|Silver Strand Beach, Oxnard, CA|
There is a Los Angeles television news phenomenon known as Storm Watch. If even 1/3 inch of rain is forecast, reporters are dispersed throughout the region to check on creeks, low-lying freeway underpasses, to compare rush hour accidents on clear and inclement days. Only rarely does the rain arrive as advertised, especially this winter. We get a fair amount of what my former husband knew in his native South Africa as "a monkey's wedding," which means it is raining across the street while the sun shines on you, or vice versa.
In another life I, by which I mean we, lived one house from the beach, the beach shown above. At the end of our street, back in the 1970s, there were no houses built right on the sand. During the wildest winter storms, we could stand in front of our cottage and see the waves breaking higher than the built-up berms, higher than our heads which were fortunately many yards inland. The street flooded, blowing sand pelted, wind and water roared. In one such storm we went house hunting across the channel.
It was a two-story, whittled down (or artlessly added onto) from earlier comfort and was called Windy Gables because local lore said Clark Gable had lived/stayed there. With stairs so steep and narrow we couldn't have gotten anything larger than a side table up them, we still debated the move when we saw a terrace that opened onto Hollywood Beach, oh the stormy goodness. Coastal California's version of winter fury is just the right size. No digging out cars - though British sports cars were very balky in puddles - no ice, no freezing. A lot of bluster and crashing surf.
There was the season of fog, then at times like Christmas, a season clear and bright and warm. The storms were usually later in the winter. We'd sit on the sand after work and watch the sun outline the channel islands as it set.
While we lived there, we acquired a jukebox, a Rock-Ola. It played 45s and as we had no neighbors near enough (or unaltered enough) to complain of morning noise, Saturdays began with sounds reminiscent of beer bars or soda shops we'd known. Elvis on the Sun label, Gram Parsons, Phil Spector groups, "Geronimo's Cadillac," Jim Croce, Linda Ronstadt, this:
Much of the music that visits my sleep or the time just after is from those years. While not a compartment of undiluted bliss, neither is it a time of crushing woe. When I hear Meryl Streep's voice over say, "I had a farm in Africa," I think of having a house snug as a boat and a jukebox on the Silver Strand. Not the same, yet not entirely different.