Thursday, January 29, 2015

Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park

"If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
                                                               Will Rogers

I've been to a lot of cemeteries in my lifetime.  I love seeking them out when I travel, especially the old historic ones with literary names and very bad outlaws. But I have to admit, I've never been to a cemetery quite like this one--where the tombstones are engraved with single names like Fluffy, Precious and Duke.  Underneath these granite stones lie the remains of beloved dogs, cats and horses.  Even birds and a monkey or two.  Not only that, but the place is quite lovely.  Well-manicured lawns.  Lots of flowers and decorations.  Clearly, grieving pet owners come here to visit their lost soul mates.  They continue to bring them treats.  I saw several rubber balls.
It reminded me of a friend who has saved the ashes of all her dear departed dogs.  "I want my ashes to be mixed with theirs when I die," she told me.  Her husband is not invited.

Having owned a dog and gone through the grieving process myself, I can understand why people would do this.  To this day, we have been unable to bury Amber's ashes.  They remain in a wooden box on our book shelf.  Should I bury her in Calabasas?

I draw the line, however, thinking I will be reunited with my Airedale.  Dog heaven, for her, was our little home with its three oddly shaped gardens.  She had a soft bed, got lots of walks, dug lots of holes and rode shotgun in my car whenever I went on errands.  Not only that, but every kid in the neighborhood doted on her.  She got cookies and leftover peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from them after school.  "Amberrrrr," they'd call as they walked by our fence.  She'd bolt out the back door to greet them (and get her treats).

No, I don't believe in Animal Heaven (or any heaven for that matter), but if reincarnation turns out to be a fact, I want to come back as a dog!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Great Wall of Topanga

Rat traps.  Giant cockroaches.  Creepy dolls.  Murals.  Collages.  Terracotta warriors.  This wonderful, whimsical art installation was born out of frustration.  Rick Denman, the owner of the property behind the retaining wall, got fed up with scrubbing graffiti off it.  He decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and for us lovers of outsider art, we are glad he did!

For the last several years, I have made it a point to drive by The Great Wall of Topanga, as it is now known, whenever I go to Santa Monica.  It is located on Topanga Canyon Road, a short cut I take to avoid the 405 from the 101.  Besides this art installation, Topanga has lots of great shops and restaurants.  It's a great pit stop for anyone who needs a break from the craziness of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Every time I drive by, the wall is a bit different.  The murals and graffiti change.  Some items are gone; others appear.  It's looking a bit worn these days.  Could probably use a face-lift and a fresh coat of paint.  Come to think of it . . . so could I!!  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

An Ikat Poncho

I've been searching for an ethnic-inspired poncho for months and finally found one at Lola's in Santa Barbara.  It's an Ikat wool poncho made by hand by Lotta Stensson, a designer now located in Los Angeles.  She creates hand-carved wooden blocks from her own artwork and prints them on fabric so each garment is unique.  I fell in love with the color and the wool is very light-weight, making it perfect for California's mild winter season.

Yeah!  My search is over.  This poncho is going to be a travel staple for many years to come.

Sharing my find with fellow fashion lovers at Patti's Visible Monday.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Carpinteria's Harbor Seal Rookery

Harbor seals are a common sight in California.  Found up and down the coast and on many docks of city marinas, at times they can be real pains in the you know what.  This rookery, located on a beach in Carpinteria, California, however, is a special place.  This is a seals only, humans not allowed place, despite it being next to a busy service dock for the oil rigs out in the channel.

The beach is closed from December l through May 31, during the "haul out", when pregnant females come ashore by the hundreds and give birth to their pups.  The docent told me he has counted up to 400 females in mid-February.  I was surprised the sanctuary was so close to the dock.

"These seals were here long before the loading dock was built," the docent told me.  "They weren't about to move."

I got a kick out of the sign:  No rapid movement.  No loud noise.   A big semi speeding across a wooden dock doesn't get much louder!  Or scarier.  And yet, the seals feel safe here.

It's not the easiest place to find.  Park in the Carpinteria Bluffs parking lot and take the trail to the right.  As it forks, go across the railroad tracks to the beach and this is where the sanctuary is.  This morning I made a note in my calendar to return next month.  "The births happen quickly," the docent told me, "But it's pure magic if you're lucky enough to witness it."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Carpinteria Salt Marsh

I set the alarm for 6 am one morning last week, got up, made coffee and then headed south for the Carpinteria Salt Marsh, only fifteen minutes away from Santa Barbara.  I wanted to catch that early morning golden glow before the sun rises too high in the sky and the colors begin to fade.  It is that magic hour that as an amateur photographer, I am becoming increasingly aware of.  I've just been too lazy to get up!!!

No more.  I'm hooked.  It's early to bed and early to rise from now on!

This is a very special part of the southern California coastline because nearly 90% of these historic wetlands have been destroyed through filling, draining or dredging to make room for houses or fields of strawberries.  This small park in the city of California is a little gem and part of a larger reserve, owned by the University of California and the Santa Barbara Land Trust for research and study.  It contains many rare and endangered plants and birds.

There were a few joggers out, taking advantage of the nicely maintained gravel paths and the wooden boardwalk which leads to the dunes and the beach.  But mostly, it was just me and a stray black cat who followed me everywhere, hoping for a bite of my granola bar (which he got).  I walked through the wetlands, the scrub areas and finally to the beach.  There are overlooks along the way with informative signs documenting the flora, fauna and history of the region.

That early morning glow fades quickly.   By 8:30, it was gone.  I headed into town and found a local Starbucks.  I still had the whole day ahead of me.  What a revelation!  I allowed myself to just sit and daydream for awhile.  I vowed to rise with the sun every day from now one.  Shake hands with its golden rays.  Say a little prayer of thanks.

And then . . . I can get lazy.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Funky in the Funk Zone

Wearing my funky Desigual green jacket and old J. Jill skirt, I took my travel buddy by the hand and returned to Santa Barbara's Funk Zone yesterday for some spirited tasting.  We by-passed all the wineries and headed straight for Cutler's, a new local distillery.  We took our time with our sample shots once we made it up to the counter.  I wanted to buy a bottle of their ever so smooth 33 Straight Bourbon, but they were sold out!

Guess I'll just have to go back, right?