Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Comes Early

Anyone who knows Alma knows that only a fool comes between her and Christmas. So when she said to me that this year she would be making a "beach tree," I just saluted and said "Yes ma'am." And now for the backstory: Alma and I do not have many Christmas traditions of our own except for one very special one. Because Alma is highly allergic to conifers, she cannot have a real tree. If there is going to be a tree, it must be artificial. Or man-made. And thus has developed our one tradition that each year Alma makes a different tree.

One year, for example, Alma made a tree completely from origami. Another year, she took coat hangers and unbent them, then refastened them in the shape of a tree with lights strung on it. It's always something I look forward to, seeing what type of tree she will come up with and what I will be expected to do to help make it happen.

I'm not too sure exactly what this year's tree will look like. In fact, I'm still a little sketchy on the details. But I know it will include sea shells for ornaments and a starfish for the top piece. And something about plastic cut into the shape of seaweed leaves. I just go "Uh-hunh" and trust that, as in years past, this year's tree will turn out awesome.

This is all by way of saying that yesterday we walked on the beach looking for beach material that could be turned into a tree and accompanying decor. So in addition to looking for seashells for ornaments, Alma also was finding beautiful pieces of sea glass, in various colors. On the walk southward from the Washington Blvd. Pier, the ocean had thrown up many pieces of sea glass almost as if it had anticipated that Alma would need them for her tree and holiday decorations.

While we were walking south, I noticed in the distance several small birds skimming the surface of the ocean and flying in circles just beyond the point where the waves break. From past experience, I suspected that they were flying out there because there were dolphins in the vicinity. Sure enough, when I trained my eyes on the water's surface, I saw the tell-tale dorsal fins of arcing dolphins or porpoises. What was amazing yesterday, though, is that the dolphins were very close to the shore, probably no more than 40 yards out. At times, they seemed so close that, if I closed my eyes and reached out my hand, I could almost touch them.

And, goodness, there must have been 10 of them in the pod. At one point, I saw three of them emerge simultaneously from the water in unison. "It's like being at  Sea World," I said to Alma, "but without the $60 admission fee and the cloying messaging." Alma at one point giggled like a school-girl. "Look at them go," she exclaimed as the dolphins skipped out of and over the water. The bigger (presumably older) dolphins in the pod would move more slowly, more gracefully, as they arched their backs and their dorsal fins. Every once in awhile, I would see a monstrous waterspout pop up from the waves as one of the pod exhaled to get a new breath. There were 2-3 young, small dolphins and they were a real treat, as they would completely emerge from the water, almost like stones were being skipped along the surface of the ocean.

Indeed, there is something incredibly magestic about seeing dolphins in the wild. While I may be projecting my own feelings onto them, they seem to exude an exuberance as they frolic in the waves. As we walked southward on an all but deserted beach, it seemed like the pod of dolphins travelled southward accompanying us. Was it mere egoism on my part to think that the dolphins were syncing up their route southward through the bay in step with Alma and my southward march? They were not doing it for anyone else because, for all intents and purposes, the beach was entirely deserted and the dolphins were performing only for Alma and me.

After a certain point, Alma made me walk 5 paces behind her so that, in my gawking at the dolphins, I did not inadvertently obliterate any valuable sea stuff with appeal to her. (This after I crunched a couple shells under foot while not watching where I was stepping.) We continued our walk southward. And then, suddenly, like an apparition from out of a fog, emerged a figure riding a one-speed bicycle on the hardpack. When he got closer, I was able to see the top hat on his head. Sure enough, it was our friend and unsung hero Josey Peters using his biccycle to pick up garbage along the beach again.

This time when our paths crossed it was like old friends meeting once again, even though we had only become acquainted these past couple months. I told Josey about the blog and that I had written a post about him a couple weeks earlier (see my November 24 post "Josey Cleans Up Our Mess" at
Josey promised he would read it the next time he had internet access. Because he has lost his job and is living out of his RV, he has only sporadic internet access. A friend lets him shower and store belongings at an apartment close by but Josey is one of the economy's recent rejects. He is making lemonade out of his lemon though and it is lemonade that all of southern California can drink.

When we bumped into Josey, the sun was beginning to set. "That's one of the best things about this job," he said. "The sunsets." And indeed we had a doozy. There were very few clouds in the sky, but there were a few low-slung cigar-shaped clouds right above the western horizon. After the sun had dipped beneath the horizon, those clouds seemed to catch fire, to be shining a bright orange-red color. And the effect lasted a good 20 minutes.

So I have to say I think my Christmas came early this year. Even though I am unemployed, at least as traditional economists define the term, it's not all negative -- my unemployment compensation check arrived in the mail on Tuesday (a couple days late because of the Thanksgiving holiday) and with these checks I am able to maintain our basic expenses. And, because I am not cooped up in an office or factory all day, I get to see these magnificent displays put on by Mother Nature.

To those of my regular readers, I am sorry I missed a day in posting. Alma's laptop finally crashed once and for all, so she and I have been sharing my laptop. We had a couple scheduling hiccups with it yesterday, so I am only now able to post this latest report. Alma and have reached a modus vivendi of sorts and take turns with the sole remaining laptop an hour at a time. So I should be able to resume regular posting forthwith.

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