Saturday, October 23, 2010

Comfort Zone 2

Buried within the card catalogues of your mind and the digital crannies of Google is a table that defines the size and growth progression of habitation and intent on landscape.  The table defines where urban morphs into suburban and rural.

Summerland, California, is about a mile-and-a-half southwest of the outer reaches of Santa Barbara.  It is not a hamlet or a settlement; let's say somewhere between a village and a small city.  Okay, let's use up our vocabulary for such places by calling it a community, a word that already connotes a measure of friendliness.  It used to be more like a pair of well-worn Levis, but that was its MP, or Mellow Period, well before the Yuppies found it and more or less built an enclave up toward the top of the foothills, known to some folks down at the Cafe Luna as The Yuppie Hills.

Summerland has neither bank nor the merest hint of mini mall.  All mail is delivered by a truck from further south in the Oxnard/Ventura area, distributed to the numbered PO Boxes at the PO where Lillie Avenue is intersected by the East/West transit of Evans Avenue.  There are two places to buy liquor, one of which is in a gas station that used to be called Jack Gas, but is now of a more generic name to reflect more municipal eclat.  You can pull from the same memory bank at least four antique shops variously located about Lillie Avenue; a unisex barber shop, a gym, an upmarket grocery that hosts weekly barbecues, the veterinary compound where Sally is more likely to go calmly if she knows her host will be Don, the bather and nail trimmer, rather than Bonnie, the vet.  Dogs--even Sally--do not seek out vets as friends.  Bonnie is fonder of Sally than Sally is of Bonnie.  Things such as rectal thermometers and blood, drawn for test panels, get in the way of serious friendship.

Summerland also has a fire department which is technically on loan from Carpinteria, which is about six miles south, and which itself has what it advertises as The World's Safest Beach and the Mecca of surfers, Rincon Point.

Law enforcement is a county matter, which means the California Highway Patrol cars often seen outside the Nugget or Tinkers are not conducting State or even County business but rather refueling the officers themselves on such things as on-duty officers eat or drink.

When you first came to Santa Barbara to be, of all things, the production manager for a scholarly book publisher, the Nugget was a convenient venue for such basics as hamburger, draft beer, and the occasional splurge steak.  Lillie Avenue was then and still is the main street, in many ways the only street in Summerland with any pretense of conducting a two-lane coming-and-going business, other streets such as Banner, carved out of the steep escarpment of hillside, vaguely paralleling Lillie Avenue.  Below--west--of Lillie, Highway 101 flourishes with its attendant rush of north- and southbound traffic.

Greenwell Avenue, which is the destination and intent of this sketch is the southernmost street to intersect Lillie Avenue.  In fact, where Greenwell begins, Lillie turns abruptly into Calle Real, for no good reason any of the locals can discern.

There are two ways of approaching Greenwell; your favorite is to go through the expanse of Summerland, then a left for about half a mile to something now called The Summerland Preserve, which is a rustic parking lot set amidst an ambitious display of native chaparral and trees including examples of what you think of as the great Australian hoax.  The eucalyptus tree was Australian, but enterprising sales persons turned the tree into a gigantic Ponzi scheme, selling the tiny seedlings as potentials for windbreaks, fuel, and paper pulp.  The eucalyptus in its many avatars has done well in California, but more as an exotic relative with smashing good looks and a moody personality.

The Greenwell Preserve has become a place you like to think of as a comfort zone.  You have spent much time there, alone or, better, with a loved one and with that special loved one, Sally.  Some nights, when there is no cloud cover, you sit in the presence of whispering trees, the scurry of rabbits, coyotes, the occasional fox or family of deer, all of which hold great interest for Sally.  Day light makes it possible to see red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, crows, and those energetic seasonal visitors, the barn swallows.

Night is the favorite time.  It is possible to relax in the light from stars so distant that the light you see from them is a mere remnant of a star that once was and no longer is.  This puts you in mind of the metaphor of lit fuses, burning away in the metaphorical night of your thoughts.  Your friends and loved ones, alive and departed, give forth the same magnificence of light.  You see dear friends whenever you think of them, but at Greenwell they all seem so specially available to you.  At Greenwell, thoughts of loss, actual or impending, are cast at a distance and you are there, scritching Sally, if she is nearby, or listening to that throaty rumble of hers that alerts you to the fact that she has picked up a scent of some sort and is, by god, protecting you.  You truly are protected there at Greenwell, where you are in the midst of the lights from afar and the life all about you.

Sometimes Sally will take more vocal offense and her halloos incite the Davis dogs, all Jack Russells, to respond.  There is a glorious chorus of dog throughout the area and you know that in the next day or two, either at the Post Office or in the Luna Cafe, you will be told, "You were at Greenwell the other night."

Yes; it is so.  You were.

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