Friday, April 29, 2011

Arthur, The Beast!

Arthur is my daughter's thoroughbred that she competed with in hunter jumper for a number of years. She bought him herself for $5,000. A K-Mart special, she called him. He was cheap for a reason. He was mean and ornery and difficult to ride. But he looked beautiful under saddle and had an elegant gait.

Somewhere in his life he had not been treated well so Meredith set out to win him over. Somehow they understood each other. Soon the two of them were winning competitions against $50,000 and up horses. Her room filled up with blue, red and yellow ribbons and we got quite a collection of cups, glasses, silver bowls, blankets and other items we definitely didn't need.

But no one else -- not even her trainer -- could get on Arthur. And he maintained certain quirks. He wouldn't show after 3 p.m. He would be naughty and bite and kick other horses. If he heard a startling noise, he sometimes would bolt. All in all, however, he was a great partner for her most time.

She was jumping another horse who misjudged the fence and she jumped off, tearing her ACL. After this she decided to only ride for fun. For awhile Arthur stayed at the barn but it was just too expensive to board him. Since we had a very large lot, an acre, she decided to make a home for him in our front yard.

We already had a small barn like shed. She ordered a prefabricated barn that we put adjacent to it. We actually had a barn raising with several of our neighbors turning out to help her with the hammer and nails part. She and her cousin Lori built a fence around the new corral which constantly fell down or was nibbled at by Arthur and his new friend, Icus.

Oh, yes. Arthur had to have a friend. Horses are pack animals and need a pack. Meredith gave me a choice of a goat, a mule or a pony. I knew the goat would escape and eat my garden. A mule didn't seem to have any charm. So I opted for the pony. Meredith found an ad in the Horse Trader for two free ponies. So she and our neighbor Jennifer Battistello, who also rode with her, went to Palos Verdes and brought back the ponies. Jennifer took Star home and put him in her back yard. Soon he was getting out and running all over the neighborhood. It wasn't long until Jennifer's mom gave Star to some other friends with a barn.

Icus was an adorable pony. The only problem -- soon he started to grow and the next thing you know he was a beautiful horse. He seemed to be half Arab and half Morgan. That's how I ended up with two horses in my front yard who are the most popular people on Pt. Dume.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Hills & Ribbons of Pelicans

It's corny but true. The rains have left a green carpet across all the hills in Malibu and through its canyons. Many are covered with California poppies or what looks to be daisy bushes. It's the time of year to drive over Kanan Dume with your windows down to inhale the fragrances of the wild flowers. Every spring I think I shall drive to the Mohave to see the flowers that blanket the desert floor for just a few short weeks. Somehow I never find a free weekend. A fascinating phenomenon that I have been noticing in the past two weeks is a ribbon of pelicans -- sometimes 40 or more -- who fly in perfect formation, one after the other, over the ocean. They look like a graceful ribbon floating through the air. A dozen or so flew over my yard this morning, again in single file formation. I wonder how they maintain their positions so perfectly. Sometimes there are just two who fly very close together, almost overlapping yet never colliding. Better than the Blue Angels. It's marvelous that the pelicans are once again so plentiful. They were considered endangered but they seem to have made a strong comeback. Such interesting looking birds but so perfectly suited for catching their meals. Everyone is looking forward to the great weather this weekend -- in the 80s even in Malibu. I am going to the Getty Center tomorrow night for a concert by Monica Yunus with my friend, Judy Miller. Monica's father is Muhammad Yunus, founder of microcredit that changed the lives and is changing the lives of so many around the world. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work and Judy was one of his guests at the ceremony. So she is a friend of Monica's. We heard her sing another night at the Doheny Mansion and she is terrific. She already has made her debut at the Met. It's time to close up shop and go home to feed Arthur and Icus. More on them soon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Global Warming? Only in Malibu

I must confess I feel slightly guilty when I see the photos or television coverage of the historic storms that are sweeping most of the country and causing havoc for 200 million of our fellow citizens. Here we are enjoying sunny days in the high 60s and 70s with some 80s predicted for this weekend. And while overnights are dropping into the high 40s and even some 20s and 30s for those in the mountains drawing complaints from some, it feels fresh and crisp to me.

We did have a fierce Santa Ana blow in earlier this week that blew cold not hot and forced many of us to grab coats, scarves and boots -- high heels, of course. It's always fun in LA to have an excuse to wear a coat and boots.

The winds cleared the basin of all particles and from the top of Pt. Dume you could see for many miles. There were the towers in downtown LA shining against a clear blue sky and a snow-capped Mt. Baldy towering over them. The Santa Monica Bay was sparkling and you could follow the shoreline along to Marina del Rey, Torrance, Long Beach and Palos Verdes. Straight out to sea was Catalina Island.

The Super Bowl is all the talk in the office this week. But I hear on the radio that Dallas is experiencing ice and snow and I can't imagine how people are going to enjoy watching the game until I hear that the stadium is enclosed. Still flights are canceled and those who have arrived are not bucking up the economy as planned since no one wants to be outdoors to shop, dine or party.

Here we will watch in t-shirts and shorts. I plan to sit out by the pool and read and enjoy the sun and sky. Perhaps watch the hawks who like to perch on a power pole a couple of houses over and terrorize the crows who go crazy and call in reinforcements to protect their nests in nearby trees.

I am reading a most interesting book, Down the Nile by Rosemary Mahoney. I picked it up inspired by the news coming out of Eygpt. It's her tale of finding a fisherman's skiff and rowing down the Nile. I love travel adventure books.

Super Bowl Sunday. Good time to enjoy a good book.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Point Dume to Point Hueneme

Visitors come from all over the world to drive the PCH along the Big Sur coast. No question that it is a beautiful drive. But the drive from Point Dume to Point Hueneme is equally beautiful for my money. And it's a road less traveled.

I drove it yesterday for the first time in a while and marveled again at the breathtaking vistas of sea and cliffs. The road hugs rugged cliffs on one side and drops off to rocky beaches on the other. Even though there were bursts of rain, indomitable surfers were undeterred at County Line Beach. But Neptune's Net, normally overrun with bikers and others at noon, had only a few people sitting on its patio.

Unlike most other weekends, Pt. Mugu State Park was empty. The rock climbers were not out at Mugu Rock, the huge rock on the ocean side that was created when the PCH was cut through the rocky cliffs. No one was sliding down the Great Sand Dune on the land side.

The coreopsis plants were blooming in fits and starts all along the highway. Sometimes there was a broad swath of yellow blooms but, more often, there was a solitary plant or two popping out of the hillsides.

Right before Pt. Mugu Naval Base, I turned off on Los Posas Road and entered a different world of green fields stretching for miles in either direction. The green hills that run along the southeast looked soft and inviting. When it rains in Southern California, beauty explodes.

It is always surprising to see signs for Tractor Crossing less than 30 minutes from my house. Since it was Sunday and raining off and on, no farmers were out on tractors and no pickers were in the fields. I drove slowly admiring the neat rows of fields where the luscious strawberries and green veggies sprout and find their way to homes all over the US. It was good to breathe the rainswept air and the clean fragrance of the fields.

It's seven miles or so from the PCH to Highway 101 when you are hard hit by civilization again.

Friday, January 28, 2011


When I first moved to Malibu, I had recurring nightmares about the PCH. It is a narrow, curving highway between the mountain and the ocean with little room for error. At first, it required me to give it serious attention. Gradually I grew more comfortable and today I take pleasure in driving it.

There are few highways from which you can see dolphins jumping, or a blue heron standing on a rock or even the occasional whale spouting. I always make sure to check out the Malibu Lagoon where Malibu Creek meets the ocean. Most days it is crowded with all sorts of birds and sometimes bird watchers. On the hill overlooking the lagoon is the Serra Retreat with a very large cross standing watch.

The Adamson House which was the home of the original founders of Malibu is sometimes advertising for docents or for reservations for its Mother's Day Tea. I keep thinking I will go but am always too late to call. Then you reach Surfrider Beach, one of the best surfing beaches in the world. On a busy day, the ocean looks as congested as the PCH on a bad day. On a quiet day, a couple of paddlers standing on boards will be enjoying the water.

The Pier is now restored with a couple of restaurants. And next door the ocean view is completely eclipsed with a construction fence and large pieces of equipment. After several years of blight, the two large restaurants are being rebuilt by Larry Ellison, one for Nobu and one for Puck. Malibu will be getting on the foodie map when they open. And finally a good restaurant with ocean views -- actually two good restaurants with ocean views.

Then the houses are bumper to bumper for quite a distance leaving one to contemplate who is cleaning up the highway based on the signage. A very irritating moment is when you come to an open lot at Big Rock and CalTrans has made it a "View Spot" with railings and benches that block the view from the PCH!

Then back to the ocean and the entire coastline opens up to view Santa Monica, Long Beach and Palos Verdes. On a clear day there's Catalina.

There are two really great moments on the PCH as I head home. The first is when you emerge from the tunnel at the end of the 10 Freeway and hit the PCH. You see the ocean and feel like you are home. If it's a clear day and you can see all the way to Point Dume -- what a view. I always drive in the lane closest to the ocean no matter the direction or the traffic. It's a pleasure to roll your window down and hear the waves.

Surfers do cause traffic problems when the waves are really good -- first at Topanga and then at Will Rogers. If you are not careful, you may get mooned as the surfers seem to feel liberated and shed their wet suits on the side of the road.

When I come over the hill and catch a close-up of Point Dume, especially with a dazzling sunset behind, I always think that I live in one of the most beautiful spots on earth. I am jealous of Cher's site -- she has the absolute greatest views from all windows -- but not of her Gothic looking house. It is definitely not my taste.

The PCH really only scares me now when it is pouring rain. One night as I drove home a giant boulder rolled down the hill and slammed into the passenger side of my car. It was a torrential downpour and I just couldn't see it coming.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Coreopsis & Cymbidiums

Malibu is about to burst into color. The torrential rains over the holidays were rough to endure but the pay off is coming. Passing Pt. Dume over the weekend I noted that the giant coreopsis are starting to bloom. By this weekend the point will be blanketed with yellow. It is a dazzling sight and only occurs once a year. The rest of the year the plants are brown and look pretty much like weeds.

I have read that the giant coreopsis that we see on Pt. Dume is only found along the coast from Malibu to San Luis Obispo and on the Channel Islands. By far the most glorious display I have seen is on the Point.

The cymbidiums in the pots on my front patio are also just about to burst forth. Long shoots have sprouted that soon will be covered with exotic blooms.
Somehow my cymbidiums are of several different flavors. The hibiscus and cameilla plants are also flowering.

A drive across Kanan Road will soon be fragrant with the flowers from many varieties of wild flowers. I always roll my windows down and inhale the perfumes that the wind brings into my car.

Winter rains mean plenty of beauty along the coast and canyons of Malibu.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winter Skies

Malibu winter skies always stop me in my tracks. For some unwelcome reason, I have been waking up every morning at 5 a.m. this week. When I wake, I am annoyed. How does my internal alarm clock know it's 5 and wake me up? The bright side is that I have seen a number of spectacular sunrises. First there's a burst of fiery red that seems to fill the entire sky over the ocean. Then it gradually softens through shades of orange and yellow until it lights up a clean blue sky.

That blue sky is so clear and beautiful. Not a cloud in sight. And it's warm but with a cool breeze. It's most inviting to get Scout and me out for a walk. And, today, Saturday was a perfect day to sit in the back yard and read and now and then throw a tennis ball for the dog. She has never learned -- or perhaps wanted to learn -- to give back the ball in spite of seven years of trying to teach her to "drop it". However, she definitely wants to interrupt any pleasant activity such as reading a book or talking on the phone by dropping a dirty wet tennis ball onto my lap -- and then grabbing it again before I can. It quickly exhausts my interest in tossing the ball.

Winter sunsets are spectacular as well. Again in some of them, like tonight, the sun appears as a ball of fire spreading tentacles of orange and yellow across the sky. One evening it started as red then softened to pink and then melted into lilac as it spread over the ocean, turning the ocean a warm bluish purple. I watched this from my office looking toward the west. When I turned toward the east, the rays of the sunset were reflecting off the towers in downtown, giving them a special hue. Behind them the snow capped mountains sparkled. What an evening to be alive.

It has been a full moon this week. Last night it hung like a giant orange ball low in the sky over the ocean. I had to stop on the drive home to see its reflection in the ocean that was a deep blue, almost black.

Then when I went out at 9:30 to let the horses out of their stalls after their dinners I marveled at the night sky and the many stars I could see. The big dipper was shining right over my driveway. When I get annoyed that I am stuck with the responsibility of taking care of the horses, I walk out on a night like last night and realize they are the reason that bring me out to marvel at the dark skies and its stars.

Now I hear on the news that the rest of the nation is being hit with a fierce winter storm. The temperatures give me a chill just to hear them cited. And for Malibu -- well, it's going to be 75 tomorrow.

No wonder our winter skies are worth savoring.