Sticking Close to Island Time

We have been home from our Hawaiian holiday for one week. I am back to work and going through the usual paces, but every now and again I take a mental leap back to the beautiful island of Kauai.


When the wedding couple came to us last fall stating they wanted their parents and siblings to join them, sharing one big historic farm-house on Hanalei Bay for eight days, I wondered just how that was going to work out. All of us together? Ten adults and four children ages seven, five, three and one? One house you say? Eight days?


Could we really all step away from our daily roles and responsibilities without too many pretzel-like twists? Or would we simply decide the pretzel-like twists were worth it?

I take my responsibilities very seriously. Maybe a little too seriously, I’m thinking now that I’ve had a delicious dose of island time.

I certainly had an opportunity to catch an unflattering glimpse of my distinctly “NOT Hawaiian” temperament while visiting a Costco not long after arrival. We swooped in to purchase some food and supplies to take back to the house–remember now, ten adults and four children, that’s a lot of supplies–and working from lists we’d prepared from home, we made it through the store with efficiency. That is until we got into the line.


I felt a surge of impatience with a check-out hiccup. An item didn’t scan properly and instead of just replacing the item with another,  the original was handed to someone else to look up the appropriate scanning codes and issue a whole new label.   This seemed irritatingly inefficient to me. The line grew longer behind me and my party was also waiting on me to get everything to the car. The Costco employees weren’t the least bit flustered and definitely not in a hurry. That was my first reminder that we were not in Los Angeles. Welcome to Island Time.



And welcome it was.

From the moment we left the airport our drought-tolerant senses were bombarded with the luxury of green. Flowers and foliage familiar to me in Southern California were easily fifty times the size.I have thousands of photos to prove it. Raise your hand if you want to see them ALL…I seriously couldn’t stop myself.


We’ve previously visited Hawaii, but this was our first time on Kauai and we shared a nearly private beach on Hanalei Bay. It was quite magical. Unless we can travel again as a large pack, I doubt we will personally have this kind of experience again, but saying that something was once in a lifetime is pretty great, too.

I am far from ready to jump back into the pace that I kept prior to our beautiful island experience. And there’s been a wedding that brings me great joy with many happy memories I want to fully savor.

A part of living in Southern California is learning how to stay with the flow of traffic–literally and figuratively– or you’re run over, and the “flow” here is rapid-paced and often aggressive.

It’s hard to go very far without stress in many forms lurking about the perimeter of our lives, but at least for now,  I have refused to meet its eye.



Whenever I choose I can call back the feeling of refreshment and bring back a little of the island’s warmth, charm and tranquility. That will always help me to breathe lighter.











The beauty and serenity of Montaña De Oro…just remembering is an excellent weekend exhale!

We are physically at home this weekend, but if I sit very still I can revisit a special place.

The city of Los Osos, overlooking Morro Bay, is also the gateway to beautiful Montaña De Oro.

“Osos,” Spanish name for Bears,” was named when Gaspar de Portolà’s expedition found a large number of grizzlies in the valley.

Nope! No bears this time! But what we did see was stunningly beautiful!

Welcome to Montaña De Oro.  “Mountain of Gold.”

The park’s name comes from the golden California Poppies that bloom in the spring–typically!

California Golden Poppies

Lack of rain definitely affected the growth of early poppies. While this spring they are sparse in number, the bluffs and coastal coves are still beautiful and amply clothed with other native plants, animals, and birds.

California Quail...State Bird
California Quail…State Bird

Coastal Lizard

Montaña De Oro , with over 8,000 acres of spectacular cliffs, secluded beaches, streams, canyons and hills, is one of the largest state parks in California.

And sometimes words are simply superfluous!

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If you would like to drink in a little salt air and hear the crash of the waves, I’ll be glad to share my special spot with you.  Just be sure to turn up the volume as loud as you can.

Close your eyes…

and exhale.

The Southern California garden…the weeds are thriving!

I’d be very unwise to imply any complaint about winter weather conditions in Southern California. Many of you comment with a hint of awe at the warmth that comes through in the photos I’ve recently shared.  Our coldest day in February is probably warmer than most in the northern hemisphere.

But we have had some cold weather, too.

Mt. Baldy with snow

Southern Californians know this peak as Mt. Baldy–it’s rarely called by its real name, Mount San Antonio. This tallest point in the San Gabriel Mountains was named “Baldy” by the miners who came in the 1860s during the Gold Rush.

At 10,068 feet it’s the highest point in Los Angeles County, so when topped with snow, we certainly gawk a bit, marveling at the sight of all that unfamiliar white stuff.

This week’s storm didn’t produce that much rain for the valley, but we did gain plenty of fresh white powder in the mountains.

Baldy’s snow is beautiful, but what I’m most wondering is what is happening to the snow pack in the Eastern Sierras?

While we Southern California gardeners like to pretend water is not a problem, drought conditions are always a threat.

And since 65% of the water intended for Los Angeles comes from the Eastern Sierras, we hope for a good snowpack and a healthy supply of runoff to feed the Aqueduct.

I’ll never complain about our mild winter weather, but I do sometime feel weary with year-round garden maintenance. We don’t get much of a break in garden chores.

The weeds continue to grow, and although the sky may spit a little of the wet stuff, it rarely lets loose! Gardens still require some watering even throughout the winter.

These are just a few of the many succulents that  sweetly bloom in winter adding quite a bit of warmth to our landscape. They are drought tolerant, requiring very little care except for a covering of frost cloth during the most extreme cold snaps.

But do you notice the weeds? They never stop thriving!

Last weekend was dry and warm, and we thought about heading out to do something fun. Instead, I evaluated frost damage and trimmed plants, alternately spreading several bags of compost, while Jay spent the better part of two days on his hands and knees pulling dandelions and spotted spurge.

That’s part of the price we pay for a garden in a year-round Mediterranean climate. Light moisture and warm sun equals fresh weeds.

I haven’t yet decided how much time I’ll spend working in the garden this weekend, but I have a couple of hours between appointments in Pasadena today, so I’m going to spend at least a little time soaking up some garden inspiration.

Arlington Garden is a heavy dose of serenity in an urban setting. If I’m going to spend so much time weeding and pruning, I like to go where I soak up inspiration.

The garden emphasizes drought tolerant plants and the most creative use of space. It has an interesting history, too, so I’ll share that with you soon.

Arlington Garden will be my first step towards my weekend exhale.

Don’t you think we all could use a transition from the workweek to the weekend–a change of pace to help eliminate stress?

I like to give gifts.

So my gift to you is a short article from a few years ago,  “A Poet in Winter Relishes Spring in His Garden.”  This 2005 NY Times story features Stanley Kunitz, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet laureate of the United States, as he approached his 100th birthday.

Kunitz loved his garden in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and this short article makes me smile as I picture a poet using the joy he received in his garden as the palette from which he painted words…and I’ll bet that’s also where he did a lot of his own exhaling.

Now it’s your turn!