With Dan out of town, Buster and I started out with our usual Saturday morning walk... I with cell phone in one pocket, fiver in another, plus a handful of dog treats for the road. Scored a box crammed full of acrylic craft paints at a garage sale, then made our way home, happily laden with booty.
Yesterday, the teenagers at the Youth Center had created a textured get-well card for a blind boy named Alex who'd just had major surgery. I drove out to Thousand Oaks to deliver it, getting gloriously lost several times, content to meander through the pleasant neighborhoods till I found my way. Alex's younger brother Aaron promised to deliver the card later that day. I felt profoundly blessed to partake in this small act of collective kindness.
After dropping off the card, I was attracted by a beckoning bling from the yard sale next door. A heavy-set man in a yellow t-shirt and straw hat was creating beaded necklaces with Native American motif and had a tableful of colorful samples laid out. An amiable-looking woman kept a loose eye on the sale and on a baby, playing placidly on the grass, surrounded by plastic boxes, a guitar and a full-size cello.
"He makes these in the evenings," explained the woman of her husband's beadwork. "Mosaics, too," gesturing towards a magnificent depiction of two water birds hanging over the garage door. I admired it profusely, and they invited me to come in and see some of the other creations. Like an honored guest, I was led through a chaotic maze of rooms, loaded with art of all kinds: paintings, collage, porcelain, indigenous dolls, beaded hangings and more fabulous mosaics made out of a mind-boggling mix of once-ordinary ceramics set into beautiful patterns and embedded onto hanging French doors, wicker bookcases, windows and walls. The back yard was a profusion of color, as well -- they had lived there 40 years, and Mike was an unemployed horticulturalist. He picked a blonde pomegranate for me from a tree he had grafted from three others.
As we talked, small children would wander in through the open door and nestle among piles of books on the floor, making themselves at home. I didn't know if they belonged to the family, or were just a more vivid part of the artwork collection.
Back in the front yard, Claudia with the friendly eyes, revealed that she is an artist, as well. We exchanged artist cards (so much nicer than business cards) and she invited me to visit the studio home of her sister in law in nearby Somis, who works in all manner of fired media: glass, ceramic, sculpture and jewelry. I ducked quietly away when a potential paying customer stopped to handle the necklaces.
I deliberately chose the beautiful back route returning to Camarillo, past the Santa Monica Mountains, stables, and breathtaking gorges, light years away from the utilitarian span of concrete just on the other side of the hills.
Next stop: Pumpkin Hill...a swath of orange rising from the freeway right near our office. With rotating seasonal crops, its elegant curves had always inspired me to want to paint it. For October, it had been transformed into Pete's Pumpkin Patch, a minor tourist attraction, with families ascending and descending its high slopes like ants. I was alone with my camera, capturing the happy images to be painted later. A mom was taking pictures of her two children, so I offered to take one using her i-phone of the whole family. The small favor was paid forward when an elderly Hispanic woman with a parasol stepped close without a word to shade my lens when she noticed I was struggling with the glare of the bright sunshine.
I stopped by the fresh fruit stand at the base of the hill before I left. I had driven past it countless times taking my kids to high school but never stopped. I snapped some more photos of its brilliant wares, then bought three shiny red tomatoes, for which he charged me only 50 cents but I paid a dollar, grandly dismissing the change with a wave of my hand as I walked away. I burnished one along my jeans in the car and ate it -- whole, ripe and dripping onto my lap -- in the car as I drove.
In a striking juxtaposition of mundane and divine, I then went down to the boat at Dan's request and water-blasted astounding piles of bird poop on the bimini and aft deck -- gifts from our beloved friend, Todd, a blue Heron of truly remarkable digestive prowess. On my way home, however, the local classical radio station featured the life and music of Franz Liszt, and I was lifted heavenward again.
I played with Buster for a while, and then we curled up together for a nap on the recliner. I visited with my daughter, sister-in-law and friend that evening -- conversations with these beloved women the final gifts of the day.