have seeded themselves all over the mountainsides. The wash of blooms is spectacular, and it's just silly to stay home and see pictures of it on the internet. If you don't live near me, find a Figueroa of your own and explore!
Happy adventuring, friends!
It's not often that one turns ten!
And even though I'm Disneyland Averse--because of too many trips there when I was little, plus it's so often hot in Anaheim, and I am completely lame when it comes to hot--we took our fella there on his tenth birthday.
It was not hot. It was awesome!
Except Space Mountain was closed... :(
We brought John Ronan's very best friend, who is the perfect kind of crazy; he's up for anything.
We also stole Madeleine away from her classes at USC.
I bet y'all have been to Disneyland a thousand more times than we have, which means, you're probably broke! Goodness, that place is expensive.
But worth it--for this...
Do you remember when you learned to skip rocks, ride a bike, sprout a seed, or do a handstand?
One of the gifts of having little ones around is getting to experience all these firsts again.
The experience of course is not ours, it's one step removed, but still so very lovely...
...and I can't speak Finnish, but it's not too late to learn, is it?
When the road is closed
(and just look at that sign--it is REALLY closed) don't head home... Find another path!
We recently drove over the mountains to hike to a nearby waterfall after a rain. Water is such a novelty in California right now, we wanted to celebrate this rare moment by visiting the falls, but instead found the popular path closed. We almost hurdled the caution tape! (I confess to being way too adventurous at times.) Then, we complained, pouted, and almost drove away. But my husband and I caught each other in the complaints and started pointing out the beauty at hand. After swirling around in circles for a few minutes, examing the dry creek, and listening to the birds, a far better alternative appeared. A path we'd never seen, that led right up that mountain.
Spring was in full bloom--all around us. There was moss, and mushrooms, and dozens of wildflowers sprinkled alongside the trail. It was enchanting.
It brought to mind the Thanksgiving Akathist. Have you heard it?
I'm so grateful for these moments I have of being with those I love, discovering tiny flowers I've never ever seen before, trekking along new trails, breathing in fresh air after a rain... This hymn of thanksgiving is powerful and beautiful, just like the land when it's bursting with life:
Lord, how good it is to be Your guest: the delicately scented wind, the mountains stretching to the sky, the waters reflecting like infinite mirrors the golden rays of the sun, the airiness of clouds. All nature secretly whispers, full of tenderness, and even the birds and beasts bear the mark of Your love. Blessed is Mother Earth with her beauty which is transient, making one long for the homeland which is eternal and where in imperishable beauty, rings out: Alleluia.
Happy spring, dear friends.
We pulled into the parking lot and three deer startled up the trail. The children screamed--shouting at best friends across the bus. Did you see, did you see?!
The same enthusiasm flew from the front seat to the back bench--and in and out of the windows--when we had passed through the tunnel just mintues before.
Adventure! The enthusiasm of children. The discovery of new things. How they express their wonder so loudly, so plainly, with such contagion and excitement! I just love kids...
Nojoqui Falls is about an hour from Santa Barbara. The Chumash Indians lived in and around this beautiful forested place, and you can sense stories from other times as you walk along the trails and smell the goodness of the wood and the green and the earth.
We spent the morning there, kicking up the dirt, examining the seeping water where the falls will spill over and create pools once it finally rains. Please, Lord. Let it rain...
And then there were the grey squirrels following us from above. And the coffee berry seeds in the scat. And the bay trees which smelled heavenly. The stalagmites being created in front of our eyes.
And the hollowed out trees, ripe for exploring.
If you don't have kids in your midst to adventure with, I recommend you ask around and find some! Borrow a child, and take him straight to nature and let him explore. Give him a stick. Let her throw rocks. Bring a thermos of hot chocolate to share.
And good grief. Try not to freak out if a tarantula comes ambling across your path.
Above all, admire the beauty,