Living On The Edge Jun03


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Living On The Edge



 The United States of America is a large, wide, country filled from east to west with people, cities and farms from the Atlantic Ocean to the even larger Pacific Ocean and from up north next to those English and French speaking people of Canada, at whose border the U.S. spreads back down south until it stops at Spanish speaking Mexico or that large body of warm water known as the Gulf of  Mexico. 

It stands to reason that some families must live their lives upon that very unpredictable, often unstable, edge of our great Country.  In fact I understand that the edges, especially those next to water, are actually the most crowded.  I imagine that is probably for the very reasons we volunteered ourselves to be one of those folks who are willing to survive the unexpected and frequently rebuild if necessary that we may continue the joys and tribulations which that location brings. 

We happily, willingly, put nearly every cent we had into buying this tiny piece of paradise on a rocky cliff overlooking the huge blue Pacific in Laguna Beach, California and to prove we don’t regret it, we are still here forty five years later and still love it… although the reasons change with the seasons and our age.

As I write. I look precariously down that fairly steep cliff about fifty feet to the sand and rocks below.  I am saved from a dangerous fall by the firm, carpeted, floor beneath my feet and the room sized window in front of me, safe not only from the drop but protected from the cold wind and an approaching storm which I can see right now moving slowly but determinedly in my direction from that lazy stretch of Island called Catalina, 35 miles beyond today’s gray shaded band of wind ruffled water.

Only yesterday the sun had been brilliantly warming not only the sand and water, but tanning about fifty human bodies of all ages.  Some ambitious, athletic ones are out in the dark blue water exercising their muscles by paddling a brightly colored plastic kayak as far from shore as they dared.

We, my husband Bob and I, have been all things to that beckoning body of water, trying nearly everything it called us to do.  Forty five years later we have settled into our now sometimes lazy enjoyment as observers.

In our first years we walked regularly through the lovely green and flowered park between our home and the quaint one-main-street-town.  Even the weather didn’t stop us. The views are magnificent and as you stand on the shore looking out to sea that Island of Catalina seems to float to different locations off the coast, all depending upon the angle of the different streets facing the ocean. 

From our house one must look a bit to the right and you still only see that mountainous Island ridge half way before it disappears behind the cliff on our curved cove.  On the last day of winter the sun tries to sink into the sea on the left side of a mountain but fails to hit the ocean for at the last instant it’s almost as if the Island itself slides left a tiny bit, just to catch it. From that day on the sun sets further and further toward that out of our sight end.  We don’t see those often glorious, sunsets again until they complete their tour north-west.  For the rest of winter they disappear behind houses and trees on land.  

From Main Beach, at the center of town, the entire Island is in view from one end to the other.  You wonder as you see  every bit of Catalina Island spread out before you…how did it get way over there?

Almost all of the California Coast is scalloped in and out of the Pacific Ocean forming coves, then down here the entire southern end, coves and all, bend suddenly to the east. That is because this California edge of our continent is on the Pacific Tectonic Plate, different from the entire rest of the United States which is riding on the North American Plate.  

Our vast Plate is mostly under water, but about fifty miles deep and is still moving north-west firmly pushing against the huge North American Plate containing the rest of our States, when it becomes the Eurasian Plate with the Atlantic Ocean.  

The over-powering pressure of our Pacific Plate is hard enough to, with time, buckle up the land forming those long ranges of mountains that cut the west off from the central plains and by the way, before airplanes flew over them, they made it difficult to travel to other side.  

As this Pacific Plate is moving part of the western States up north the fly in the ointment is a rather small plate on the far north edge, called the Juan De Fuca Plate.  It seems to have broken off of one of the bigger Plates, probably ours and is doing something of its own.  It doesn’t look large enough to push anything else around.  Perhaps it acts as a ball bearing and just turns in place.  If I keep reading Scientific Magazine I may find out the answer.  Or I can simply ask one of my grandchildren. 

If those who think our city will someday be up where Fairbanks, Alaska is now want another point of view, Bob says he thinks the cities and towns will still be exactly where they are now.   Cities are man-made and are all so humanly temporary, that as their structures wear out and they are replaced, they will always be rebuilt upon their same latitude.  Even if the plate under us gets to Alaska, our town will remain precisely where it is now.  Our water laden Plate is traveling far too slowly to take those so frequently rebuilt cities with it.  But feel free to form your own opinion.  This one is just ours.



On a walk to town from our house you will have many opportunities to sit and rest on one of the many wooden benches facing the ocean and lately some new clever artsy ones, which the City has placed all over town. You may notice little brass plates with a name, date and message on them.

It started long ago, you can tell how long by the old dates on those plates.  Someone wanted to put a bench where they needed to rest and there wasn’t one, so asked if they could purchase a bench for that spot, and by the way, “We would like our bench to have our father’s name upon it as he loved this walk also.”  Anyone seeing the new bench liked the idea and the City was soon flooded for requests for a plate upon a designated bench…all with memorials of past residents.

As we took our walks, I began noticing that all of the, growing number, of new plates were also memorials.  I thought our lovely Park was beginning to look a bit like a cemetery.  So I decided to ask the City Council if I could buy a bench for someone… still living? 

They agreed, so I decided to buy Bob a bench for Christmas.  I chose the one on Main Beach, near the Life Guard Tower facing northwest toward Catalina where we liked to sit to drink our cups of hot chocolate on the way home from our walk.  After the arrangement were made to have a little brass plate made that read, for a change, “Merry Christmas to Bob Mosier, Love Beverly”  I met the men in town in charge of putting the finished plate upon my bench.  I wanted to be sure the plate read correctly and didn’t imply he was dead, and that it went upon the bench I had chosen.  

Everything went as planned.  The workmen were cooperative and liked my idea.  We all hoped it would catch on.  Christmas was still several weeks away, though.  So I had to beat Bob to the bench on every walk and sit in front of the plate so he wouldn’t see it before I put the little box under the Christmas Tree which contained a note telling him where to see his gift.  

I had really hoped to start a trend of live people bench names.  However the City said they had run out of places to put the wooden benches and thus could not sell anymore.  And so Bob remains the only live bench owner.  I face the fact that his bench will out-live him, even if it takes twenty years.  Then there will be no one.

Future benches were now to be more creative to fit our Laguna Beach image of an Art Colony.  These often crazy art pieces are popping up everywhere, even places that don’t need a bench.  But if it can be seen by tourists as they travel past , it will display to all who behold it our creative controversial City Art.  They do make for interesting walks, as you stroll around town looking to find the ones you hear talked about.  Some are stone, some are tile, others look like fish or seals or whales or faux rocks that just happen to have formed into a comfortable bench sitting high on the Park grass where anyone may sit and watch the whales pass by, leaving their plumes of warm breath fading high in the air behind them. Or perhaps watch a band of dolphin playing their own game of who can jump the highest, as they dance between the bird-stained rocks.  Amazing pelicans can be seen as they glide gently by in neat lines of twenty or even forty, so low over the water that you wonder how they keep from hitting the forming waves with their wide spread wings.  You’re curious about them as there are so very many… where did they come from? and where are they going?   A slow sail boat slips by on the horizon.  Saucy, bold, seagulls with yellow beaks and matching feet, cock their heads at you a few inches from your shoes.  It seems that they are expecting something from you, but what?  

It’s very easy to almost forget where you were going on this walk and why.  As you get up to continue on, you begin to notice that more than half of the people strolling by are not speaking English.  Are you in a foreign country or are they?  

But you can’t leave just yet because down the cliff below you, out between the tall boulders, some surfers have just started their runs.  They have been lazing in the sand waiting for waves, which suddenly have begun to form high ridges beyond those same rocks.

You lean on the rail to wait to see for yourself how they slip past the jagged, rocks as they gracefully twist and turn on the water, which rises and gains speed, carrying the riders and their boards almost to shore, where they leap off deep enough to swim quickly back to the next wave, as this one rolls on up to the sand.



The activities that different ages and types of people find to do in and around the ocean are widely varied and nearly always interesting.  Some require equipment, often just hot off of the invention rack, others just invent for themselves new ways to use the sand, rocks, water and cliffs to challenge the environment, themselves and others. 

Picking carefully through the recently graveled areas for colored sea glass has replaced the hunt for those now scarce sea shells as the most popular collecting activity, luckily, just in time as all of the  naturally occurring objects like rocks and shells have been put upon the “Do not take” list.  Broken glass, being man made, is not.      

It is easy to sit at my window and critique the activities.  Some I approve of … others I simply do not.

For example I once almost sat down to write a  “ Tell-All Tale”.   I planned to call it…


This was all because the cliffs that stand between the Pacific Ocean and the land, people and buildings were quite rapidly crumbling off and away, moving the cliff’s edge toward the people populated area.  

A large population of ground squirrels had found joy in living in those cliffs and had tunneled so completely through the soft earth that the resulting porous holes became filled with water during big rain storms with the result being that the once sturdy cliff sides slipped off and became part of the yellow sand at the bottom.  On top where there had once been a comfortably wide garden on the Pacific side of the walking path, there was nothing.  The hand rails, placed for safety, hung by a thread or not at all.  

What could the city do?  The public must be kept safe from falling down the steep cliff, so of course, a new path was quickly made out of a strip of land that had been part of a lovely green grassy area, serving as a pleasant place for the children’s running games and public picnic lunches.   These things were now expendable.

Soon the city workers had built a new path, set well back from the steep edge with room for a new garden to replace the one now floating in and out with the tide and sturdy enough to support the new hand rails.   All was well… except for one thing, or I should say hundreds of things.  The squirrels had to go to work again to make themselves a series of new tunnels to support the babies nested in their strong new cliff side homes.  It was perfect.  New young were born and the cheerful, loving, public flocked back to the joy of feeding the little darlings bread and cookies from their picnic lunches, barely noticing how much smaller their grassy area had become.

Noticing that the open side of the cliff was becoming once again riddled with holes some residents began to worry about them in different ways.  Oh dear! The Park was getting smaller! or  How could anyone not admire the little furry heads as they popped out to look for the tasty free snacks and even smile at the little furry tails as they disappeared underground into the safety of their new holes, as they happily dashed away with the snatched up tidbits.  

Some could only watch with worried wonder as the grassy park grew smaller.  Signs to tell the public “Do not feed the squirrels” did no good.  The lovable little critters were so cute! 

It took only a couple of summers to see that the next rainy season would soon drop another few feet of path and railing into the sea.

Suggestions to rid the cliffs of the squirrels didn’t just fall on deaf ears it caused a back-lash.  “After all the squirrels had rights too!”  

So they dug holes! That’s what ground squirrels did!  They lived underground instead of in trees, so it’s their land too!  No! The squirrels should not be touched. 

Thus… three times in six years the path had to move inland.     

Some people had to ask, what happens when the park was gone and the street and homes were next… then what?  Were the squirrel people willing to give the whole town over to those little destructive, but cute, animal residents?

The papers were carrying letters to the editor with pleas from both sides.  Yes squirrels… No squirrels!

We sat firmly in favor of the cliffs.  It was NUTS to let the, cute as they are, little creatures eat their way through the park and in our case under our house.

We took our own property into our own hands and spent a good deal of time and effort to fill the holes as fast as they made them.

Even if I could pull together enough loose dirt from the rocky cliff to fill the hole at hand, it would do no good. Dirt was what they were so expert at digging through.  If I wanted the new hole to stay closed, I would have to fill them with something plentiful like old newspapers.  With a handy rock wrapped in an old plastic bag I stuffed as far as I could get into the hill.  Of course those trails went round and around under there with many openings, but I kept at my attempts to reclaim the use of my property. I followed the rock of plastic with as many wadded up papers as I could stuff firmly in with the handle of my shovel, topping it off with another rock. 

“There dig through that!” I told them aloud.  

On other lands somewhere their opening holes stayed open, so I guess the ambitious little scamps decided to go find one of those more welcoming places.  

If they chose to leave our yard and go dig in the Park where their work was safe, so be it … I only know they soon gave up our yard and to everyone’s or no one’s surprise! Once again the Park path fell into the ocean.

I also don’t know where the squirrels live now, as this time the City wised-up and built a sturdy, reinforced, block wall to support and maintain the Park hillside.  It drew a lot of complaints from those people who do not believe in constructing man-made walls along the ocean.  It was very surprising how many there were.  But maybe that group also left town to go where the squirrels went, as the complaints have died down and the beautiful public Park has happily kept what little was left of the picnic grass.  

The City Council even drew praise for their decision. They proudly placed a little brass sign into the wall actually taking credit by having their names on it.



People who are not familiar with beaches sometimes make poor choices.  A family of five arrived and sat in the center of the sand just below us and the man left, leaving the woman and three children on the blanket with the picnic basket.  The little baby sat on the mother’s lap as the two older children about five and six years old, chased down to the water’s edge.  They ran in and out for awhile and eventually came back to sit and play with their baby. 

The boy dug a hole in the sand and set the baby into it as the mother watched.  The girl ran back to challenge the waves once more. 

The six of us having lunch at the table by the window discussed the fact that the baby should not be buried like that.  We had read of problems where the weight of the sand had so much constricted a person’s ability to breathe that the buried person, even an adult, had passed out.  If they are buried, we agreed one should at least have access to their own hands to dig themselves loose if they sense a problem.

We did not think a baby could understand a problem and this baby’s hands and arms were buried.  We kept waiting for the mother to stop her older son and retrieve the baby.  What she did do to our chagrin was stand up and go to join the girl down at the water.  Perhaps she felt free because now the baby could not crawl away.  Anyway, after she left it got worse.  

As the boy finished piling the sand up around the infants chin, he too got up and left.  He was back in a flash, running full tilt as he jumped over the baby’s head, kicking sand in its exposed face as he went.  We were appalled!  The poor child tried to turn his head trying to shake off the sand but he was too deeply covered to even do that. He began to cry. 

We hoped that might bring the mother back.  We were worried about baby’s eyes as the boy was having so much fun jumping the little one’s head over and over that he didn’t notice the problems he was causing.

My daughter, Nancy got up.  “I can’t take it anymore.”  She went out on the deck and tried to yell down to the boy to stop.  He didn’t hear or notice.  The mother looked up and Nancy waved. The woman walked closer, so Nancy shouted down to her. 

“Will you please dig that poor baby out of that hole in the sand.  It can’t move!” Nancy shouted.  The mother went back to the blanket and dug the baby out and sat down without a word.

We all said, “Thank you, Nancy, now we can all breathe better.”  

After a short while the man returned and the family packed up and left.  We had remained at the table because it is so pleasant there to talk and visit.  

Suddenly we were startled by a hard pounding on the door a few feet from the table.  A very large, rather cross looking man stood there and I got up to open the door.  As soon as I did, the man began to shout at me from the steps.

“Someone up here yelled at my wife.  Who was it? “

Nancy stood up and tried to explain.  “I did… The baby was buried and in danger.  So I told her…”  The man shifted his gaze and interrupted as he began at once to shout at Nancy.

“Well, you had absolutely no business to…  I have been buried many times and I know it is not a problem or dangerous to get buried in the sand!”

We all began to answer him at once.  “It was… “   Bob took over and went to the door and told him quietly.  “You were not here and so you did not see what happened.  We are happy that Nancy went to the baby’s rescue.”

  We all murmured softly… “Right.”

” The man turned and stomped down the steps and left still angry.  We hope they rethink what might have happened.  But they will probably just choose a different beach next time. 



When we first moved here Hobie Cats were the thing.  We bought a14 footer with a gorgeous multi-colored sail and dragged it off of our hill and out to sea nearly every day and sailed from Laguna to Newport or Dana Point and back. 

We have photos showing the entire beach in front of our hill lined with colorful catamarans waiting impatiently for the wind to come up. Those were the days!  We had a ball. We had T-shirts made with a picture of our view gazebo and “Fisherman’s Cove Yacht Club” printed upon them.  We held races and ate hot dogs then in our enthusiasm, bought an even larger Cat with two pretty sails.   We still have the Post cards showing the boats in all of their glory that we had printed for  our group and the weekly vacation tenants. 

The post card was a lucky event.  Bob was given, as a birthday gift from his children, a helicopter ride with one of the choppers at John Wayne.  He could take three more passengers. So after I chose myself, Bob chose Michael and Pam to go along and help him photograph the trip.

Bob sat up front with the pilot. I sat in the back with Pam on one side manning the right view camera and Michael sat on the left with his camera.

Seeing that they were going to take pictures the pilot removed the doors to improve the visibility, with a warning that we were not to step out on the metal bar we used to get in.

“Oh right!” I thought, “like I’m going to climb out there while we’re in the air!”

Off we went.  Bob had a plan in mind to direct the pilot to each of our homes so they could get pictures of them.  As we approached the Laguna Beach area, only Michael had a view of the homes, so he leaned out to begin shooting.  Sitting in the center behind him, I took a firm hold on our grandson to keep him in the chopper…what if we hit a bump or something?  Nancy would never believe my excuse if he flipped out.

The pilot turned toward our beach and from the front Bob took pictures of the approach.  After we left Laguna and flew over Pam’s house in Mission Viejo we headed back and went over Nancy and Peer in Tustin.  They came to wave as we hovered.  

The trip ended back at John Wayne Airport and we thanked our pilot for being so cooperative and left to drive home.  Bob took the inland route to take the other two home and as we drove the sky clouded up.  By the time we were driving down the Canyon Road toward Laguna, we could barely see the street it was so dense.  

At home we looked out the window and saw nothing.  No ocean, no sand, no people, just gray from top to bottom.  

Bob looked at his pictures and the one taken as we arrived at the ocean front of the buildings showed beautiful, bright blue water, black Splash Rock, with two rows of white breaking waves rolling onto golden sand. Greenery surrounded the building and the photo of our building was perfect.

Amazing!  If we had arrived an hour later we would have seen nothing.  How lucky can you get?  We used that photo to order about a million post cards.  Well, I not sure exactly how many I bought, but we put them in the apartments for the weekly tenants for years and we still have some left.  And they still amaze me when I look at them.  We could not have drawn a more perfect picture.  

Suddenly like magic, light plastic Kayaks, the new toy of  choice, began replacing the heavy Catamarans and now a once unthinkable, new invention called a Standup Paddle Board is replacing those old fashioned kayaks… well almost.  Now and then someone goes out on an S.U.P. on their knees and never manages to get onto their feet without falling off, making them so embarrassed that they paddle in and take out a kayak instead.  Couples can be seen breaking up over this. 

 The turnover is leaving us to wonder…what will be the next big thing?   If it shows up while I sit here writing about the past, I’ll interrupt myself to let you be one of the first to know what it is coming.

We didn’t raise our own three children in his house.  When the last one, daughter, Bonnie, married and left home we moved from our big Newport Beach house to a comfortable two bed room apartment in this building we bought mainly for that purpose.  

Bonnie quipped that we left so quickly after her wedding that she wondered if we were just waiting for her to go.  She got married and finished Nursing School at about the same time, but she didn’t go far.  In fact she was one of the regular sailors on the Catamaran.  Come to think of it, buying it had been her idea. 

We left the big house Bob designed and had built for our family because at the time we thought it was too large for just two people.  We almost began to regret that choice when the last of our fourteen grandchildren made her appearance.  Things had gotten pretty crowded.  Luckily those grandchildren all showed a penchant for liking to “hang-out at the beach”.  

Our home may be smaller now, but no matter, somehow there is always room for one more and usually enough food for all.  That big house is in the past and thus we all learned to snuggle in and make do with the crowded space , since being at the beach was really the goal.  

All of the young cousins spent so much time together, they naturally grew close… more like siblings.  We tried to keep the refrigerator full and one impulsive day we purchased a four spigot soft drink machine, just like the ones in the fast food places.  We were set now with Coke. Diet Coke, Sprite and Dr. Pepper which helped us keep the welcome mat out.

One could always get away from the crowd if they wished and be alone down with the sand and sun.  A good example was our forth child’s third son, Cecil, who would spend long, quiet, times, sitting beside a rocky tide pool just watching.  He was interested in the little living things that came out of the cracks in the rocks and went about their lives unaware that a very young boy was watching.  He didn’t yet have names for the sea life he observed.  He only watched patiently then carried the visions of what he saw back to his books, where he quickly learned who or what lived where.  Strange little creatures, who thought it best to hide when humans came around, floated and swam or crept slowly around in their little home pools unaware of a silent Cecil.  

He knew where they lived and wanting to share with some of the cousins he would say.  “Want to see an octopus?”   Of course they did, but waiting for it to sneak out of hiding was beyond the capability of the active others.  They soon dashed off to do something more fun like throw a ball or float the waves on a boogie board.  

Sometimes  Cecil would dare to reach in and gently lift the tiny octopus out of the water and even show it to a semi-interested cousin before he took it back and released it to its home pool, watching as it seemed to lose all shape to fit back into a narrow, safe, crack.  A couple of times he came in to wash off the purple-black ink which a larger one had surprised him by spraying.

His knowledge of that water life went with him a few years later when the Boy Scout leaders drove a dozen or so of the boys to the mountains for a fishing adventure.

The guys set up tents in the sweet smelling forest and made a safe fire pit ready to cook their evening meal before going to the nearby cold mountain stream to learn about fishing for trout.  The leaders first just taught the group to cast the fishing lines and reel in the hopefully caught fish that would be their dinner.

Half of the boys were each given one of the six fishing poles and first chance to try their luck.   The others had an hour to check out the interesting forest area and wait for their turns.  Cecil was one of those.  He went a bit down-stream, around the bend, where he took off his shoes and stepped into a quiet rocky pool nearby the faster moving cold water. 

When he returned to the group for his turn with the fishing poles, he carried four nice sized trout strung on his hiking boot shoe laces.  None of the fishing pole boys had caught a single fish.  “How did you catch those?”  They all wanted to know. 

Cecil explained. “I stood very quietly knee deep in a little side pool and when a larger fish came in beside me and nudged my leg, I very slowly reached down and just picked it up.”  He demonstrated how slowly. 

He didn’t know if any of the other boys ever even tried his fishing method, only that his four were the only fish caught that day, which they dutifully fried, along with a few of the stand-by hot dogs, for their tasty campfire dinner.



How did we end up here on this particular beach, retired to spend the rest of our days living on this precarious edge of the Pacific?  A tiny twist of fate changes everything..  

Our own son, J.R. was twelve years old.  He was at that age of adventure and was interested in doing a bit of everything.  Oh our three girls just 7, 13 and 15 years old were adventurous also, but in a very different way.  In that day and age when I was a wise 35, I learned that girls and boys were quite different.  You see I didn’t realize that before as I grew up living in a three girl family, with only three other girls for cousins.  My best girl friends didn’t have brothers either, so I was actually very boy illiterate.

  The differences between the sexes had grown narrower by the time those fourteen grandchildren were dominating our lives.  However, in this earlier era boys only wanted to do boy things like go camping, ride motorcycles, scuba dive and tinker with anything that had a motor and would go fast, like flying dangerously realistic,  remote control, home built, model airplanes from the top of the hill.   While the girls were more interested in the latest fashions for their hair and dresses, decorating their rooms, movies, handsome male singers, dancing and art, also sometimes even boys.

Our son’s new found desire to learn to scuba dive was the subject this time.  We didn’t want to discourage him from doing hazardous things. He was after all a boy and as scary as the motorcycle was, a danger many parents simply did not allow, we bit the bullet and even encouraged him.  It was one of the worries we incurred while doing our best to raise him safely to adulthood.  His boys stuff led me on many dashes to the emergency room for stitches and tetanus shots etc, which I also somehow survived.

The catch twenty two on this scuba thing was the golden rule that every diver had to have what is known as his “most important piece of equipment”: a diving buddy.  J.R. had two friends who had already signed up to take scuba lessons and they were to be each other’s buddies.  He had to find another friend to be his and he could find no one who had the same burning desire to learn to breathe under water.  Swimming and diving?  All of the guys did that, but going into the cold ocean and dropping to the bottom was something else. 

Our son’s plan was to talk his dad into being his buddy.  Bob gave it some thought and decided that our son would be safer if he was there to look out for him, so it was settled.  I actually even agreed.

Now I was remembering that fateful year in which Bob decided that we should be a skiing family, he began it all by ordering two of everything he could guess we needed for each of the six of us from the Sears catalog and putting the entire shipment in the middle of the living room floor where we all searched for our own sized.  We had it all except the actual skis.  

Soon we each had found good fitting boots to ski in and for a pair for walking around in the snow, plus ski pants, jackets, hats, gloves, and even long underwear to keep us warm on the snow slopes, after we rented some skis.  With everyone satisfied, we helped pack the leftovers so Bob could return them to Sears.  All in all they made a pretty good sale.  

We were then set to become beginning skiers with everything we needed, at least we thought so until we hit the slopes and saw what all the cool skiers were wearing and what lovely things the posh ski hill store had to offer.  Only then did we all know what we really needed and would surely buy once we knew for sure we would be in this sport for the long haul. 

What with renting six pairs of skis and buying six lift tickets, it was an expensive deal, or as I over-heard said in the hot chocolate line one day.  “Skiing leaves you as broke as if you couldn’t afford it in the first place.”

Remembering that I wondered… Was the scuba equipment going to become another one of those unending expenses? As the family bill payer and the keeper of the check book it worried me a bit.  Even so, I was even beginning to think in terms of joining the class myself and wondered, would our girls want to do the same?  

We asked. They didn’t and I was a bit relieved.  Then when I learned that you had to be capable of swimming the length of the pool four times to be allowed to sign up, I knew I also was not going to be taking scuba lessons.  However Bob agreed to be J.R.’s buddy.  We both agreed that it would be good for Bob to be there and watch out for our only and irreplaceable son. I decided to sit in on their lessons and watch to learn what they would be up to.  

I knew I had given up too soon when I entered the teaching school yard to take a seat at the edge of their lesson pool.  Very easy for the instructors to keep an eye on all students, the pool was no larger than our kitchen.  I could easily have swum across that pool four times. Too late, the guys were in their swim suits entering the water and I was at the edge looking on with the lesson book in my lap. That was where I stayed for each and every lesson.  I learned a lot and so did they.  

The day came when the entire class, carrying tanks, masks and fins, walked the two blocks to the ocean and I was parked on the sand nearby to watch and wait as they entered today’s cold water and disappeared for the length of time allowed by the air in their scuba tanks.  I could only envision what I had watched in the training pool, but this was more worrisome.  I could only hope that Bob was looking out for his buddy.  They came to the top from time to time and hung in a circle while the instructor gave them directions that I could only guess about.  When the final in the ocean class was over they walked back to the store and class pool where they were given their Scuba cards that permitted them to buy air for their tanks.

The boys decided that they needed wet suits and began to try them on.  I guess the cold water convinced them.  So I tried on and bought one too.  I actually wore it in the ocean twice before eventually passing down to the first grandchild who wanted one.  I found that I could wait for warmer weather to go swimming and Bob soon learned that as often as he had to go scuba diving with his son, as required by the “golden rule” it was J.R. who needed to look after Dad and not the other way around.  There was a lot to be said for having the stamina of a twelve year old verses that of a man soon to be forty.  

On good clear days I often went snorkeling on the surface following my guys.  If they found something interesting on the bottom they would hold it up for me to see.  I soon found that I was occasionally following the wrong divers.  From the top they almost all had black wet suits and looked alike.  I found some yellow repair tape for the wet suits and put a different pattern on the back of each of my two men so I could follow them easily.  

Now… The question was… How did that scuba event lead us our life here on the edge?

The boys liked this especially interesting diving beach in Laguna with the rocks and private coves  that contained a great variety of kelp and underwater life featuring an abundance of things to discover.  Rocks that stood above the high tide were homes for pelicans, sea gulls, cormorants and seals sunning from their days of feeding in the bays.  The small coves were charming, so often the rest of the family came to the beach with the divers. 

We girls swam or sat and read.  We enjoyed just being there with a good lunch picnic, so Bob began to think that we should buy a place to live here for our distant retirement days.  I knew I loved this beach… we all did.  

But I thought that retirement sounded too far away to worry about as, Bob knocked on doors of the buildings surrounding our favorite cove and inquired if anyone wanted to sell. One place dominated the center of the cove.  We particularly loved that one and we got to know the owners because Bob talked to them so often when we on their beach.

Herb, told him that they planned to leave the building to their daughter, so we just visited the couple to say hello, which led to us making an offer to buy the set of apartments next door.  Then one day those owners accepted our offer.  They had recently bought land out in a new California development that was selling 80 acre lots, which the new owners planned to plant with grapefruit and avocado trees.  So they decided to sell their beach front apartments to us so they could invest in trees for the new ranch. 

We bought it and with their help getting started with books of coming tenants and current tenants, plus an explanation of what they all expected of me, which was a clean and fully equipped apartment when they drove up on Saturday afternoon.  I was suddenly in the business of renting weekly vacation rentals.

The children were growing up and I guess it was time for me to have something else to do,  or was that Bob’s idea.  I don’t remember.  But I know it was more than that. I loved the buildings and their beach.  There were two buildings on the lot with three two-bed room apartments and a cute little bachelor for me to look after and keep rented.  It was fun.  

The drive from home was short and beautiful along the Pacific coast for seven miles.  When I wasn’t working on an apartment I just looked at it with pride and said “This is mine!”

A year later we arrived at the beach to work on “OUR” apartments and found a “For Sale” sign on the one next door.  Bob dashed over to inquire of Herb why?  He always said he wouldn’t sell!  What had happened to change that?  The answer was that his daughter told him she wanted to raise horses, so if she could just have the money to buy in “horse country” she would be happy.  Herb assumed that as we bought the building next door we would not still want his.  Bob told him we did.  So in the end they made an agreement as to price and terms with Herb carrying the first mortgage.  I would soon have four more rentals to manage.  It was a good thing that they were next to each other.  But best… this was the one we wanted to retire to some day.  Luckily for us we were savers and didn’t live on our last dollar and lucky that Herb had grown to like us and was willing to finance the building for us so we didn’t have to look for another mortgage.  We were set.  But, fate was soon to change things for the worst then somewhat for the better and then finally forty years later again for the worst.  Had we been able to know all of those things we would have handled the entire affair a bit differently… but ahhh, the future was not for us to see.  Planning for the future is a good thing, but we are not the only ones to guess wrong.

My father, Chris, being several years older than my mother, his lovely wife, thought he was on the right track when he planned for her future.  For one thing she looked so much younger than her actual age, and that added to the years he had on her made it good sense for him to plan his entire retirement based on her out living him.  First he took a much lower monthly retirement payment to insure that the check would continue to come to her after his death.  He put many stocks and bonds and bank vaults into her name: all to make it easier for her to carry on without him.  

He confided to me that as she was so pretty surely one of the older men at church would snap her up and she would marry again.  But even so he wanted her to be secure.  But he was wrong.  She was 71, looking like 39, the age where she stopped counting, when she was stricken with Alzheimer’s and was soon gone.  In that era a name had not yet been given to the disease.  It was known simply as dementia, not easily diagnosed and with no cure.

Dad had guessed wrong.  He alone lived on for many years which he spent trying to get his name back on all of those things he had turned over to her.  As it turned out he was even the one who married again at age 80.  A church lady friend of them both became his bride at that same age.

I had encouraged him to date and not live alone without friends.  His answer had been I don’t know most of the ladies are too old.  But then he added, “A couple of the women are in pretty good condition for fifty, I may ask one of them.  

“fifty!” I laughed, “Dad, I am more than fifty!  Mother must have had you so convinced that she was only 39, the only age she admitted to being, making you think the other ladies must be at least fifty.”

“”Well she was always the prettiest.”  He explained.  But I already knew that.  Boys who came to take me out often asked if my mother dated.  I laughed it off, a little insulted.  But I later noticed that some girls had single mothers who did date.

  Dad suddenly called to say that today he was marrying Myrtle.  Carol and I were so surprised, as we had never met or even heard of her.  We jumped in the car and arrived at his house just as a group of their friends had been seated in the living room for the ceremony.  The minister was also seated facing the sitting couple.  We stood at the door for a moment and when no one noticed us we grabbed a couple of kitchen chairs and sat in that door way.  

He had chosen a woman so different from mother that we couldn’t believe our eyes.  

She was gray and heavy but pleasant looking.  Mother never allowed herself to get gray. Not a single hair on her head was gray.  And our mother wasn’t slim, but plumpishly just right for her five feet tall frame.  At least she claimed to be exactly five feet tall.  She even always wore high heeled shoes to get taller, even her slippers had high heels.  We girls decided she was really only four something.    

Myrtle had to be at least 80 years old.  She looked happy to be sitting there getting married. The minister was saying something about how nice it was for these a bit older folks to find each other and bring love and companionship into their lives.

Dad looked back and saw us, so we each gave him a dainty wave and smiled.  He smiled back to let us know he was glad we were there even if he didn’t actually invite us..  That was when I realized I had hardly ever seen dad smile.  When something pleased him or was a tad funny he kind of smirked a smile, as if the joke was a private thought inside of him and must not get out.  He had a sense of humor that you only saw after you knew him well.  When anything was really, really funny he could be heard chuckling deep inside with his lips closed and his tummy jumping..

The new bit older couple had five good years to travel and live together.  When Myrtle began to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, I was worried that Dad could not go through that again.  Taking care of his wife as she disappeared from him was very, very, difficult.  So I was very relieved when her daughter, Ellen, announced that she was taking her mother home with her, as she was getting unable to care for herself.  I spoke with her and suggested that we should try to get the marriage dissolved as if anything happened to either of them, the law would look to the other to handle affairs.  It would be better if she took care of her mother’s and I took care of my dad’s.  I offered to take care it if she would see that her mother signed at their end.  She agreed.  We knew that divorce was a bad word to them and so called it a “dissolution of marriage”.

I explained to Dad why Ellen and I were going to dissolve the marriage and he agreed.

I few days later I received a call from a lawyer.  I was surprised as I had not yet called one about the problem.  She told me that my father was in her office because he needed to dissolve his marriage, but he had one little problem and advised me to call you.  

I was surprised but said,  “Sure do it.” 

‘I will be happy to but… “  She paused and I could hear a smile in her voice.  “But he cannot remember her name!”  

 I for some reason I had to laugh too, but I supplied the information and the lawyer did the rest. 

Dad had very quickly forgotten that he ever had a second wife, though we needed to finish up by rewriting his will and leave Myrtle out, just as Ellen was doing for Myrtle at her end of town.

Dad still bemoaned the poor plans which he had wrongly chosen for our mother. Now Bob and I would soon make the errors that would eventually put us in the same boat.

On the morning we received the phone call informing us that during the night my sister Carol’s husband, Dick had been killed by some drunken kids wildly racing their car down the street, we left at once to go to her side and be what help might be required.  Bob took Carol to the morgue to identify Dick and make those decisions one is almost never ready to make at such a young age. 

I stayed at their house with her four children ages 7 to 16.  The kids, not knowing how to mourn their father, strangely kept themselves busy by cleaning their house…  I imagine trying to help their mother.  

A few days later, as we were going forward with our plans to buy the apartments next door to the ones we owned, Bob made that fateful suggestion.

Because my sister’s family would not be destitute, as she was a top official in a large company, Bob expressed his concern for her future based on what we knew about her.  The family was in a rented house due to the fact that Dick had been out of work for some time.  Carol’s money went almost entirely to her wardrobe.  She made every effort to keep an image she enjoyed of being the “best dressed”.  In her mind it resulted in her rapid rise to the top.  Indeed her closets were filled with the best of everything, dresses, hats, shoes, gloves, coats suits and even designer evening gowns for events.

As Bob put it, the small insurance she would get from Dick would very soon disappear into her closet.  No one doubted him.  His idea was to show Carol the buildings we were about to buy and ask if she would like to invest in them with us.  The largest house was the one just vacated by the sellers.  She could move the kids in at once and pay no more for rent than she was now, to make it easy on her.  We would manage the apartments just as we were doing now with weekly vacation rentals, as they brought in the most money and would help pay the two mortgages.   

The best decision she ever made was to accept our offer and become our partner.  They all moved in at month’s end and were thrilled at the wonderful location on the beach… what kid wouldn’t be?

We managed everything, weekly tenants, repairs, bills, and our partnership mortgage, which had a large balloon payment due in ten years.  Carol proudly told everyone, her kids, Dick’s relatives and her associates at work that she had just bought this wonderful building in Laguna Beach.  They were all impressed.  We didn’t care. We knew the real story, as did our own family and of course the sellers and mortgage holder.  

We continued to live in our Newport Beach home until our children were gone from the nest.  Finally we decided to make the move, though at the time Bob was still working, but we reasoned that five bedrooms and three bathes was more than we needed any more.  We had five years ago chosen this two bedroom apartment downstairs from Carol for our much desired retirement out on the edge of the cliff.  Now we both felt that it was the right time to start enjoying it… so we did… and still are.  First we rented our house in Newport and then off to Laguna Beach we happily went.  

After ten years, the balloon came due and of course Carol had not saved a dollar for that event.  She apologized and said if we paid it, she would pay us with her occasional bonuses, so we paid the building off and continued the partnership as it was originally written, signed and recorded by the three of us together.  Slowly bit by bit Carol repaid us her share.  

The fact that we lived downstairs from her seemed to puzzle her family and friends as I was asked about it several times…   You own the buildings next door, so why do you live here in Carol’s?

I didn’t know what to say without answering that we owned half of this building also.   The image of being the owner seemed as important to Carol as her fabulous wardrobe, second only to her meteoric rise in the company from a beginner at the bottom to a vice-president with an office in both Pasadena California and Fifth Avenue New York.  She was proud and we were also proud of her.  In her field she was outstanding, so I shrugged off the question, pretended not to hear it.    I didn’t know that eventually Carol, herself, and even her children would actually come to believe the lie.  However the resulting problem took 40 years to explode and right now I am more interested in writing about the joys of watching the grandchildren, great-grandchildren and their friends confront the ocean.

Beginning in the year of 1971 our first Grandchild, Michael, was born in Kansas, where his father was serving in the Army, as a helicopter pilot.  We finally got to meet him when his parents come to California to live after his dad became a civilian again.  This delightful little boy was the oldest of what became a train of mostly enthusiastic, active, little boys.  His sister, Ashley, was born in 1974.  These two children, whose father had grown up on the far edge of our Country spend their own life living with a foot in each great ocean as they spent time in their summers with the Atlantic grandparents.Their father, Peer, spend much of his youthful time sailing the Atlantic with his father in the small, sturdy sail boat Captain Swan bought to replace the large freighter he had commanded for his entire life as a sea Captain, where he transported produce south to the lower Americas and returned with bananas.  That fruit disappeared from the lives of we North Americans when Captain Swan’s ship and the others like his became part of the war against Hitler. His ship was sunk from under him by a German U-boat, that would have been enough to make me want to stay on land, but he survived to continue his sea faring life, bringing bananas to the people.  I remember the news reel and magazine coverage of children being shown their first banana, after the war ended and life all over the planet struggled back to normalcy.  



I saw our ex-first lady, Barbara Bush, wearing those “ASK ME” words on the back of a sweat shirt in a People Magazine article about her.  I’ll bet few people asked.  They would much rather just volunteer to tell someone about theirs.  

Peer left his eastern edge of the country to attend college on the western edge, where he met and eventually married Nancy and the couple after living and traveling the entire middle of their county returned to the Pacific edge to settle and raise their family. Our new son-in-law is right at home here and if he can’t be sailing the ocean as often as he’d like, he is content to just sit on our deck and look out over it.

More grandchildren began to fill our lives. Tripp, or James the third, arrived in 1975, followed by a second girl, Libby, born in 1976, in Sacramento, where our son, J.R., was serving in the Air Force.  Quickly the boy explosion began as we acquired six more boys from our four children. We welcomed Grant, and Jerome, or J.J. in 1977, Scott, in “78 and Andrew, who was born on my birthday, in “79, before Robert, and Cecil followed in 1980 and “81. 

A third girl, Mackenna fooled us all by being born on April first, 1982.  Her father almost missed her birth as he noticed the date and thought the phone call telling him to go to the hospital was an “April Fool’s Day” prank.  The grandchildren train grew still longer a couple of months later that year with the birth of John on Bob’s birthday.  Now Pamela had a son honoring both her mother and her father’s birthdays. 

Michael began to take pride in the fact that there was a growing train of cousins of which he was the Engine.  He assured us that he planned to lead them all in the right direction.   We knew he would need all of the help he could get. 

After a lull of four years Clifford was born in 1986, the tenth boy for us and Bonnie’s fourth.  Several years had passed while Bonnie was a single mother.  When she married Randy, her three boys gained a step father and eventually another brother and a sister.   We were all happy to greet another little girl, and I mean little.   Kelly Christine, arrived early and weighed only three pounds.  

Bonnie had been rushed by helicopter from Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach to Long Beach Memorial Hospital, where they specialized in premature births.  With their excellent preemie care our beautiful, tiny, doll came home at three months old to be our fourth girl and last grandchild.

The new little girl was another, but smaller, Libby.  A blonde, blue eyed, tiny doll with  Libby’s talent to charm, while out-foxing her challengers. 

Even Libby’s dad, J.R. admitted that looking at Kelly he felt that his baby Libby was back.  Libby, 14 years older was a talented piano player, who on one occasion played with a full orchestra before she turned her mind toward her books in order to achieve her goal of becoming an animal doctor.

At four little Kelly owned the beach like a mermaid.  The sand and water were hers for the taking.  Watching her roam the tide pools like 13 year old brother, Cecil, and build a sand castle with tall, 17 year old  J.J., or test a boogie board like 14 year old brother, Robert and wade the incoming water along-side eight year old Clifford, I knew she was not going to let those waves get the better of her.  What else would one expect of a girl who had four much bigger brothers to contend with.  

Those four young boys, who had been making a career out of trying to out-dominate each other, were both her protector and challenger.  She learned very young how to handle those big guys… a talent that would serve her well in the coming years.  She was doing very well, indeed, for a child who only weighed three pounds at birth and had to grow for three months in the hospital before she was big enough to begin her real outside life.  She grew to be a five foot tall beauty, small but mighty.

We soon began to notice that in family games Kelly was often the winner.  She even beat the adults in card games.  It was her natural instinct for numbers.  When Kelly reached High School, their father gave each child a challenge to write down the same amount of money on paper and spend it in the Stock Market; then buy and sell on paper to see who made the most money in six months.  Also any one with some money still in the mock account in six months may go for the entire year.  It was baby Kelly who won that game also.  

I asked her one day how she was able to win so many games so often.

Her answer was soft and simple like the girl herself.  “I just keep a low profile, eyes down and hands quiet as I assess the game rules.  I’m small and the other players don’t notice me. I don’t seem threatening.  When things are just right I make my planned move, and in their surprise and fluster others make mistakes, which I use to my advantage.”

I told her, “It doesn’t seem possible that the others, especially the guys. Don’t notice a pretty girl.”  Her answer was… “Thank you, but noticing me and regarding me as a threat, are two different things.  I don’t celebrate when I win a point. If it looks accidental, I can accidentally win again.”  She smiled her angelic smile.  “Out foxing the smart ones is especially gratifying.”  That game plan would not have an effect on the Stock Market.  It all must come back to her innate understanding of the numbers.   

In College the Bonnie and Randy’s children were given the same Stock Market challenge with some real dollars.  Anything they made over the starting amount they may keep.  Their father, Randy, told us that Kelly was doing so well with her Stock Account that he no longer had to give her an allowance.  Now he had even told her to tell her brothers any time she made a move.  They were not required to follow her lead only be aware of it and make their own choices.  

At Chapman College Kelly enrolled in a financial class to study the Stock Market.  With that education, what she was already doing at home sprang into useable reasons.  Understanding the Market only made her better.  What the Chapman class mates were doing on paper for a grade, she was doing for real.  Kelly told us that she was very pleased that her teacher often used her decisions as examples in the class.  She will graduate next year.  One can only guess where she will go from there with beauty, talent and the ability to work hard she has all of the tools.  

The older brothers have taken different paths.  J.J. is very musically talented but has mainly used it for his own enjoyment.  Perhaps his interest in computers will be the thing he succeeds in using for a career.  Cecil graduated from Emory Riddle College for future pilots.  He is currently flying beautiful, red, twin engine jets for a Charter Service. Also he is married to Monica and has two children, Kyren and Hayden. Clifford is still in College.  If he stays in much longer he will most likely come out a teacher.  However his goal may be to learn business and work in his Parent’s Company as he does part time now.  If things go as they seem, Kelly will one day be running that Company.  So Randy and Bonnie have a lot of choices ahead.

Pam’s boys are getting settled in life as she awaits grandchildren that are closer to home

Tripp graduated from Loyola School of Law and is a California Lawyer in Sacramento.  His, wife, Karen, works for Gallo Wines in the Central Valley nearby.  So they live in Stockton. They recently returned from a trip where they climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. I guess they had already climbed the local stuff.  They are a very athletic couple.

Grant is a Major in the U.S. Air Force.  He is married to Evelyn and has two children. Their son, Kelly was born in California at the Edwards Air Force Base where his dad was attending Test Pilot School, they were then sent to England where a daughter, Rory was born.

Andrew is a graduate Architect… still single,

John graduated from College and is looking for his future career.  He is married to Kira, who works for the government in the very interesting geological field.

Michael is married to Jeannette and they have two little girls, Isabella and Victoria, they both have interesting jobs and just bought the house from us, that once was owned by J.R. and Betsy.Ashley works for Bonnie and Randy’s Co. is married to Brett and is the mother of a girl and a boy, Beverly and Jake.  

Scott is married to Jackie and they leave their jobs as much as they can without jeopardizing them, to travel the world.  They have ridden elephants, wind-sailed over something in South America, slept in the Ice Hotel in Sweden, searched out lions in Africa and too many other adventures for me to keep track.  I only know I often think, How wonderful!  I’m glad it is them and not me. Even when we were traveling we didn’t travel like that.  We did museums and that tourist stuff.

Mackenna is a New York Lawyer and says she loves New York.  I, who love my Cliff-Edge here in California, don’t know why.  But to each his own!                                                            

We know that the Doctors, Libby and Albert, will never leave Texas; And after the births of Alex and Josh neither will J.R. and Betsy. Those little boys are why they moved to Texas



Michael joined the Navy at eighteen.  With his born-in love of the ocean it was a natural choice.  He had grown up on our beach with some summer holidays spent sailing on his Beverly Massachusetts grandfather’s boat.  

In the Navy his choice of duties was to become an Air Sea Rescue Diver.  He was trained to be aboard a helicopter, hovering nearby their Aircraft Carrier whenever planes were taking off or landing.  If a plane missed and went into the water, his job was to jump from the copter and swim down to bring the trapped and possibly injured pilot to safety.  Those men in his corps wore a proud logo that read “That others may live”  

  Michael received a medal for his heroism when his helicopter flew to an off shore emergency, where they hovered to await the sub which was not allowed to come to the surface in day light for secrecy reasons.  

Michael waited in his seat near the door to be ready to jump out or be cabled down at a        seconds notice.  Time was always critical.

When the U.S. submarine finally broke surface it was night and very dark.  The weather was the kind they usually didn’t fly into, but in an emergency more chances had be taken. Michael was cabled down in the total darkness where a challenging, rough, Atlantic sea was breaking over the sub’s low, barely visible, surface.  

He waited alone, as he said, feeling like a scene from the Hunt for Red October movie, as he   waited for an injured sailor from the nuclear sub to be brought to the top, so he could strap him to a stretcher and stay below fighting the wind for control of the cable to steady it, as those in the chopper lifted the tightly bound man off of the dark, ocean splashed deck and brought him up to his mercy ride to land.  

Michael  continued to struggle in the cold below to try to keep them from spinning out of control as it went up almost out of sight into the darkness and finally aboard.  He could sense the loosening of the cable, so fastened himself to it and gave it a pull to say “Lets go up”.   And up he went with no one belowto steady his dizzying wind driven swing.

The sub very quickly disappeared into the deep. As the helicopter left for land even before the diver was aboard, as they had barely enough fuel to make it to the shore station, due to the long hovering time.  

They refueled at the first shore base and as Michael sat in his seat by the open door, still dripping wet and shivering from the excitement, he saw a telephone booth a few feet away.  Knowing exactly how long it would take to fill up the chopper, he jumped out with the thought that he would call home and tell his Dad about this experience.  He dialed the operator and put the call home on reverse charge, when no one answered the phone, he asked the operator to change the call to a different number.                  

I answered the phone.  I heard Michael’s very excited voice say. “I only have a minute but I wanted to tell someone about tonight’s experience.  Tell Poppa Bob and my parents that I just returned from taking an injured man off of a sub.  This is a first for me and I was both scared and cool.  They are refueling the chopper now, because we had to wait so long for the sub to come to the top, that we almost had to leave without saving the poor guy, but we did get him aboard and I am still dripping the Atlantic Ocean from my suit, but we got him and that is what counts.  The Doc says he will be alright. So rather than take any more chances with the fuel, our pilot is filling us up. Oh! Here he comes I’ve got to go…bye!” 

I gave the short story to Bob and he relayed it to Nancy and Peer.  Nancy told someone who told someone else, who happened to be a newspaper reporter.  That man called Nancy and asked if he could have a picture of her son for the little story he wanted to write.  She faxed it and that was all.

The next day I walked out to get the morning paper and before I was even in the house I saw the tiny square picture of Michael smiling out from under his white sailor’s cap.  I sat down at the table to read what it said.  I couldn’t believe that Michael’s story was already in the paper and I worried that he would be in trouble for telling it.  The paper didn’t have any more information than I did, so I felt it had come from me.  Oh dear!  The funny thing was the only part they got wrong was the opening line.  It read,

“When Bob Mosier answered the phone yesterday morning he heard an amazing story from his grandson Michael Swan…  Hey! I answered that call!

He didn’t get in trouble thank goodness. Better yet, he got a medal! 

Because he was now at sea duty on the Aircraft Carrier when the Medal’s Ceremony was planned down in San Diego, his parents and Bob and I were invited to come to the Naval base and receive it in his honor.  

Nancy accepted it for him.  They are very big on Mother’s in the Navy.  Bob and Peer, who was a helicopter Pilot himself when he was in the Army, and Bob, who flew twin engine planes for the Air Force, loved the Base tour and the chance to fly the helicopter trainer.  Nancy and I sat in the mock-up cabin behind them and watched with fascination as the window in the trainer showed all of San Diego, as if we were really out there turning, taking off and landing.  We had no fears because we were firmly anchored in the huge building.



Back home and enjoying our beach again Michael quite often used those Navy trained skills to help a troubled swimmer get safely to shore.  On our beach we only had a City Life Guard in the three months of summer.  Luckily we had Michael more often all year to teach and encourage his younger cousins to respect the ocean and never turn your back on it.

Even Michael couldn’t convince his cousin, Robert, though, because he knew there were all kinds and sizes of fish in that water that he could not see and where he was fine in a regular swimming pool with clear water he would not trust the invisible unknowns in the ocean.

One summer, our daughter, Bonnie, signed all four of her little boys up for sailing lessons.  On the first lesson the instructor wanted each student to swim to the buoy located just a few feet from the boat dock.  In turn each of the students went in and swam the short distance and back… all but one.  Robert looked at the deep, dark, water, hiding he didn’t know what and refused to jump in.  He was told that he could not learn to sail if he did not make the first safety swim.  He looked at the tiny sail boat with longing.  That looked like a lot of fun.  But the water looked more menacing.  He shook his head, no.  

The instructor was accustomed to having a child with this mind set.  She jumped into the water, just as the other kids had before her and swam to the flagged buoy and back.  At the dock she reached for a hand up from Robert.  As his hand reached hers she pulled him in.  He came up spitting and sputtering as she towed him to the flag and back. “Now,” she told him “swim it.”  He did.  Then together they climbed back onto the dock.  As a teacher of children all summer, she had no patience with being held up by the one reluctant child.    She smiled at Robert as she told him “Now we can carry on with the lessons.”  He smiled back, as he was glad he would now get to take the exciting sailing lessons, where he quickly learned the fun of being out on the dark water.  After that, even when he was at our beach he slowly began to step a little further into it, but liked floating on a board a bit better.  Those strange fish were still out there some place, and he continued to peer deep watching for them, though he often sailed with the guys on our Catamaran because now he knew how.  

As an adult Rob owned his own much larger sail boats and several Sea-dos. which he, his wife and young step-daughter, Amy took on week-end trips to Catalina.  A phone call from him often informed us that they were going to sail their latest bigger boat up from Dana Point and when he arrived within our sight would Papa Bob please take pictures of them waving from it for him, so he could show the new boat off to his friends and cousins.  Obviously the ocean had finally won him over…unknown fish and all.

Robert died at the far too young age of  32, as the result of an auto accident that had due to unfortunate circumstances spun out of his control.  We all miss him very much.  Especially his wife, Tonia and 7 year old daughter, Jadyn, he also left behind a step daughter, Amy and the new baby, Alexandria, born eight months after his death, Bonnie’s fifth grandchild, and our thirteenth great-grandchild.



We had quite a bit of fun-to-use ocean equipment that Bob and I originally bought for our own use and we actually used it all one time or another, but as the years swam by we began to get more enjoyment from watching the growing grandchildren use those things and less of exercising our own effort to do so. 

  It was so simple to watch from our big window and laugh at their antics and much more physical work to join them.  We found that enjoyment is just that, even when you get it watching others experiencing it.

One day I watched J.R. and Betsy’s tiny little blonde Libby take charge of herself down on the sand. The toddler was barely able to walk on the bumpy, uneven, sand down by the shore.  I sat looking at today’s group of our grandchildren as they ran about chasing, or sat and dug up the sand to form it into piles of little castles.  Libby stopped at the edge of the water to look out to sea.  She looked like a baby doll in her sweet pink bathing suit.  She glanced back at the other children with a proud smile.  And the moment she looked away from the waves she was suddenly struck by a large, unexpected, rogue wave and knocked down.  The continuing wave rolled her into a ball and lifted her round and around ahead of the foaming water like a little blonde and pink beach ball it pushed her all the way up the sand toward the cliff.  

I was startled enough, though way up in the house, to jump to my feet as if to help her, when I saw that she stopped rolling at the feet of her five year old cousin, Michael, who watched her coming and quickly played the big boy and lifted her up to her feet.

I was relieved and mentally thanked Michael.  To be sure she was okay and not terribly frightened.  I stayed to watch her reaction. She took a few gasps of air then shook her long wet hair from her face, and smiled her charming two year old smile up at Michael and immediately turned, still coated with wet sand, and trotted straight back down to the water’s edge.

It was with that same determination that she trotted into the auditorium at her father’s side for the Cal Tech College parents and students welcome session.  She was about to face being one of the few women to attend what had until fairly recently been an all men’s school. The first thing they asked of all of the new incoming students is to raise their hands if they had at first receiving their notice of acceptance thought that a mistake might have been made.  Most of the students raised their hand.  Cal Tech had a very high requirement for admission.  After telling them that their group was the brightest of all students from their High School, reminding them that they had become accustomed to being the top of their classes.  He told them with a light smile,  “So… it is my duty to warn you that starting today exactly one half of you are about to become below average.  Don’t be down hearted.” He said with a big smile. “ It’s the numbers!”

Libby graduated and went on to become a Veterinarian, married her love from Cal. Tech. also now a Medical Doctor.  They had two son’s Alex and Josh.  If you phone and ask to speak to the Doctor they may ask…Two legs or four?



Our weekly tenants were fascinated by the Hobie Cats and kept Bob busy giving them rides out to sea and back.  One young couple told him that they had rented a Cat in Hawaii and wondered if, as they were experienced sailors, might they please take our Cat out themselves. 

This was something we usually did not do as Bob knew we were responsible for them if something went wrong.  However they seemed to be responsible, so he let them shove off together and kept watch to see if they knew what to do.  It was not long before he regretted the loan.  They did not seem to get the hang of tacking beside the wind and simply pointed the boat where they wanted it to go.  Not the way to sail!  He watched for them to catch on.  But they did not.  There was nothing we could do except watch and hope the current would bring them in.  But it did not.  The current down the coast was strong and the more they tried to point the boat toward our shore, the further they floated south-west down toward town.  As they drifted out of our sight beyond the Seacliffs building that blocks our southern view, Bob took my hand and said ,  

“We will have follow them in the car.  They could, maybe, make their way ashore someplace and I will have to pick them up and sail the boat back..  You’ll have to bring them home in the car.”

We drove down Cliff Drive turning in at every chance to see where our tenants had floated.  After we got to down town watching became difficult.  We couldn’t get the car close enough to the beach.  It was becoming evening and growing cold, so we were now worried about how they would fare out on the ocean wearing only brief bathing suits.  Bob took out his phone and called the life guard department.  He explained that the couple floating south on a Hobie Cat with his sail number was not in their control and now they would need help.  They called the Harbor Patrol and called us back.  Do you think the Dana Harbor Patrol or the Newport Beach Patrol will be able to reach them first?   Even though Dana Point was further away, that was the direction they were being carried on the current.  So he recommended them.  We kept our eyes on the boat as it continued down the coast.  Finally we found a street end with a long view and parked to watch.  The sun went down and we could barely see the boat with no lights.  Then we saw the Newport Harbor Patrol boat approach them.  Now we could follow their lights.  They kept beside them for a few moments before the Dana Point Harbor Patrol arrived.  It seemed be their decision that the Dana Point men would give the Cat a tow to their building.  As we watched, we got a call on the phone telling us to go to the Coast Guard building on the edge of Dana Point Harbor.  So we did.

When we arrived there, they had taken the passengers into the building and had them take hot showers to get themselves warm, as they were almost freezing.  Then they gave each a warm gray sweat suit with the Coast guard emblem on it to wear home.  

They were so happy to climb into our warm car and go back to their apartment.  I almost don’t need to add that they were very apologetic for over estimating their ability to sail.

Our boat spent a few days parked at the Coast Guard until Bob had time to have us go down and let him sail it home.

Whenever that couple came back to Laguna they usually stopped by to laugh with us about their adventure.  They said they wrote a letter of thanks to the Dana Harbor Patrol.  The Coast guard let them keep the sweat suits for souvenirs. But anyway they laughed, “We have lost interest in sailing.  We prefer to back-pack in the mountains now.

  A few years passed before we saw them again.  This time they were toting two small children in a pair of happy, little back-packs.



The ocean is not to be trusted.  We tell the children not to turn their back on it.  However they learn much quicker by themselves just as baby Libby did that day that if you turn your back on it, it can get you.  

One very quiet afternoon Bob and I had sailed south on the Hobie Cat and were cruising home slowly and very close to shore.  As we passed the tall hotels just past  Down Town Laguna, we floated by with almost no wind and absolutely no waves.  We were very relaxed with a few belongings and some drinks and snacks tied in a plastic bag close to the mast.  We looked up at the windows of the hotels that faced the sea for signs of people.  

A man with a camera stood on the sand below taking pictures of sea gulls as they lazily glided around him watching for signs of food from the man who unfortunately only held a camera.  They buzzed us with eyes on the plastic bag.  We knew that they knew what that may mean.  

We had often watched from our window at home as the little thieves paced back and forth waiting for someone on a beach blanket to leave a plastic bag unattended, then they quickly strutted up and in a flash attacked the bag and flew off with it, fighting over the delicious contents.  The returning beach guest could only look around and wonder where their lunch went.

So as we laughed at the silly gulls, suddenly we felt the boat lift into the air on a large wave and before we could wonder “where did that come from…” we were lifted over the rocks between us and the shore and left with the Cat sideways in the water. As we clung to the sides a second wave picked us up again and dumped us off, sending the now upright boat gliding to shore.  We waded in looking for our bag of stuff.  It was gone with Bob’s shoes and some tools he liked to carry, also the food would this time go to the fish instead of the birds.  

As we stood looking over the Cat for damage, the man with the camera came over.  He asked how we were.  We were alright and it seemed so was the boat.

“I just missed a great picture!”  He told us with a sad smile.  “I was looking through the camera lens when I saw that huge wave form and come straight at you and all I could do was stupidly stand there watching you through the lens saying… Oh, oh, oh my! And I didn’t even think to hit the picture button.  I don’t suppose you would like to try to do that again.”  He laughed.  We laughed too.  There wasn’t a wave in sight.   

We shoved the Cat back around the rocks and into deeper water.  How the waves had lifted it over those large rocks without even breaking the boat somewhere we couldn’t guess.  There wasn’t even a rip in the sail. The heavy tools in the plastic bag had probably kept it on the bottom among the rocks someplace.  

What was it we always told the children… never turn your back!



One warm, clear, weekend night our son J.R., his teenage son, Scott, and our daughter, Nancy’s husband, Peer, were out on our deck in deep conversation.  Peer was sitting in the Jacuzzi on our deck facing the ocean.  The other two men stood at the side sipping their drinks and arguing with each other as they do when they converse.

The ocean was spotted with the green underwater lights of the scuba divers who were taking advantage of the clear water.  They often came up with a lobster or even a halibut.  Mostly they just went sight-seeing. The underwater night life is so different.

Scott stood facing the water with his eyes on the scuba lights as they talked.  It’s hard to take your eyes off of them as they wander about under the water.  The green light turns to white when someone comes to the surface.  They cast the white light around as if looking to see if anyone else was on top, seeing no one, under they go again with the green light shining when they’re facing us and black nothing when they go away.  It’s like a silent underwater dance as the lights go and come.

Scott stood erect and peered out in his confusion.  He watched a single light go in and out slowly with the ebb and flow of the gentle little waves.

“That’s strange.”  He told the others.  “I was semi watching that light as it came in.  I had watched the four men enter the water and go beyond Splash Rock, Then two came almost all of the way in.  One turned and went back out toward the other two, while the last guy started for shore.  

I kept watching his light get closer.  But now his light seems to be just floating in and out alone.  I wonder what happened to that diver!   Scott went quickly down the stairs, scanning the dark ocean as he waded in and picked up the floating light without a diver in sight. 

J.R. grabbed the big flashlight that Bob kept on the deck and ran down to the sand and shined the light out back and forth over the top of the water.  “I think I see a gleam of a scuba tank out over there.”

Peer was already out of the Jacuzzi and down to the water’s edge.  Being already wet and in his bathing suit, he began to swim in the direction J.R. pointed.  “Better call 911 and report this!”  Peer called back as he drew close to the man wearing a scuba tank but not the face mask while he was floating face down.  He turned the man and what he found was not promising.  Still he towed him toward shore while trying to keep his face up.  

The Life Guards Bob had called arrived before Peer could bring him in.  They went into the water with a board and tried to resuscitate the man upon it, as Peer towed them all for shore.

By the time they were in, it was obvious to them that the effort was useless.  They phoned for the coroner to come and pick him up.  The Life Guards looked about for the man’s buddy.  Going into the ocean without a buddy was against all rules. So where was he?

Scott pointed out to the three green lights that were turning in and out a fair distance away.

The men sat on the shore to await the return of the three divers who were with the victim and the ambulance that would soon come for him. 

When the first of the men who came to shore was the missing Buddy, he was taken up to the Life Guard Jeep for questioning.  The other guard stayed by the victim watching for the rest of the divers.

With nothing more for them to do our guys came up and all three settled in the Jacuzzi to get warm.  Whatever they had been arguing about before had lost its importance as they mused the simplest fact of life:  Either you had it or you didn’t.   They had all tried to help the unknown man but had failed.  What could they have done better?   No one knew.  So sad.

It was reported the next day in the Newspaper that a diver had died last night in Fisherman’s Cove.  His Buddy reported that he had been told to go join the other three men as he didn’t feel well and was going to go home.  As his buddy swam away the man had a heart attack and died instantly.  He had no water in his lungs.

On a happier note we see a lot of weddings and even more wedding pictures being photographed.  I think I have seen every color of bridesmaid’s dresses as are possible.  

One thing is something they all have in common.  The brides never seem to be the least bit worried about their dresses.  She may take off her shoes and carry them, but It doesn’t matter how expensive the dress seems to be, they get dragged over sand and stranded kelp, wet or dry.  The bride may even sit upon a questionable rock and seem to hope that those on coming waves will splash up and over her skirt.  In fact the photographer even appears to wait for just such an event to take his picture.  Remaining cool as the elements trash what could have cost hundreds of dollars or more must be an uncontested bridal code.  Perhaps they think the pictures will be more unique and special.  The dress is expendable. After all, no bride ever plans to wear that dress again. 

  One of the more ever inventive weddings occurred up on the hill beside our cliff.  We watched awe struck as the couple arrived together in a very brightly decorated carriage pulled by two men in fancy red and gold uniforms, like something out of a Bollywood movie. 

Only the Minister arrived next, also dressed in red and gold. We saw no other guests or

 any bridesmaids.  The bride was in a beautiful, white, full skirted, lace sleeved, gown with a short train and wore a tiara in her hair that sparkled like diamonds in the sunlight.  

The groom wore a forest green tuxedo, pale green shirt and tie and a top hat.  They stood together looking out to sea as the minister spoke.  We couldn’t hear what he said, but as he finished a man in a red plaid kilt played his bag pipe as the couple were each carried down the hill by the uniformed attendants.  Now we saw that a small row boat was pulled out from around the corner. It was as brightly decorated as the first carriage. The bride was seated at the front and the groom at the back while the red and gold attendants pushed the boat into the water.  Fortunately the ocean water was smooth with low rolling waves.  

I couldn’t help wondering what they would have done if the waves were as fierce and rough as we knew they could be.  

One attendant climbed in and began to row the pretty little boat out to sea.  

The other man gathered up the flowery decorations, I had scarcely noticed, from the pathway leading onto the hill.  He grabbed them up and carelessly tossed  everything up into the carriage and towed it all away.  

Just as the bridal boat passed our Splash Rock, a very graceful yacht slipped into view from around the bend and the couple was taken aboard, along with their attendant, who tied the colorful little boat up at the rear, and then they simply sailed away out of sight.  

Maybe they went to Hawaii or someplace else in the South like Mexico or the Caribbean. If they went north to Newport Beach they were there quickly, but a sail to San Francisco would give the trip more honeymoon time.  However Alaska and the majestic views of northern lights, whales, polar bears and glaciers spinning down from high, snow topped mountains would be much more fulfilling in my book.  Obviously, I really cannot guess their destination.  But my, it was all very romantic.



In the early days I managed the newly acquired apartments from my home in Newport Beach.  Every Saturday I left early to be there in case a vacationer left early.  I needed all of the time I could get to enter each empty apartment and pull the sheets, towels and other laundry to take home for me to wash and fold neatly, just like the stacks in my car from last week waiting to be used for the incoming vacationers.  Our flier informed the tenants that they may arrive after 2:00 p.m. and must be out before11:00 a.m. .  That was how much time I needed to be ready for the new people.  

Bob and Dorothy Johnson, who sold us the property, warned us that in reality people were very slow to gather their things and leave and the folks eager to begin vacationing almost always arrived early.  In fact they often met going and coming, leaving you no or little time in the supposedly empty place.  It was best to suggest to the early arrivals that now would be good time to drive to the market and buy a few things for the refrigerator.

Dorothy was a great help teaching me what had to be done for this entirely new business to me.  As she turned the reservation books over she volunteered to go with me for the first few Saturdays to help.  I was exceedingly happy to accept that.  

Dorothy had been doing this job for several years and admitted she was looking forward to the new Ranch they were building a big house upon and most happy to turn this chore over to someone else…me.  

After I was broken in as a Land Lady, I found the work hard but rewarding.  By the second year I had taken all of the reservations myself and knew most of the incoming tenants. Thirty years later I had mastered it.  It is almost strange to realize that 40 years later I still rent to many of those same people and even their grandchildren.  Only now they are yearly tenants. When Bob retired I found that yearly was my way to almost retire also.

In those early years of living on the edge, with Newport Beach behind me, I used to power walk every morning, usually in the dark.  I had been taught in school that “ladies don’t run”.  Now that they did it was too late for me to teach my muscles to go fast.  So I walked a little faster through the very lovely Heisler Park that we are lucky enough to have stretched between us and the Village.  As I did this every morning it was only logical that I passed many of the same early birds, who sat in or walked through the park daily also.  In the dark you knew you had seen some of these folks before, but you traveled on without acknowledging them.  Power walking was a difficult task for me so I concentrated on that.  

One of the regulars, or I should say a couple of dozen of them, were cats.  I began to notice that an uncountable number of assorted fully grown cats sat around on fences and on or under benches.  I love cats but kept moving along past them just noticing the different colors and large numbers.  I wondered why they were suddenly there in the Park. I soon found that I was on the same schedule with a couple who arrived at those dark hours and began to put down plates and bowls of food.   The cats all eagerly gathered around the assortment of dishes and lapped them clean.  As the dishes appeared to be real, I was not surprised that the couple waited until the food was gone and picked up the empties, put them in their basket and drove away.  

As I finished my fast walk down to the Life Guard stand and turned for home,  I was surprised to find that stranger yet another car paused with motor running.  I watched this lady set paper plates full of cat food out close to where the last couple had placed their feast.  I wondered if they knew about each other, or if so why didn’t they take turns with this feeding project.  Even a wild Park cat didn’t need two meals each morning.  That didn’t stop them from gathering around and gobbling the second gift down in short order.  And why were the cats there anyway.  I never noticed them before and I was at this Park quite often.  I carried that question in my mind, reminded each day I watched it happen at the same time every morning.

Once a month Bob and I watch our City Council at work on T.V.  That was where I learned the answer to the Park cats and acquired another question.

A lady who had approached the public podium to speak to the Council asked this question.

“Can you tell me if the Cat P roject is working?”

Now they had my full attention.  Cat Project?  Was that about the Park cats?  I waited for the answer.  Bob was also interested as I had told him about the Park full of cats and the two meals that were served to them.  The Council Mayor looked at the others on each side of her to see if anyone was ready with the answer.  A different Council member looked puzzled.   “What is the Cat Project?  Did I miss something?” 

No one seemed to be able answer the Public question, so the Mayor explained.  

“After the last collapse of the Heisler Park hillside, there was a public outcry to get rid of the squirrels and just as many who were for them.  No one came forward with an acceptable plan.  Then the Cat Shelter in the Canyon brought us an idea.  They had cages full of large, full grown cats.  Many were feral caught on the hillside, fending for their food.  Their suggestion was they could neuter them, so there wouldn’t a breeding problem, and set them free in Heisler Park where they could maybe keep the squirrel population down and perhaps save the cliffs.” 

” She looked at the questioner.  “I guess you want to know if the Squirrel population is down.”    The woman nodded yes.  Then had to repeat it out loud for the recorder.  

The Council members looked at each other.  No one had any answers, just a few more questions.  It was obvious to me that no one knew about the “Do gooders”  who were so busy in the dark hours of morning over-feeding those same supposedly working cats.  

And I was sure that those fat, happy, well fed cats I saw, who sat around waiting patiently for the easy party food wouldn’t bother to chase down a squirrel.  Maybe chase, just for fun, but catch and devour?   I don’t think so.  Anyway, I now had an answer.  My new questions were, How did those cat feeders know they were there and why worry that they were starving?  How many were there?  I only saw two of them in the early morning.  Did some others feed the poor darlings in the evening or for lunch?  What I do know is that after while the cats disappeared as suddenly as they arrived.  And the City built a strong wall to protect the Park and the Squirrels were gone… …somewhere   

Eventually I was intimidated enough to stop my early morning walks.  Several of those people who were always there started to look at me and vie for my attention.  I began to think that they were the homeless who lived in that Park and they were now trying to get my attention for food or money, I was so uncomfortable with that, that I stopped my routine.

I walked one day just before lunch and, my goodness! the men had it better than the cats ever did.  At least a dozen more men than the morning group sat around on the tables and benches.  My attention was drawn to two women walking down from the Memorial Point area where a van stood back open, waiting for their return.  Each Club Lady carried a very large tray with a huge silver dome on top shielding the hot food feasts inside.

I learned later that this was a new Women’s Club project.  I wonder what they would think of their project if they hung around and watched the men leave after their meal to walk to the Speedy Mart across the highway and return with heavy twelve packs of beer balancing on their shoulders.  As alcohol is not allowed on the beach or the Park they descended to a lower level in a clump of bushes to stash the drinks. 

That month I received a Jury Duty notice.  I actually liked jury duty and have been on them six times.  This time as I sat in the box listening to the Judge’s serious words, waiting to see if my name would be called by the unbiased computer.   His Honor was telling us that he wanted us to be unbiased also, that was why, if our name is called, he would ask us one thing.  “On which side of the Coast High do you live?”

The first dozen or so lived on the up-hill side of that street.  Then my name was called.  Lucky me, I had to speak up and admit that I lived on the beach side of the highway.  “You’re excused!” The Judge promptly dismissed me.

Hummm, I was curious.  What was that all about?  I had never considered living on the edge a public handicap disqualifying me for jury duty. I went to the front desk to turn my badge in and leave.  Then I turned back and asked the Lady ,who checked us in and out, if she knew why the beach side folks were being excused.  

She paused and looked at me.  I guess my street problem didn’t show because she answered. “Oh that’s just to keep it fair. I don’t know anything about that case or the Judge but I heard that the people who live on the beach side of the Coast Highway may be prejudiced against some of those homeless men hanging out on the beach.  This case was probably something against one of them.  I don’t know understand.  But they have done that now and then to be fair.  

I left thinking about myself.  They may be right, however the citizens who live across the highway go to our same beach, so if we are prejudiced, they might be also.  But fair is fair. So the women in the Women’s Club of Laguna must all live up on the hillside, because if women like me joined, I might have mentioned that a Homeless Project would be likely to double the number of homeless who chose that Park to park themselves in, rendering it useless to the neighborhood children.  But being “hillsiders” they probably would only be pleased to find that their “Food in the Park” project was so popular.  And I thought the squirrels were a problem.

Since I gave up my early morning walk I needed something fun to do in that time span.  I began to work the slope from the house to the beach.  Until now it had been covered with whatever  grew on its own…  Ice plants and crab grass mostly.  I started at the top and cleared a path in front of my window.  Then I chipped into the solid rock of the lava.  At least everyone called it lava, though there was no sign of a volcano anywhere that we could see.  If it was there it’s under the ocean now.  I had to use a pick-axe to chip pot size bowls into that hard black rock.  I had noticed that some of the undesirables I removed had sent roots into the tiny cracks of that same rock.  I was counting on the roses I wanted to plant to do the same.

After a trip to the local nursery, I filled the man-made pots with planting material for roses, and firmly tucked in a carefully chosen rose bush.  I placed a little tile with the roses name written upon it into the base.  I wanted to try to learn their names for that day I envisioned when I would take a bouquet into the house.  I started with seven new bushes for me to care for and find out if the bush would be willing to try to go after the nutrients that must be deep under the rock, or why did the other stuff grow so well?

First thing in the morning after Bob had left for the office, I would go into the yard and work my paths into the rock that supported our buildings.  It was hard to chip but very good to keep us solidly upon the hill.  In other areas the soft clay became soaked and the cliffs gave way, just like the former park problem.  

I completely wore one pick-axe down to nothing and broke the wooden handles on four shovels.  When I was satisfied I had over a hundred rose plants with dozens of different varieties, and my husband had retired.

The morning work continues on to this day as beautiful roses need constant care.



One morning, very early, I looked up, startled because I thought I heard someone cry for help.  I saw a person struggling out beyond Splash Rock. No one was around that I could see.  I called Bob out.  He took one look and disappeared to the place under the building that one of the kids had stored an old surf board.  I stood at the phone dialing, as I watched him run down the stairs and throw himself and the board into the water and begin to paddle.  Someone answered the 911 call I told them that a person was in trouble in a rip tide and that my husband had gone out to help.  Do you think we will need to send anyone?  She asked. “

Oh, yes, please do.”  I told her, “Bob is older and out of shape.  He probably will require help getting in.  Although, the board will keep them afloat… even if the rip is too strong.”

“Has he reached the person yet?”  she asked to keep me on the line until everyone was safer.

“Yes, I can see her now. A woman is trying swim in his direction, she’s reaching for an end of the board.  He slid off so she could climb on, but they are both bobbing around hanging on and the tide is taking them further from shore.   Okay now they are both on the same side and kicking to try to go in.   Your man is here now with his red floater.  I heard him call out and ask if they needed help and I heard my husband call back…Yes!  It will be okay now the Life Guard is swimming out.  Oh and another Life Guard just came down the stairs holding a phone.“   The 911 lady was satisfied that things were about to be well under control and she signed off.  

I continued to watch, as did the Life Guard on the phone.  When the first Life Guard, swimming as fast as he could against that outgoing tide, arrived at  that old surf board barely           supporting two people who seemed to be on their way to Catalina, they discussed their situation and he decided to tie the lady to the red float he brought and swim to tow her in.  Bob would draft behind him paddling on the board. When they reached the breaking waves he began to swim harder, pulling her through the waves one after the other to shallow water.  Bob stayed as close as the waves permitted.  The woman fought to keep her head up as she clung to the towed float.  An extra big set carried the board onto the next wave with lying flat upon it.

  In the first shallow the  rip tide was still pulling them out so the Guard continued to pull the woman as he swam until they could both stand and walk to the dry sand, where he looked back to see how Bob was doing.  Then he was pleased when he saw a big wave catch up and under the board to wash him the rest of the way up to shore.  Now he knew he would not have to go back after him.  Bob had actually thought that last wave ride was rather fun.  Perhaps he would go out on this board another day and do it again… just not today.

  They all walked to the foot of the stairs where the lady breathlessly thanked them and the guards fill out their report.

She said when she found herself being pulled further and further from shore she panicked.  As she looked around to all of the windows and up the hill for help and saw no one anywhere who might hear her, she was sure she was a goner.  She couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the man with the board running down the stairs.  This made her struggle harder to get to that on coming board.

Bob ran out of breath with the running and paddling out, so was grateful when the Life Guard appeared to assist.

A few days later a letter appeared in the mail simply addressed to “My Hero Bob.”

It was a thank you note explaining how she had been so scared to die and the relief she felt when she saw him coming.  She knew it had been difficult for him at his age, so she wanted him to know she appreciated that his effort had certainly save her life.  She said she was a good swimmer, but no more swimming alone in an empty sea for her.



Maybe it’s because I wake up so early that I see those morning events regularly, but it was a first time for this.

I usually walk to the big window overlooking the ocean first thing.  I want to know how the ocean is doing.  Are the waves big?  Is their color blue or gray?  Are there clouds?  What kind? Can I see Catalina?  Often it seems to be clear but I can’t see the island.  That’s when I imagine that China has come and towed it away to help pay our bill.   Sometimes there are foot prints on the virgin sand.  How many people passed by before I came out to look?  How many had a dog trotting behind , in front, or around him?…or her.  That all takes a second or two. 

What grabbed my attention this morning was the big red Fire Engine that was backing up nearly to the cliff edge on the hill to our left that is vacant with a scant scattering of green in the bare dirt and a couple of trees over next to the far neighbor’s wall.  

A Fire Engine is defiantly an attention getter anyplace but off road on the hill?  Now they had me.  I looked all around for smoke or a reason for them to be there… I saw nothing.  Then four fully uniformed, hats and all, firemen jumped from the truck and began to dash about.  They seemed know what they were doing.  I did not.

One took a long rope from the truck and tied it to the end facing me.  He tugged at it and it seemed secure so, he walked to the very edge of the hill and threw the loose end over between the large, bushy, bushes that somewhat protected the cliff from having people fall off.  He next surprised me by pushing himself between the shrubs and sliding down the rope to the sand.

A single row boat stood against the cliff and he dragged it a ways away and left it face down on the beach. Several feet toward the higher, rocky, tide pools, he piled some sand into a long log and put a boulder at the near end.  It looked almost like a buried person.  Curious… I couldn’t leave to get breakfast, I just stood watching.  Then I pulled up a chair and sat to follow the unfolding events.   

Looking back at the Fire Engine area, I noticed two men walk to it from the street.  I thought they were just neighbors wondering about a possible fire.  One was dressed in a jogging suit and running shoes with a baseball cap, the other was in shorts and was bare footed.  

Bob came in bringing us each a cup of steaming coffee.  “What’s happening?” he asked.  

“I wish I knew

“Do you think there a grass fire or something?”

“I didn’t see any indication.  Those two men who are not in uniform seem to be part of it somehow. At first I thought they were bystanders, they’ve been talking to the wall Fireman, who seems to be in charge.  He writes down stuff on his clip board as they talk.  The Fireman from the beach came up and spoke to them also while pointing down at the cave area.  

A third Fireman spoke to the one from the beach then went over to the Fire Engine and took a bundle of stuff out of the cab and carried it down the hill path. He laid a beach towel out on the sand and dumped a few things from the bundle onto it, next he went to the newly created sand person down by the tide pool rocks and covered it with a beach towel.  Now it did look like a real person resting under a beach towel.  The two men followed him down and the man in the shorts went to the upside boat and crawled under it.  The man in the jogging clothes laid face down on the damp sand, facing away.

Bob and I looked at each other and shrugged.  Some kind of game was going on, and our full cups of coffee had gone cold without us noticing.  

All at once the action began.  The Chief stood at the wall and kept notes.  Another Fireman stood by the truck with an open book.  Two Firemen stood down on the sand with their own clip boards.  Fast movement from the street direction drew my eyes and I watched another man wearing a tan work uniform with a badge on the front and an emblem on the sleeve come running full speed, almost losing his cap on the way.  With a quick motion he grabbed the visor and straightened it before stopping at the Fire Truck.  He showed his badge to that Fireman, who wrote something in his book and waved the runner forward toward the bushy cliff. He dashed to the nearly hidden rope and carefully lowered himself to the sand.  At the bottom he paused for a couple of seconds, then ran directly to the man face down near the water’s edge. After quickly determining his condition and noteing the approaching waves, he dragged him by his shoulders to the higher dry sand and went at once to scrutinize the cave just beyond.  Finding nothing of interest, he dashed across the open beach toward the row boat which he must have decided was empty, as it was upside down and another man seemed to be under a beach towel out beyond.  We knew there wasn’t but he soon found that out as he lifted the towel.  Surprised to see the boulder, he stood a moment then went past the boat again to look at the things on the second large towel.  

He took a couple of found items as he approached the next Fireman who took the things and pointed back up at the Fire-Engine. Then he resumed running up hill to report to the starter. The watch was consulted and almost instantly a second man appeared on the path running.  

The second man called his name out ahead of his arrival and pointed to his badge barely pausing as he ran off toward the cliff where he repeated the same routine but in a different order.    This fellow went straight to the boat and turned it up.  Finding a man lying on the sand he checked the guy’s condition and ran to the man now back near the on rushing waves. 

Apparently time was important in this test as the new runner barely stopped at each thing, which had all been replaced as they were by the two standby Firemen.

We two both finally grew tired of the routine after the third runner.  I had things to do in the kitchen and Bob looked at his E-mail.  We both peeked from time to time to see how everyone was doing, so we lost count of the men in tan.  However after they had run the event they hovered nearby sitting on the grassy area drinking coffee from a large pot set out near the Engine and chatting with each other.  Curious, I once counted a dozen.  At fifteen all of them sat in rows and the Chief stood and spoke to them.  Now and then a cheer was heard.  Finally with everything picked up and the rope being untied, Bob walked over to learn some more details.

The set-up was a training test for potential new recruits. Each one was graded on the order  chosen to tend to the faked disaster and lost points if something was missed, like the man under the boat and the cave…the two things most often left out.  Time was only important if everything was noticed. Examining the empty blanket for evidence was extra points.  No one failed they all made a good grade, but only five would be hired this year.  By the way… two were women.  We both missed that.  It must have been the athletic bodies in crisp, tan, uniforms with sharp hair-hiding visor caps. 



It was a much later in the morning, almost noon, when I saw a rather strange set of people begin to gather down on the beach.  It wasn’t that they were strange individuals, it was the strange mix. The ages varied from elderly to a babe in arms and they wore regular street clothes. No one appeared to have dressed for a day at the beach.  You know, bathing suit, shorts, bare feet, a sun hat…that sort of thing.  And they didn’t put down a blanket or a beach towel or even sit on a rock.  They just milled about looking out to sea, some speaking to others, some standing alone deep in thought.  Why were they here?  I know… they looked exactly like a group at a Train Station waiting for the train to come in.  

The group grew a bit larger and they looked about trying to decide where they should line up for the best access to the train door.  Then they seemed to sense that the train was arriving, so a line of sorts created itself on both sides of the stairs from the street to the next cove.

There are no parking places at the top of those stairs but a large van backed up to them and stopped.  Several people got out and began to pull some huge gray boxes from the back. As many as four or five strong workers tugged at them, they were not well organized, but eventually removed each box.  One at a time the two boxes were carried like a funeral procession down the stairs and all of  the way to the area in front of our house.

They set them down and stopped to catch their breath.  I could see now that both boxes were plastic crates full of holes.  

At this point I was pretty sure I knew what was in them.  They were obviously heavy.  It took several men to carry each crate. And they must be alive.  Why else the holes?  So what is alive and heavy and being taken to the beach?  Sea lions!  The van must belong to the Sea lion and Seal Center up in Laguna Canyon.  The people are all part of the Save the Sea Lions group and today they are going to release a couple of them back into the ocean here, right in front of my house.  I have never seen this before.  The men who carried the cages down walked back up to the van and brought down large plastic squares the same gray as the carry crates and just as large as one side.

The people who had come to watch and perhaps say good bye to animals they had been pampering for maybe over a year gathered close around the men with the squares asking questions.  The rest were probably friends and family who had been noticed that this was the day and the beach the pair would be released, if they wanted to see how it was done.

I did.  But I didn’t go down. My view from above was better than any down there.

I don’t think anyone on the beach noticed, but at the top of my yard, up behind our roses , We have, resting on a heavy block pedestal, an almost life size white marble Sea Lion.  I carved it myself at the Art School in the Canyon.

Several years ago my daughter, Pamela, gave me an unusual birthday gift of a canvas bag full of heavy tools.  I looked them over with a puzzled look on my face.  I wasn’t sure what these steel pointy things were for and why the heavy, but smallish, hammer? 

The answer was on the card.  She had surreptitiously enrolled me in the class of Rock Sculpturing held each Saturday, (9 to 3) at the Laguna School of Art.

“You can do it, Mom, I know you can.  Your tuition is paid and here are some tools.  The rest the school will loan you.  You only have to buy your own rock.  They have loads of choices and I didn’t know which you would want to start work with.”

What can one say to a thing like that? I had not given any thought to that particular hobby which in itself was unusual.  I have run through many in my years and enjoyed them all in their turn.  The idea of rock carving began to grow on me as I tried to decide what I wanted to carve.

After giving my clay and kiln a good long rest, I had morphed from carving wooden Indian Katchina dolls by the dozen, into doing mahogany animals and even people.  I was still working a last really nice piece of my favorite carving wood which our daughter, Nancy, had given me for my last birthday.  It was a block about 15 inches square by 4 inches deep, the largest I had ever owned. I was still mulling over what to chip it into.  I absolutely did not want to just start cutting without a vision of the finished piece… not that beautiful big square.  So it just sat and stared at me for a year.  Finally I was part way through creating a scene with two young children, a horse and a dog, which was to be called, Explorers.

The days rolled by until it was time for the Rock Carving class.  I decided to hold up the decision of what to make until I found a rock that would tell me what it had hidden inside waiting      for someone with a jack hammer to remove the excess.  I already mentioned what I found…white marble whispering… a Sea Lion, which I spent 120 hours freeing from the 500 pound piece.

So of course I was very interested in watching live Sea Lions being set free into the Pacific from my very own yard.

The man who seemed to be in charge patted the top of the cage.  Was he reassuring his friend that everything was just fine?  Next he pulled the door up and off.  The interested people who now lined a path to the water like a human picket fence leaned in to see the large full grown animal.  I had heard that they kept the babies until they were adults and able to hunt for food, and that they trained them from the beginning to go after the food themselves, so they won’t starve when released, waiting to be fed.

Sometimes the animal scampers out as soon as the door is gone.  This fellow didn’t budge.  The keeper slapped the back of the cage, but it only cowered back into the corner.  

He looked at the line of folks trying to get a peek inside the crate and waved them back with his hands.  They dutifully all stepped away a couple of feet.  The keeper lifted the back of the crate, tilting the front down to encourage the Sea Lion to slide out and slip down to the water.  It only pushed its flippers against the walls to hold tight.  He loosened them with his fingers and another man kept the crate back up even higher.  The Sea Lion slid out onto the sand.  There were a few cheers from the crowd.  The surprised critter looked around and quickly fled back into the secure safety of the cage.    

The head keeper signaled the men to bring the other cage closer.  His idea seemed to be to free the second Sea Lion as an encouragement to the first.  They opened the cage and out she came.  Seeing the ocean she scampered toward it a few feet. Her pause brought two men holding squares rushing to her side to place the large plastic pieces on each side forming a wall to prevent her from plowing into the people.

With nowhere to go but forward as another square was now behind her, she moved toward the water.  Meanwhile the keeper and three men were carrying the first cage closer to the freed mate.  

They took the back square away so she could be seen by the first Sea Lion.  Having no luck in getting it to leave on its own, even with the mate in sight, the three men tipped it all the way up and lifted it off of the reluctant animal.

Now out in the open, it moved slightly toward the ocean, but kept its eyes on the people.  The keeper asked aloud for them all get as far away as possible, and they did.  Some even climbed up the rocks and others the stairs to the Sea Cliffs apartments.  As soon as the movement stopped the Sea Lion flapped its way toward the smaller one and once they were together they continued into the water and swam away side by side.

Many people kept a watch for them in the water for awhile, but the show was over for the day and most left. 

I had the best view and knowing that Seal Rock is two coves up the Coast from us, I was surprised that they swam out to Splash Rock and turned down the Coast toward town.  Of course, they could swim about freely for a while then follow some Seals or other Sea Lions back up to the Rock they all seem to share with some pelicans.  Or maybe these two want to choose a rock of their own.  

They can’t live on our very prominent Splash Rock as big as it appears, because it goes almost totally under water twice a day at high tide, just when the various occupants would like to crowd up together to sleep in the sun.

Dogs are people, too, or so they say. Some people walk their dogs our way regularly.  I get to know them by who is being led by what dog even if I never get to know them personally.  

Four dogs lead one elderly man past us each morning on the street side, so I recognize him when the four quite large, but slow and somewhat elderly dogs take him down the steps to our beach.  He always says “Good Morning” if I am up getting the newspaper.  I doubt that he even knows that I see them all on the beach, it’s just too far away, straight up. 

Actually the dogs are not supposed to there, off lease in the winter season.  But the loving owners simply cannot resist turning them loose to play, if they think no one is looking.  I am looking of course, but I would never turn them in, even though I am not technically a dog lover.  Bonnie raises three kinds, no, breeds of dogs.  They are teeny tiny, little and huge.  So I kind of like them, but love them as much as my cats I do not.  My cats have no interest in going to the beach so they just look out of the window and wonder what critters make that kind loud noise.  

When a guest brings a dog to visit with them, feeling certain that everyone will love their wonderful little pet, my cats demonstrate how much they appreciate the company by disappearing from sight and returning the very second they have left the premises.  So it is not that they don’t like dogs, it’s that they have never met one.

Our small great-grandchildren get the same treatment.  Noticing that the cats have disappeared they asked.  “Have the cats been hurt by a little child, so are wary of them all?”

“No, they have never been that close to one and are not going to take any chances.”

I see dogs that chase the ball or stick anywhere and return it to the master promptly.  Some dogs have to think about it and well, perhaps if the boss doesn’t go get it, he might.  Others only get it from the sand and some love to swim out and bring it back, a risky thing for the thrower as the dog often brings the toy right back to the owner’s feet then violently shakes the ocean water off of himself and all over the owner before dropping it. 

It is a real show when the Frisbee players arrive.  Often the owners are very clever and put on an act worth watching.  Sometimes the dog is the clever one, catching the disk in the air or jumping through hoops to get it.  I have yet to see a dog that could throw it, but the other day I saw a dog who actually chased a ball he had sent off.

When the man arrived with the little terrier type dog he threw a yellow tennis ball as far as he could down the sand. And then he took a few steps back and sat on down the rocks.

The quick little pup ran almost to end of our little cove to return with his ball.  He walked toward his owner, but not to him. At an up-hill mound of damp sand the dog sat and carefully let the ball out of his mouth on the top.  He sat down looking at it for a moment or two with his paws resting on each side.  After a glance back toward his master he returned his attention back to the ball.  This time he put his nose down to the sand behind the ball and gave it a good firm push.  It moved slowly at first but gained momentum as it rolled toward the water.  As it got to the water the water began to also slip back toward the sea, taking the little ball for a faster ride.  When it began to float, the dog quickly jumped up, ran into the water and caught it.

He returned it back to the same mound and sat waiting to push it back down again.  I was impressed that he seemed to sit and watch the water to time the next wave’s return.

He did this trick of being the first dog I ever saw essentially throwing his own ball and chasing it.  Each time he looked toward his master before nudging it away with his nose.  I thought he might be looking to see if the master wanted to throw it himself another time.  But no, after the last retrieve the dog looked over and saw the man walking away.  He quickly picked up the ball and trotted after him, up the stairs and gone.  

I wondered if the owner had taught that trick to his dog so he could sit and rest while the dog was getting his exercise.  If so, how ever did he teach it to time the waves so as to get a longer run on each retrieve?  ONE OF THE TWO IS A GENIUS.  YOUR PICK!

With so many complaints coming to them about dogs on the beach, the City Council held a special public meeting to try to find a solution to the problem.  After a long evening of public input they closed the session and spoke with each other about the suggestions.  What actually received the most votes was a plan to use a vacant lot half way up the Canyon Road for an open Dog Park,

It was already fenced so it only had to be designated and publicized to make it happen.  Other details I don’t know, as first, I don’t have a dog and second. I didn’t care, plus third. I thought the whole thing would never work. Why would somebody put their pet into the car and drive that nearly impossible Canyon Road just to walk their dog?

Thank my good luck that I didn’t express my doubts out loud.  The dog park was such a huge success that people from miles more inland actually drove down that same over-worked Canyon Road to run their dogs free in Laguna’s big field.  In fact it was such a big success that some Laguna people returned once again to their favorite beach, as the Dog Park had now become over crowded,

Word is that some of the inlanders are talking about building their own Dog Parks.  If that happens our folks may return to their own.

Meanwhile I saw seven dogs running free on our beach, just today.  But I’m not telling anybody…  except you,  



Laguna Beach has changed since we bought our first building.  It has been slow due to the folks who have been here the longest, as they didn’t want it to change at all…not a single bit! 

Being the ones in charge the earlier residents kept forming committees to draw up and pass rules to prevent more people from building.  They wanted to keep “Their” village small and quaint just as they found it decades ago.  Strict building codes like a height limit that immediately stopped more hotels and made it difficult to use the smaller lots hundreds of people owned all over the hill sides made change slow but failed to stop it. 

The rules that were written as quickly as property owners found a way around them discouraged many from putting a home on a lot that had been in the family since before the war.

  Others fought the fight and eventually succeeded in moving in.  Some sought to improve and enlarge an old existing house only to find it had been designated as “historical and not allowed to change in appearance.  So changing was slow, but it did happen.

There is a large R1 vacant lot behind the apartment buildings that follow Cliff Drive up the hill from us. All apartments are on R3. We see the owners of that R1 lot from time to time as they stand on the hillside and mentally plan what they will build there.  

At first we thought they might become our neighbors soon.  There are actually two building lots on paper. We met the brothers who each inherited one from their mother who owned them when we arrived.  Her husband had died and with him their plans to build a retirement place. Now the boys were doing the same.  Too bad that every year no one built, building had become more difficult.  

The man who owned the first building in the line on Cliff Drive applied six different remodel plans to the City for approval and after six years was finally approved… three weeks before he died.  His heirs simply settled for painting and refurbishing the apartments as they stood.

We were disappointed as Kim had such fine plans.  They would have improved the looks of the whole block.  It was a victory for those who had worked just as hard to prevent the changes and keep Laguna from what we call “improving.”

But grow it did.  Just like the rest of California.  When we moved in part of our view as we looked out to the right, up at that higher hill across the boy’s empty lot we saw, standing on the very top an old wooden, one story home.  We were told that it was built by Cowboy Movie Star, Tom Mix.

Tom was gone now but his old, movies live on, on T.V.  You could almost guess his house was built by a cowboy.  The brown wooden ranch house looked exactly like every ranch house you ever saw in old Western Movies, with slat boards and a house-wide porch on the front featuring a single rail across it, on which a cowboy riding up could tie his horse.    

Of course a cowboy could never ride up to the front of this house.  It was built only a few feet from the cliff’s edge with a drop at least twenty feet higher than ours.

Anyway, Bob would call the front the “back.”   The “front,” he says, is the side that faces the street…where the mail box is located. 

“Oh really!”  I reply. “Then why is the building we just bought always been operating under the name, Ocean Front Apartments and the one we live in called Ocean Front Villa, if the ocean side is not the front?”  Thus we never know what the other is talking about when they say “in back” or “out front”.  We just wait for more information on the subject.  Anyway, back to the Tom Mix house…

The first people who remodeled it created one of those typical, California beige, stucco houses, which looked bright and new… an asset to the neighborhood.  We liked it, but kind of missed the old Tom Mix house, even though we did not blame them for wanting to live in something nicer and still have that fantastic view down the coast.

The following new owner narrowly beat the on-coming rule against adding a second story to an existing house and ended up with a charming two story Italian Villa painted with that Italian orange color that fades streaky and looks expensive.

The next owners modernize the place keeping the Italian look on the exterior, but creating an interior that was something from a picture book.  All of the floors were shiny black marble or tile.  The kitchen had solid black marble cupboard doors and counters and black appliances.  The sinks, toilets and showers throughout the house were black ceramic.

  This rest of the additions were exceedingly modern like I had never seen in a home before. Nearly everything that wasn’t black was almost invisible, clear, transparent plastic or glass.  The over-size double front doors were clear glass with large black pulls like you might see walking into a major department store.   As you stepped inside to the black marble floor, just past the white marble entry table that displayed a tall black vase containing several stems of white orchids, you see next to the pathway to the very large two story open living room, a beautiful, clear, glass or heavy plastic, stairway leading up to the second floor.  Have you ever tried walking up a glass stairway… I think it takes a little practice to ascend invisible steps.  

Where the new two story tall windows faced the ocean a matching clear ramp connects with the stairs and seems to almost float high above the room connecting the bedroom suites on each side.  Up there one was almost made dizzy walking on nothing and seeing on one side a vast ocean out beyond and a two story drop into the living room on the other.  

They had an office room on the ground floor just inside the entrance that was all white everything including the white marble desk and white leather chair.  It looked magnificent with a select few white items, on top.  Sorry, I just don’t dig a desk, even a glorious marble one, without any drawers.  I have way too much stuff to put away.

The fabulous imagination of someone certainly made a show place of what began as a plain movie ranch cottage.  No wonder they held an open house for all of the neighbors to tour it.  They even put on an elegant party with picturesque food and drinks for all.  

The neighbors talked about it for weeks.  They did notice that the kitchen maids walked around with dishtowels under their feet to keep clearing the black floor of the crumbs that showed up so badly on the shiny black floor.

The owners were very friendly that day, but somewhat strangely, we never saw them again. Even though we had put together a basket with some of the silly little things we of the unauthorized “Boat Canyon Yacht Club,” had made for our own enjoyment, like our Cove postcards of wildly bright Catamarans, tea shirts featuring the hill-top gazebo and matching caps, to say our group welcomes you to the neighborhood. They seemed out of place after we saw the inside of the house.

As far as we knew they never even looked at them.  I guess, judging by their house and its contents our gift was not quite in their class.

  I forgot their names or what they looked like, but never a thing about that house.   They came down to their beach house rarely and the only indication that anyone was even there was some light glowing in the big window or the chauffeur’s car out in the driveway. 

Not quite a year later we saw a crew of workmen busy around the place.  When we took our walk north that passed that house there was a very large dumpster in the driveway.  It was now obvious what they were remodeling.  The dumpster was full to the top with broken black tile and marble.  I wish I knew what they replaced it all with.

Either they just wanted a color change or they quickly grew tired of walking with dishtowels under their feet to keep cleaning the black floors. Any other color would certainly change the effect.

Quite a bit of less spectacular remodeling and even building has been going on all around us.   We regularly get requests to sell to someone who wants to modernize our old buildings, but we are here to the end if possible.  However it will probably happen someday. 

We still have many of those people who are trying to stop the clock, but enough who like improvement to keep a balance of change growing our fair little city.  All of them together are maybe why we like living here.  Laguna Beach stays simple, while still moving forward. 



It was one of those things that whatever you thought of it at the time it was happening, it would become a legend and often told story.   The whole family would talk about it for years afterwards.  The story drew laughs when it was repeated even though nobody remembers laughing at the time.

When I was in my Kachina Doll phase my shelves filled with the wood, silver, turquoise, and feather decorated Indian Spirits of all sorts.  I fell in love with them when we were vacationing in Yosemite National Park.  The gift shop there was laden with the hand-made creations by the American Indians usually Hopi and Zuni, whose lore was taught to the women and children with a demonstration dance by masked, men dressed as the various Gods and again also with the dolls carved out of cottonwood and dressed with the appropriate paint and decorations as accurately repeated as possible. The dolls are spectacular each different from the other even if the same spirit.

  I loved them and wanted to buy one.  But which one was the question… the Owl Kachina with his big ears and eyes, the Ogre with the beaked mouth, or the Eagle with beautifully spread white feather wings… They even had many miniatures of most of them. Perhaps I could afford to start a collection of the little ones.  However as each has hours of time and talent spent on them the smallest were still expensive.  

We were there a week and what did I buy?  I bought a book with colored pictures of more than a hundred different Kachina Dolls.  As I knew I could never afford to have more than a couple… unless I carved them myself I knew what I had to do.  I bought the prettiest book.  At home I read all   about the Kachinas and then began to look for carving equipment.  

Bob found a very nice set of carving tools one day in San Diego, where, though he was there on a business trip, he had paused on the pier to watch a man carving figure heads for ships and noticed that he also sold wood carving chisels, so he bought me some.  Wasn’t that thoughtful?  I was thrilled,  

The cottonwood was a problem.  The tree is protected and may not be cut… unless you are an American Indian.  I finally bought a couple of pieces of wood from a hobby shop that sold wood for carving.  After trying theirs I eventually, after the first three Kachinas, settled on mahogany as being the best looking for my dolls.  

I would not be passing them off as Indian made, anyway, so felt free to go my own way and make just my interpretation of the original Spirit Dolls.  I even wrote a little story explaining mine titled, “What is an American Caucasian grandmother doing carving Navaho Indian Kachinas, anyway?.”

The warm color of the mahogany wood was wonderful for Indian Dolls, and after all, I was not an Indian, I was a Grandmother whose only connection to the Indians was being born on the edge of an Indian Reservation in Alberta Canada, which I do not even remember, as my parents brought me with them to California when I was 18 months old.  But that would have to be connection enough because I was about to carve Kachinas to my heart’s content.

A couple of years later my selves were full of my vast collection, some in sets of three to complete an interesting story the Indians told.

The Kachinas pertaining to this story had three dolls, an Ogre with a big bloody knife chasing, a fast running little boy mounted together on a ten inch length of rough wood and a Squaw mother, standing separately holding a basket of corn.  

Pamela had been busy in our house while her son,  John the youngest of her four young boys, ran care-free down on the beach.  Tripp, Grant, and Andrew were off on a Boy Scout thing for the day. While John was out, she used the time to go into the back bathroom and shampoo her hair. It was still wrapped in a towel when her little guy came up hunting for her to get fed.  The beach air had made him hungry.

I’ll explain… In that back bathroom we had seen a way to cut into the dead space back under the building and create some space to build a row of wooden lockers for guests to keep their things stored while going to the beach that was much better than the way they did it now by simply dumping them on the floor most anyplace, and I must add making a mess of the entire apartment.

  The dead unused area under house would accommodate ten lockers from wall to wall in the new little room created.  So it began with a box filling all of the area possible going back to the solid rock that supported the two story structure.  Divided into ten narrow spaces and fitted with doors it did just the job we wanted.  

On the outside top of the box there was a space about 15 inches high, for which the carpenter cleverly built a drawer to fit upon it.  He then finished the room side with a paneled d wall which had, right in the middle a secret door that opened upward exposing the drawer.  His idea was that I could use that drawer to hide medicines that we wanted to keep out of the hands of the children.

We were please with the entire project, lockers and secret drawer.  We kept the secret drawer a secret from the little kids.  From in the room it did not show.

I had decided give away some of the Kachinas, which the children and their parents all liked and had formed favorites.  So as they visited I let them choose a couple.  I needed space in our small apartment for my new projects.  Once the shelves were full it was time to pass on things and make room for the new.

When the hungry boys found their mother, she was in the guest-room, with the towel still on her wet hair, looking at the Dolls to select hers.  

“I think I will choose the Ogre she told them, knowing that would get a reaction, as the children did not like the menacing Ogre Kachina.  Sometimes if they had to take a nap or spend the night in there they requested that I take him out as they couldn’t sleep with him watching them.

His story is that he is not a dancing Kachina like all of the others.  While the masked, Kachina men do their ceremonial dances, his job was to chase the children and try to catch them.  They all knew him well.  He had long, bushy, gray hair with bits of debris stuck in it, a ragged, black coat and scruffy leather leggings.  What was worse, he carried a big wooden knife that was painted silver with streaks of red blood.  Actually it wouldn’t cut a berry, but it looked dangerous and the children ran. 

If he or she was caught it was up to the mother to bribe the Ogre to free her child with food from her garden. My Kachina mom carries a basket of corn.  So, all of the moms made use of these threats to make their children behave, just as Caucasian moms might use the Bogyman to scare theirs.  She would say, “You had better be good, or if the Ogre catches you, I won’t buy you back.”

John heard his mom say she was going to choose the Ogre Kachina to take home.  He shouted. ”No! Not that one. That one!” He liked the feathered Eagle Kachina.

Pamela threw off the towel from her head and shook out her long red hair and bent over with a pretend knife in her hand and growled.  “I am the Ogre and I am going to get you!”   John began at once to run away.  Pam chased him shouting as she went. For a moment John took shelter behind an overstuffed chair, when she found him he took off, dashing breathlessly to the back bath room and hid in the shower. She followed.  He slipped out and into the kitchen under the table.

But Pam stopped because she noticed that the secret door was open halfway and the drawer was pulled partway out.  That was strange.  She thought. It wasn’t like that when I washed my hair.    She tried to push the drawer back in, but it would not go.  Something was stopping it…but what?  She stood on the children’s low bathroom stool to try to see.  And in that pitch black narrow space she saw the impossible… two wide eyes stared out at her…human eyes! A man’s head was wedged sideways looking straight at her.

She let out a loud terrified scream, like I had never heard before, as she ran out shouting “Get out of the house…Quickly! Outside now!  There is a man in the locker room!  

She passed me in the kitchen with her wild hair flying.  I thought she was overdoing this child’s game.  But she yelled for me to get out of the house too.  Even Bob who came out of the back workroom was ordered outside by her because a strange man was in the locker room. 

So of course Bob headed straight for the locker room.  How did a man get in there?  He wondered and why?

I followed behind him and heard him say to someone, as he entered the room.

“What are you doing in there?  Get out!”   A voice mumbled something back and Bob turned to go outside of the house through the laundry room by way of the back door.  Again, I followed.

There is a rarely used door in that outside wall leading into a narrow, unfinished, dark space.  It contains bare dirt and black rock along with the wooden posts plus two by fours that support the building along with all of that out of sight stuff like plumbing pipes etc., which are the guts of the living quarters.  

The door is intended to be access under the building for repairs of electrical or water conduits if they break down.

We use it to store a myriad things rarely needed, of extra beach toys, folding chairs, boogie boards, life-vests, swim fins and masks, a bucket and a couple of shovels.  It is not a neatly organized collection.  Anyone going into it for something to take down to the water usually sees his item far back under more stuff and moves the things in front helter-skelter to reach it.  After use it is most often simply tossed carelessly back inside.  In other words it’s a mess.

However it is the only access to that tiny space behind the lockers and the only way back out.  How anyone managed to get back there is a mystery. But there he was and Bob opening the outside door let in enough light for the man to see a way out.  He began to take it at once, stepping on anything in his way as he pushed through the dark toward the fresh air.  We could hear him coming out, but had not seen him, yet.

As Bob ordered him to come out, he also asked a couple of questions… “Who are you?  Why did you go in there?”

When we finally saw him, he was upon us like a flash, saying nothing and almost knocking Bob down to zoom by and escape running down the long stairs to the beach. We followed, but we were slower and barely saw his face as he flew by.  However his appearance startled us.  He was dirty, of course from being in that dirty place, however he was also bare footed and totally naked, except for a pair of skimpy, white, Jockey shorts.  Did he undress back there and leave his clothes behind?  And more startling, as he dashed down the cement steps we could clearly see that the seat of those white shorts was heavy and stained dark brown by large bowel movement.  Probably caused by Pam’s ear shattering scream upon seeing his totally unexpected and unexplained eyes looking out from the dark.  It didn’t slow him down, however, in his desperate rush to escape.  

At the beach he made a sharp left turn and we watched as he jumped over and around some towels and folks on the beach before making another left to run back up the stairs between two other buildings.  No one paid much attention to him on the beach as most of the men were dressed in shorts, not quite like his, but he still flew by almost unnoticed.

Pam had chased her boy John out our front door. So, he witnessed the man as he came huffing up the stairs and by him.  John watched with wonder as the crazy looking guy with poopy pants crossed Cliff Drive, climbed the uphill lot and disappeared in the direction of the Coast Highway.  

The Police arrived from Pam’s 911 call.  She led the officer back to where Bob and I came back up the stairs after losing the intruder.  He wanted to search the back area where there could another person or even a body.  We thought most likely was a pile of shoes and clothes.  

As the policeman stepped through the junk and came to the only place the man could have squeezed into the tiny space behind the lockers.  He stopped and Bob bumped into him noticing that the man wore a heavy bullet proof vest.  He suddenly felt vulnerable as the protected officer drew his gun to go forward, he put a hand back to stop Bob, who willingly paused.  Then he took the flashlight off of his belt and scanned the back of the locker room.

Nothing was in view and he stepped in for a closer look.  No person. No body. No food or drink he could detect.  And not even any clothes, shoes or other trash.  So the underwear man, who left in such a hurry still nearly naked, had arrived that way sometime in the night.

Very curious. 

The officer asked for a description from all who had seen him.  We all agreed the fellow was between 20 and 30, as close as we could guess, with blonde curly hair, slim body and was a very fast runner.  He gave that description to the men in the Patrol Car, not forgetting to mention the dump in the man’s Jockeys.

The Patrol Car Officer, who radioed back, reported that the man had been spotted running past the market and through the large parking lot, up toward the Baseball Park, there they had lost him.  Beyond the Baseball Park the hills go for miles with rocks streams and trees and caves.  He would not be caught in that area.  And he wasn’t.   

The name Underwear Man stuck though and even though he would be much older now, as Pam’s John is now an adult who has finished college and gotten married, still no one we could identify as The Underwear Man ever showed up on our beach again, or came near our now-locked storage door.

Between us we imagined several scenarios of what circumstances had led The Underwear Man to squeeze into such an unlikely place one night.  We are pretty certain he awoke in there confused and unable to find a way out in the total darkness.  When Pam turned on the lights in the locker room a thin light could be seen in the crack around the secret door.  He must have forced his way onto the top of the lockers trying to find that possible door.  After his body forced the drawer open he could, lying flat on his stomach, see the room through the little opening, but knew it was impossible to get out through it.  

Then Pam arrived and while pushing him back with the drawer, frightened him so much with that mind boggling scream that he pooped in his pants.

Once Bob showed him the way out, he fled as fast as he could and never returned.

We can keep making up reasons for him to hide in that difficult place… I’ve heard dozens of possible circumstances posed, as the Legend of the Underwear Man goes on.  Everyone who hears it mulls the inconsistency of anyone looking for a place to hide from someone else, with the most obvious fact of his lack of clothing or possessions.  After giving the situation some thought, they usually begin slowly with… He probably…    

But we will never know.



There is a strange rain falling today.  All of the way from us to the horizon the rather low clouds vary from white and fluffy to thick and dark with small patches of blue hiding among them as if waiting their turn.  The odd thing is that the big window, through which I am viewing them, has one half glistening solid with wet rain dots on the entire left side, while as if a magic line is drawn down the middle, the whole right half is still clear and dry.  Rain always has an edge somewhere, I suppose, but this is the first time that demarcation has been so clearly ended on my window.

I decided to sit here and watch for awhile.  Sometimes in the past I have observed a dark cloud developing a stem forming on the bottom and eventually appearing to draw another just like it reaching up from the water below, until the two halves met and seemed to form a slim tornado traveling aimlessly across the ocean one way then another until it suddenly lost whatever power it had and faded away.  If it travels away on a path toward land, out of my line of sight, it leaves me wondering if it attacked dry land somewhere and caused some damage it could not render over water, or if the collision with the high, rocky, cliffs simply broke it up.   I can only scan the next day’s newspaper for the resulting story that would appear if it had become a people problem.  

Sky watching is just as interesting as people and ocean wave watching.  We have seen some remarkable things sitting in our Jacuzzi sky watching at night.  I could write nine stories about those amazing night-skies.  In fact I did and they were published in Astronomy Magazine under the title, “Hot Tub Astronomy”.  

For example, as we sat in the hot tub on an exceptionally clear night looking out toward the horizon, I noticed a very low star appearing in a place where we had never seen one before.  We keep a book handy on a nearby table beside a hand drying towel in order to look up star names when we are confused about one.   Bob lined this one up below a star in the Constellation, Orion, and tried to find it in the book.  

“That is strange.  No star in that location.”  He picked up the binoculars and trained them upon it.  “It might not be a star, but something else because it glows with twin lights, red and green.  Besides our book shows no lower stars… none at all.  We can only see the Northern Hemisphere, so our book doesn’t contain the Southern sky.”  

We both watched it for awhile…thinking.  It was too high to be upon a ship mast.  One thought was a weather balloon.  Another was blimp attached to a boat or something.  We watched long enough to notice that it had traveled very slowly toward Catalina Island.  In fact it moved along exacting even with Orion; A fact which again identified it as a star.  

We began to watch for it every time the sky was clear and there it was, blinking an inevitable red and green into the binoculars.

A few weeks later we happened to take a drive that led us up to the Palomar Observatory on a mountain top, north east of San Diego.  We couldn’t resist taking the tour which we saw was about to begin.  Our Hot Tub sky was making a pair of very amateur Astronomers of us.  

A young man, who admitted he was a serious student of Astronomy and only a part time tour guide, led us through the interesting planned tour of the telescope building.  Though he was telling us about the interesting work they did up there, we learned a lot more to add to our ocean level sky watching. 

At the tour’s end, he inquired if anyone had any questions.  I nudged Bob to ask him about the red and green light we saw on clear nights. Could it be a star?  

“It is.”  He told us.  “What you are seeing is Canopus, a star that you actually cannot see from this Hemisphere, as it is just over the rim of Earth into the Southern sky.  When the weather is just right, the light from Canopus is bent around the earth’s atmosphere up to where it may be visible a bit into the Northern Hemisphere, causing the light to break into red and green as it bends.”   It is the second brightest star in the sky and found in the Galaxy, Carina. You might be interested to know that due to its location and brightness, N.A.S.A. used Canopus as a reference star for interplanetary missions. 

We smiled, happy to have an answer to a puzzle that evaded us.  I thought about how high we were right now up here on Palomar Mountain, compared to our view from down almost to sea level and I suggested… “I guess you can see Canopus much better way up here than we do down at the ocean level.”

The young man laughed a second, then composed himself and put on a serious face to reply.  

“Yes, Indeed!… just as the flea has a much better view of the moon when he jumps upon the dog’s back.”   This time we all laughed.

There are never ending wonders coming at us from above.  That is why I found that I needed to write about so many of them.  Although, one does not have to live “on the edge” to experience them, for anyplace with a clear open sky and a tree-free view will do as well. The Hot Tub helps, as it keeps you warm while you sit looking up at that magnificent sky.  But a parka or a fluffy blanket can do that, too.  Be sure to keep an Astronomy book and a flashlight handy, as you cannot look up at those stars for long without wanting to get to know them by name.

Sometimes we had a mixed group of grandchildren on an over-night.  On those occasions Bob took them into the Jacuzzi for a night time Star hunt.  One night he got the idea to let each child choose a Star to be his very own.  The older kids had been here with Papa Bob for their first Star lessons, so they knew at once which one they wanted to claim.  

Our brilliant little Libby who would before our very eyes grow up to attend Cal Tech Collage and go on to become a Veterinarian, chose the brightest Star, Sirius.  Her brother Scott, now a Master in the business world, wanted one as bright as his sister’s. “ What’s as bright as Libby’s in the night sky?”  

“We won’t count the brightest Star of all, the Sun, because it is not out at night.  In fact it is why there even is a day.  Without the Sun, it would be night all the time.  

”Papa Bob told him.  “At night there is also the Moon, the brightest object in the night sky, but it is, well a Moon, which might be considered a giant, peaceful, Asteroid.  Then there is Venus, which looks like a Star, but is really a Planet.”

I’ll take Venus!”  Scott interrupted, tiring of the rather long sky lesson.

“But Scott,” Papa Bob explained. “Venus does not stay in its place, like the Stars.  To make it yours you will need to track it.  Sometimes it appears in the morning sky just ahead of the Sun.  Later it will be a bright evening light after sunset.  Tracking it will require more work.”

“That’s okay.  I will.”   So Scott owns the Planet Venus.

For Michael and his sister, Ashley, to own a Star was also not simple.  With Swan as a last name they both wanted to have something in, Cygnus, which means Swan.  However our view of the Elliptic only is south and north-west.  Anything, behind us, the Cygnus Galaxy and even the famous Big Dipper with the North Star are blocked from our view by our own two story buildings and beyond that the hills that roll up to join the mountains which frame the east side of California and make it possible for us to be at the beach in the morning and drive to a Ski Resort for the afternoon.

Nancy and Peer’s Swan kids would have to choose their Cygnus Galaxy from a Star map, so they did just that.  Cygnus has, in this modern era, even become Michael’s E-mail name.  

Both of them are working parents who still spend a great deal of time teaching their children, Ashley and Brett’s, Beverly and Jake and Michael and Jeannette’s, Isabella and Victoria, about their marvelous Earth, along with all of the many interesting things they learned about that magnificent sky at their Papa Bob’s beach.

The three boy’s in Pamela and Jamie Mizell’s household chose the belt Stars in Orion.  I forgot who had which of the three stars.  Probably they went in order.  The first born, Tripp, now a Lawyer, took the first Star on the left Alnilam and the other two boys, Grant, now a Major and a Test Pilot in the Air Force, and Andrew, now an Architect, chose  Alnitak, and Mintaka.

Tripp was very proud of his Star and told his class at school about it.  The teacher put up map to show the class, Orion, and let him point to his Belt-Star.  He told us that some of the kids asked him later on the playground if his grandfather would let them choose a Star, too.  Then he remembered and excitedly told us the exciting news…  that his mom and dad had told the three of them to choose another Star… as they were going to get a baby!  They wanted another brother.  After looking for a Star near theirs, they finally chose the Orion Nebula, just below the belt for John… as soon as he arrives… And they would tell him all about it… as soon as he could talk.

All three of the boys were very excited upon hearing about the on-coming Comet named Halley’s.  As soon as it was due to be in our view, they made Papa Bob promise to waken them when it was visible in our sky.  Bob located it very late and to keep his promise went to where the boys slept when visiting and told them they could wake up to see the Comet now.  The two oldest came awake at once and headed bare footed in pajamas for the deck.  Three year old Andrew rolled over and with closed eyes mumbled softly, “You go see it Papa Bob.  You’re old.  I’ll see it next time.”

A few years ago on an anniversary Bob was questioning me about a choice of gifts.  What did I want?  I thought and thought.  Don’t I have everything I have ever wanted?  There are many things I don’t have but… I must not have really wanted them or else been totally realistic.

I wondered if I was being realistic when I gave him this answer.  ‘I would love to own a real meteorite.”  There is a very nice Rock store walking distance from us.  We often look at the beautiful things  inside and I could choose one of them, but what intrigued me was the heaviness of the few meteorites they displayed.  I felt that I had such a true connection to the sky when I held one in the palm of my hand.  

Don’t guess, you know he bought me one.  It is a cut slice, a little larger than my open hand.  It’s treated to show the Widmanstaten Pattern.  He also bought a book titled “Rocks from Space”.      I read every single word.  I want you to know that it is still one of the most interesting books I have ever read.  I wanted to go out with my strong magnet and find a meteorite of my own.  Or better yet have one drop into my house from the sky.  Bob liked his idea better… just buy a new one now and then when Kristalle had something different.

Nancy found and bought the most wonderful piece in my collection.  She and Ashley found it in a rock store in Paris.  The tiny piece of pallasite has real gem peridot in it.  She had it framed in a gold triangle to help protect it.  

The last chunk Bob bought was a 6 pound nickel iron and my largest.  He also gave me a book which had its picture and description inside. But the surprise was the picture of the entire meteorite from an Argentina fall, from which Nancy had purchased the jeweled piece.  It was described as the most beautiful meteorite ever found.  And I have a bit of it! It’s the star of my currently, eighteen piece collection.  Again I am very lucky.    

We both have been lucky enough to enjoy those 14 grandchildren as they sped into adulthood and chose mates.  So far they have given us 13 great-grand-children.  I know now what they mean when they say… Don’t blink!

I saw a little wooden sign in a gift shop in town.  It read.  “IF YOU ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO LIVE AT THE BEACH,.. YOU ARE LUCKY ENOUGH.”   Very appropriate for our town, however I need  it to add to the center,  AND ENJOY 14 GRANDCHILDREN & 13 GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN  Maybe I just need a larger sign. 



On the flat of our property, at the bottom of the cliff, the charts show our land extends 25 feet past a large cement hulk shaped like the top layer of a giant wedding cake.  Actually that description makes it sound better looking than it is.  An ugly, cracked and chipped grey cement structure that stands five feet tall and a little more than four feet across is terrible looking by anyone’s standard.  For the first 40 years of our ownership of the rock that supports this opening to a tunnel through to the under-ground sewer line we just accepted it.  However the cement grew worse the heavy metal cover grew rusty and the rust stained the sides of the old cement and we grew to hate looking at it. 

We began to wonder why it was even there.  No one from the City was ever seen using it for anything.  If they did they just might see that it needed some attention.  As we sat above looking at it one other wise lovely day, we thought perhaps we should phone and suggest a revamping of the structure.  Even we could not imagine it being removed, though we sure would not object to that.

Pam asked, “Have you ever seen anyone lift the lid?”

“Never.”  I told her.

“Then why not get a big flower pot and plant it with something green and pretty.  Something that is hearty enough to withstand the wind and salt water spray a rough ocean sometimes blows over it.”

“And…” I added, “If it vines down, it could maybe will even cover the dreadful looking cement eventually.”

After all of these years we only now began to try to make that thing look better.  What had we been thinking not to do it sooner?  But as my father always said… “There is no such thing as doing something sooner!”  “Somebody else made up the line… Better late than never!”

A trip to the local nursery didn’t yield a pot large enough to do the trick, that is without renting a pickup truck to get it home and a crane to get it down to the beach and up on the cement.

So we settled on three fairly large plastic pots which we took home and wired together. 

Once they had been pushed up on the top, we had another problem.  To fill them with potting mix we could only more or less toss small sand pails full of the stuff up and kind of over hoping most of it would land in one of the big pots.  Of course the even wired together pots could be lifted down and filled but we would never be able to lift them back up.  So we went the toss and hope way.  As soon as some soil mix was in each pot, we stopped to scour the yard for those plants that fit our vision for the final look.

We wanted them to bloom at least now and then and withstand the location, which meant almost weeds.  We pulled up baby plants from everything that grew mostly on its own without too much care, which eliminated, of course, the roses.  We tossed in Lantana, Nasturtiums, Freeway Daisies, some Asparagus Fern, some bulbs of Day Lilies, Agapanthus, both white and blue, Calla Lilies, two kinds of Geraniums and Marguerites. And some tickseed and unknowns that seemed to like to grow here and even a few tiny grape tomatoes that always spring up everywhere every year. Surely something would take hold and grow in this expensive purchased soil mix. 

We could not see up into the pots, so like the dirt, we just tossed and assumed they couldn’t all land face down.  The wind blew only gently but it was enough to get us covered from faces and hats to shirts and jeans with a fine coat of the soil, as we stood tossing more in and on top of the poor, unseen baby plants. We laughed if they had as much on them as we had on us, they would do just fine.

“Now it is time to water them.” Pam said proudly.  We had accomplished a lot this morning and my muscles complained, as we headed up the stairs for the hose.  But just as we got half way up the steps, we saw that two men from the City had arrived, walking down from the City truck parked up beyond the vacant lot. Before we knew what they were there for, they stood on opposite sides of the pots, reached up and lifted the three wired pots down to the sand.

“Wait a minute!”  I shouted.  “We just put those up there.”

“We have to go into the sewer for inspection.”  One man explained.  I have to admit they were very polite about it… considering as I had just yelled at them.   

“I have looked at this thing for forty years.”  I said a bit softer, as we reached the sand beside them…” and I have never seen anyone open it and go in before now, when we have just today tried to make it look a little less ugly.  Look at it.”  I said with a wave of my hands, as if demonstrating a refrigerator on T.V.  “How would you like to have it on your front yard?”         

Both men laughed.  “I see what you mean, But don’t worry.  We will put it back up there as soon as we are out.”  

“Oh, Thank you.  But I can’t believe you were strong enough to even get it down all at once.  We certainly could not.”

  The two just stood there looking at s and smiling. “Just don’t fill it with too much soil and we will be okay.”  The leader said.  

We walked over and peeked into the pots on the ground and saw that they each had gotten about two thirds full.” 

“We can live with that.”  Pam said.  I looked at her and suddenly noticed how strange we both must look with that dark speckled coating of soil mix on our faces, arms and clothes.  No wonder the men were smiling at us.   It was too late now and they had said they would put the pots back, so we were happy and took off for the showers.

Later, and for the whole next year, we have watered the pots from high up on our deck, but only when there is no wind at all.  As soon as the ocean breeze commences the wind carries the water spray back up to us.   If anyone at our house sees the flag hanging limp, they know it is time to water what has become known as, The Volcano.  Nick-named by Michael who began to call it that as soon as the plants sprung to life and shot up out of the top looking like a green volcano spewing Orange and yellow flowers toward the sky.  Some of the plants, like the purple, Freeway Daisies and pink Geraniums,  hang down, but still haven’t done their job of hiding the cement…maybe next year.  

We have never seen the City men again and no one has taken down our magnificent volcano, so I guess checking it every forty years or so isn’t too bad.  



I felt that I was now finally finished with this observation tale.  Of course more and more, sometimes even interesting, things would continue to occur and they, by rights, may belong to this story, but… it has to end somewhere.  So I, a bit reluctantly, because writing is so much fun, feel like this is the place to write THE END.

I asked Pamela to proof read what was written and she agreed.  When she returned it, her comment was, “But Mom you didn’t write about the Cliff Walkers, The New Years Eve Parties, The Humming Birds, or the Bagpiper.”  

“The Bagpiper?”  I replied.  “I don’t know anything about him.”

“That’s just it.” She argued.  “That was what was so interesting.  He just appeared one early Sunday morning for the first time and stood up there at the top of the vacant lot cliff and played that beautiful bagpipe and its sound was so wonderful blended in with the hum of the rolling waves in the peaceful, early morning.  We all loved it!’

“That is not much information to build a story around.”  I insisted.

“His description certainly is, though.”  Pam went on. “Remember the interesting way he was dressed in red plaid kilts, knee socks, and a long, warm, plaid over his shoulders to shield him from that cold, wet, early morning Marine Layer we always seem to have?”  

I told Pam that we didn’t know then that the Plaid’s colors were representative of their Clans. Not until Bob and I visited friends on the Isle of Mann and visited their one grand woolen factory, to accommodate the hundreds of sheep on their hills, did we see the Clan chart and purchase something of their traditional plaid, which was a soft shade of lavender with stripes of aqua and other pastels that we thought was the prettiest we had ever seen, and were told, as part of the factory tour, all about their deeper meaning.  A chart on the wall had a list of popular names with pictures of those Clan plaids.  We saw the plaid worn by the current Royal Family in England and my own Scottish grandfather’s Caldwell plaid.   “Maybe it wasn’t the Piper’s own Plaid anyway, like we did, perhaps he just bought the one he liked best.  We didn’t know him, did we?”

“Strange that no one did.”  Pam mused, “He appeared every single Sunday morning for almost a year, and stood for nearly a half an hour playing those lovely Scottish, but different sounding tunes that everyone who came out to listen enjoyed so much.”

“You’re right!”  I told her.  “It was nice the way people began to count on him playing for us… if he was playing for us, and we all began to take our Sunday morning coffee out to the balconies and decks to better listen to that surprising concert of bagpipe music.  

He actually had a pretty good audience from all of the decks on The Sea Cliffs Condos, the five apartment buildings around us and all of the apartment buildings that faced the vacant lot.”

“No one ever complained either and you know how complaining people can be,.” Pam reminded me.  “We knew he was appreciated because as he turned to walk away after he was through playing for the day, everyone on all sides would stand and applaud just as we did.”

“I tried to find out if he was a neighbor.”  I told her. “But no one I spoke to knew who he was or where he came from.  He just walked away to some place probably not too far away, as no one saw him get into a car.  We wondered if he had chosen our cliff to play upon, because at home he received complaints for playing too early on Sunday when many folks were trying to sleep in.  

Perhaps he reasoned that playing into the ocean breeze, early before beach visitors arrived would be quieter and less invasive.”

Pamela thought about it.  “If he lived close to here, then he must have stopped because he moved away.  I thought it was strange the way people just kept going out to their deck tables on each Sunday morning with their mugs and sweet-rolls , still expecting him to reappear for quite awhile after he had disappeared, always hoping he was just ill or something and would soon return.”

“We were two of those.”  I admitted.  “We finally preferred to think that he had moved too far away, over those worse unfortunate choices.  But as you know he’s been gone from here for… forever, so you will have to admit that we do not have enough information to write a story about him.

“I think you just did.”  Pamela teased.  “Shall we go over the others I mentioned?”   

“And some I just thought of… John hiding his Geo-cache, and the people hunting for it, and did I write about Cecil hiding an engagement ring in a mussel shell and pretending to find it on a walk with Monica?  Or the day a big storm at high tide sent a gigantic wave, that lifted our Hobie-Cat right off of the hill and took it out to sea and I went down, waist deep, into that storm and actually grabbed a corner of the boat as another huge wave was sending it back in.  I was almost smashed under it, but held on until someone, I don’t know who, came to my rescue, braving the rain and wind and helped me get it back to the sand and tied to a post at the foot of the hill, before dashing away to where ever he came from… probably a vacationer.  Or when a helicopter landed right on our beach one night at low tide to pick up an injured person, the copter was an exciting sight but it was days before I knew why it had landed there.”    Pam joined in. 

Remember when Libby brought a bunch of Cal Tech. guys from inland, who had never even seen an actual ocean before, down for that Fourth of July Party and Michael had been kept busy rescuing them from the high waves and they were so embarrassed because they were practically geniuses and being rescued made them feel stupid. 

Yes, and it can never end, because that is just the way it is here… on the edge!