Sunday, January 24, 2016

California Here We Come - Elephant Seals and Hearst Castle, Maybe?

Today was the day we had planned to visit Hearst Castle.  Located on the Central California Coast, this 250,000 acre country retreat was built by the famous American Newspaper Mogul, William Randolph Hearst, in the early 20th century. It was here that he hosted the legendary figures of the day, including politicians like Winston Churchill and Calvin Coolidge, American flyer, Charles Lindbergh, and some of my favorite Golden Era movie stars, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard to name a few.

I had my camera charged and ready for a day spent roaming the beautiful rooms and gardens of the magnificent place Hearst called, La Cuesta Encantada, the "Enchanted Hill".  However, things didn't quite work out the way we had planned.

Leaving behind the San Francisco Bay area and heading down toward the central coast, our day started out as planned.  We arrived in the San Simeon area on time and made our first stop along the beach a few miles north of San Simeon and the castle.  This area is home to a colony of Elephant Seals.

Hunted to near extinction in the late 1800s there were only about 100 left when the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed in 1972.

Then, around 1990 about a dozen seals arrived on this beach and began to call it home.  They settled in and started reproducing.  Within 5 years there were close to 600 babies born on this beach.  Today, at least 7,000 - 10,000 elephant seals swim happily in the waters off shore and snooze on the sand.  It's a remarkable story of recovery.


Now this is where the story begins to go awry.  As we were standing on the beach, it began to rain. I was snapping photos like crazy and my husband was getting concerned that the camera was getting wet, as was he and everyone else.   I decided I wanted some pictures of the seals out in the water. But I was too far away and any animals out there just looked like the rocks.

So I had the happy notion that I would go back to the car and change the camera lens which I proceeded to do over the very vocal protests of my loving husband.  I raced to the car, changed the lens in the now pouring down rain and hurried back to snap a few more pictures.  These horrid, gray, fuzzy, and still not very close photos were the result of my efforts. 

By now my exasperated family was thoroughly wet, cold and more than ready to leave the beach behind.  As we were walking back to the car, guess who suddenly realized she had locked the car keys in the trunk of the car?  Guess who also realized the spare key was in her purse which was locked in the front seat of the car.  Guess who's phone was also locked in the car? Yes, that's right.  We were standing on a windswept cliff, miles from the nearest town in the pouring down rain. 

To make a long story short, my husband, The Investigator decided after 15 minutes of debate to pick up a big rock and break the back window of the car door, a bit drastic but very effective.  Of course, there was glass everywhere inside the car but he was able to reach in and unlock the door, cutting his hand in the process.  We ended up sending our children off to go see Hearst Castle while we checked into the hotel, cleaned up The Investigator's hand and found a place to vacuum the glass out of the car and tape up the window .  We also ended up spending the rest of the trip with our car door looking like this.

So here is my cautionary tale, good things do not happen when you selfishly pursue your own personal interests and disregard the feelings of others. 

I would like to share that although I was thoroughly and completely ashamed of myself and I asked for forgiveness from each one, not one word of reproach came from my sweet husband or my children then or since.  In fact, now my kids all wish I had taken photos of the window breaking moment (as if I would have dared !) as they are sure it has always been their father's secret desire to do so.

Another lesson is one we often forget in the moment of crisis, that is that God often uses unexpected things for good.  In this case, while we missed visiting Hearst Castle with our children, we were able to spend an entire afternoon with some very dear friends who lived nearby.  We sat together over a glass of wine on the terrace of our hotel room and after the rain, we watched the sunset together sharing old memories and making new ones and who can ask for more than that.

God is always good and always working for our good and in the end that's the lesson to remember.


This is where I leave you but before I go, I need to let those of you who are following me by email (not blogging) know that if you are sending comments to me I am not receiving them.  I haven't been able to figure out why you can't leave a comment but if you are using the reply to email me it isn't working either.   So if you want to communicate after reading a post then you can just send me a regular note via this email address:  Hopefully, I will be able to figure out what I am doing wrong.  When I do I will let you know. :)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

California Here We Come - Winchester House

Time to get back to sharing the pictures from our trip down the West Coast with our family in November.  What fun it is to travel with grown children.  Our oldest son had planned the itinerary which took us to some places we had not seen before.  You may recall that before the holidays I left you in San Francisco after a visit to Alcatraz and a walk along The Embarcadero followed by lunch on the San Francisco Wharf.  The Inspector and I would have said that was plenty for one day, but this day was not over yet.  We piled into our cars after lunch and headed for San Jose just outside of Frisco for a tour of the Winchester House.

Built from a 6 room farm house into a  160 room rambling Victorian mansion, 7 stories high, the Winchester House is on the California list of historic homes.   The mansion is an architectural maze of winding staircases that go up to the ceiling with no way out, secret passage ways, doors that open to nowhere, cupboard doors and closets that opened to nothing and rooms that were built but never used.   You can read a brief history of Sarah Winchester and the mansion she built here and also here.

A very short version of the story is that Sarah Winchester was the wife of the inventor of the famous Winchester Repeating Rifle.  When both her daughter and husband died prematurely, she went off the deep end and began to consult a spiritualist who told her she was being punished by the spirits of those who had been killed by the Winchester rifles and that she must build a house for herself and for the spirits.  As long as she continued to build, the spirits would be appeased but that if she ever stopped she would die.  So she spent the next 36 years building the house until her death at the age 83.

The inside of the house is copyrighted, so though you will find photos of the inside on line here, I opted to just take pictures of the grounds on the outside.

L-R: daughter in law, younger son, older son, the Inspector

The grounds were filled with different plants and shrubs we don't see in our neck of the woods.

This was called a potato tree.  You can see that the leaves and flowers do look similar to a potato plant.


 This is an umbrella plant.  I remember having umbrella plants in our yard when I was growing up in Southern California.  

There was also a profusion of orange trees all around the grounds.

and numerous fountains.

Of Course there was the house itself.

This is the famous "door to nowhere".  From the inside it looks like an ordinary door going into another room but if you were to open it, as you can see, there is nothing on the other side.

This is the front entry to the house.  
Do you see those beautiful front doors?  Our tour guide told us only three people every passed through them, Sarah Winchester and the two workmen who hung them.  Once the doors were set in place they were never opened again for as long as she lived.  We saw the beautiful parlor on the inside next to the entry way. It had lovely wooden paneling and floors and was beautifully furnished.  There was a table all set for tea.  But no one ever came to call.  It was just Sarah and the servants.  

So as we toured the house and the grounds, we saw beautiful architecture and interiors.  There were many modern conveniences of the day built inside to make things easier for the servants.   There was even a beautiful ballroom but no one ever danced on the floor.  I was struck with the terrible tragedy of this poor woman.  She had no faith in God and she ended up living a life of loneliness and fear, haunted by the ghosts in her own mind.   In the end, all her building could not save her.  Sad.

Now I don't want to leave this on a down note because we actually had a lot of fun touring the house and the grounds.  I wouldn't mind taking another tour some day.  But it is definitely a cautionary tale of the importance of keeping our eyes on the things above.

When next we meet, we will head down the central coast and I will have another more personal cautionary tale to share.  Until then, I bid you adieu.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Thankful Thursday - 13

Eucharisteo "In everything be giving thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18 

 My word of purpose for this year is Nurture.  I want to nurture my friendships, nurture my body and nurture my soul.  I am seeking "eucharisteo," thanksgiving, grace, joy, not always mourning the past or worrying about the future but living in the now, the gift of today, this very moment.  

I have started reading a wonderful book by Ann Voskamp called One Thousand Gifts.  There are probably those of you who have already read it and I am late to the party, but for me it was a new read and a call to arms to to be truly living the abundant life Christ came to give us.  

I started my own list of one thousand gifts this week.  While I have only written 16 things so far, already I find myself looking around and looking for God's hand, recognizing God's hand. and not just superficially seeing, but truly seeing God's hand moving in everything.  Some are things I have noticed and commented on before.  How can one not when living in a place as beautiful as this?  But I hope to go deeper into Thanksgiving this year and so here is my Thankful Thursday list for this week.

1.  The sound of my husband's breathing as he sleeps beside me each night.

2.  A warm meal shared with friends.

3.  Frost sparkling on bricks like glitter in the sunshine.

4.  A rainbow in the sky at the end of a cold and stormy afternoon.

5.  The sunset casting pink shadows on the snow covered mountains.

6.  Feeling the warm floor under my feet as I stand in front of the fireplace.

"And on the night in which he was betrayed, he gave thanks...."

Thanksgiving, grace, joy... Eucharisteo

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Happy 2016

Goodness!  It's already five days into the new year!  Belated good wishes to everyone.  After all the business of of the past two months I am having a hard time getting settled back into a routine. It always takes me a while to switch gears.  

I have been trying to decide what my word for the year should be.  Last year it was Balance, working on keeping perspective and balance between the joy and sorrow of a very difficult year.  Even, as we turn the page into a new year I realize that that balancing act is an ongoing part of living that is always with us.  It's just that sometimes events make it more obvious.

Those who know me well know that I am more of an introvert, content to spend hours in book, daydreaming while I should be doing the dishes, happy with my own company.  I do like people and I have some truly wonderful friends but I am lazy and I often don't take the time to nurture those friendships the way I should.  This year I want to take more time to reach out and spend time away from my books and my daydreams to be a little more in the real world, to be with and to be there for friends and family.  Is there one word to explain that?  I am not sure.  I am still thinking on it.  Suggestions?

Meanwhile, I would just like to pray for each of you who are reading this:

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of life.  Thank you for each of those who are reading this now.  Thank you for the friends you have given to me both here on-line and those who surround me everyday.  Be with each one through the days to come, through the joys, the sorrows, the pains and the triumphs that this year will bring.   Give each one a measure of your wonderful grace.  I pray each one will be given a year filled with many many blessings.  In your most gracious name I pray. Amen

I appreciate each and every one of you and the comments you have shared over the past year and I am looking forward to the year ahead.  Now I will leave you with this lovely photo of the mountains and this neighboring lake shared by a friend just a few days ago.  I never stop being grateful for the natural beauty of this place I call home.  

Happy 2016!