Writing, Recording, and Scenes from Santa Barbara

IMG_0959-001I’ve been reading my old high school journals over the past few weeks, and holy drama, am I glad not to be a teenager anymore. So! Many! Feelings! I can still touch all their ghosts drifting through me when I read my words. Every joy and every (numerous! plentiful!) heartache in those pages cuts me deep and makes me so grateful to be a happily married adult (and married, no less, to someone as completely awesome and skilled at communication, and, oh, everything else, as Eric). But I am so very happy that I wrote all those things down. Because I come across episodes here and there that I can’t even remember. But also because so much of it I do remember, but not in the degree of detail with which I wrote about it. I love the moments of laughing again at something whispered to me in my high school days, as if for the first time.

I opened one of my journals last week to find this inscription staring me in the face:

“The stuff that’s going on, that’s happening now…will not happen forever and will not happen again. So get your pen out and write it down.” It’s attributed to Neil Forrester, who is either an actor or a research scientist, or, most likely, a friend of my friend Mandy from Governor’s School wayyyy back in 1998. (Mandy! You’re the best!)

Whoever said it, I agree so very wholeheartedly. I’ve kept journals and diaries all my life, with some pauses here and there, and they are my treasures. This blog also holds so many happy memories, as does my Flickr account, which houses three years of daily pictures from the early-ish days of dating Eric straight past our wedding and honeymoon. Watching my baby boy grow up has reminded me once again of this truth: one day it seems that your baby will be kicking his legs and cooing at his mobile forever, and then the next he’s standing and talking and doing his darnedest to maneuver himself into a good position from which to attain his ultimate and most elusive prize: your computer power cord.

I know this truth about writing and recording so deeply, and yet I am not sure if I’ve ever been so neglectful of it. I wrote every day during my first trimester, and even though there’s a lot of “I feel terrible. I wonder how many times I will throw up today?”, I am so glad I wrote it all down. Nausea aside, those are my first letters to my son. Now that he’s here, I have so much more joy in my life, but the quiet moments to reflect and write seem few and far between. It’s funny too to recognize how different I am on trips and outings–I used to take millions of pictures and gather all kinds of ephemera for my scrapbook, but now I usually don’t have my hands free, so I just tell myself to remember, like Nabokov’s mother used to lovingly command him when he saw something beautiful–“Vot eto zapomni” (“That there–remember it”). I am nothing if not a collector of beautiful things, whether in words or pictures.

These probably seem like funny reflections for someone who is averaging one blog post per month. And it probably seems an odd time to expound on all this for someone who is getting ready to go on a three-week trip (Aspen! Driving through Utah! National Park bonanza!), but this is not meant to be a self-chastisement or an apology. It’s just meant to be a small act of lighting a candle for myself, to say, “Remember. Write when you can.”

So! How about some tales from our trip to Santa Barbara? We were there last week for a conference for Eric, living it up in a swank hotel, and/or feeling weird about being in a swank hotel, since we are more the Holiday Inn type. However! About the abundant free coffee I shall not complain. Good hotel coffee is pretty much an oxymoron, but this place got a solid A-. That’s high praise!

I have been to Santa Barbara about four times, once with my brother, and three times (I think) with Eric for an annual meeting, but this was my/our first time staying right downtown. It was so nice to be able to just walk right out the door and stroll to all the cool stuff.

IMG_0954We found this awesome house on one of our walks. My favorite panel is the Mt. Fuji one below the window. But I am also really fond of the sea turtle on the right.

IMG_0953In front of the house was this adorable free little library. Library lover that I am, my heart kind of skips a beat when I see one of these. I love that they are all so different, such an act of love and creativity by the people who made them. The detail on this one left me grinning from ear to ear.

IMG_0951We also went to Art from Scrap, which is always a delight. I actually didn’t buy anything because it was a bit hard to shop with Micah, so chalk one up for saving money! But look at these beautiful sequins. Magpie. It’s my middle name.

IMG_0962Wherever there is an aquarium, you can bet that I’ll be going there, now with bonus excuse of introducing Micah to the wonders of the deep sea. Ever since I spent most of my trip to the Monterey Aquarium in tears over the intricate beauty of sea anemones and jellyfish and starfish, I’m like a moth to a flame wherever I can see them again. The Santa Barbara Aquarium is right out on the pier, and it’s small, but thus also perfectly manageable. I cannot say enough about how wonderful the staff were. Many were volunteers, and they were just so incredibly kind and excited to share all the juicy details of these amazing creatures. We felt so very welcome, and even doted upon. There were a lot of touch pools, where we saw swell sharks and sea stars hiding in the sand, and the marvelous array above. Sea cucumbers! Limpets! Sea anemones! Starfish! Sea urchins! Can you see how gorgeous the colors of the sea anemones are? Soft and silky and vibrant shades of purple and turquoise, oh my. (Please excuse reflections of overhead light on water!)

IMG_0961I’m not exaggerating when I say that I saw one of the most moving things I have ever laid eyes on. What you see above are swell shark egg pods. The female shark releases these pods, containing an embryo and a yolk for sustenance. The pods look like vegetation, and they have these curly tendrils so that the mother shark can attach them to kelp to camouflage them, protecting them from predators. The baby sharks gestate in the sacs for 9-12 months, attached to the yolk by an umbilical cord. The ones above are of different ages, and the one at the far right is getting close to hatching! I stood there with my jaw dropped for about five minutes. It was like being able to see inside the womb (something so close to my heart, of course). Seeing something mysterious and sacred and holy, something I never ever thought I would be able to see. It shook me in the most beautiful way. The world is so full of such unimaginable wonders.

IMG_0964Speaking of which, this is a terrible picture with my finger in it, but please google “Spanish shawl” for a day-maker. I bet you will as astonished as I am that something so gorgeously colored could possibly exist.

IMG_0980The next day I took Micah to the zoo, where I’d been before before I knew I was pregnant with him! Poor baby was having trouble with teething, so we didn’t stay too long, but we did get to see the giraffes against the backdrop of the ocean. This zoo is truly beautiful, as much a botanic garden as a zoo, and I love it dearly.

IMG_0982Finally he fell asleep in his stroller, and I read for a few minutes in the shade while listening to the lionesses roar at each other. Thunderous!

IMG_0977On our third day in town, it was rainy, so we didn’t spend too much time outside. We take this little stroll over to the courthouse, which is always stunning.

IMG_0985Back at the hotel, we did a lot of looking out the windows at the rain. My precious, beautiful baby.

IMG_0995Among the other little things I don’t want to forget are our morning phone calls with my mom while playing in the bathroom so as not to wake Daddy up (he takes the night shift, so I get up with Micah around 6 every morning). Why yes, I FaceTime my mom every morning, and she coos with me at our sweet boy, and, yes, she is currently in Amsterdam, and I have separation anxiety at the age of 32! I can’t help it, my mom is awesome.

IMG_0971Here he is showing off his new favorite toy, a cup they gave me at Chipotle that I didn’t end up using. Hilarious.

IMG_0987And a few more things. I know you might not believe me, but this. was. delicious.

IMG_0943And finally, a change of perspective I think we could all use. Thanks for reading! Hopefully I will be back soon with more travel tales.

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