Saturday, March 20, 2010

Time Out

The time change and nice weather showed up together. For the past few days, the temperature has been close to eighty, though it still gets cold at night. The winter rain has left my backyard a bright green and the orange trees are just about to burst into blossom.

For the moment I am waiting to hear about a number of writing projects and actually can’t work on anything right now. The weather and the free time made it perfect to head for a walk in the mountains.

We always seem to wait until late in the day to go, which is okay with me. No need for sunglasses, hats or being concerned about sunburn. On the positive side, we get to watch the sky turn pastel shades of pink and blue as the bright orange sun slips behind the mountains.

The Santa Monica mountains get more moisture than the other ranges that ring the valley and are always sort of green. But now everything is super green. The ground they cleared in the fall for fire concerns is popping to life with reedy green grasses. The air smells sweet and little sunflowers grow along the road.

Every time I go up to the dirt section of Mullholland, I think how lucky I am to have this almost in my backyard. The views are fabulous. One way and I can watch the lights begin to twinkle over the west valley and see ribbons of headlights and brakelights on Winnetka as it goes north. I love looking at familiar places from this king of the mountain angle. I can pick out the lights on the parking lot of Topanga Plaza mall, see the 118 freeway far in the distance. See is not exactly the right term. I can make out where it is when the cars on it catch the light.

If turn the other way, I see the empty mountains that are between me and the Pacific. There is a spot we sometimes go to where you can see over the mountains and watch planes land at LAX, see the ocean and even Catalina island.

Tucked between the mountains in what seems like a secret valley are a few houses. I’m sure there must be a road leading to them, but from my vantage point it looks like they have to get dropped in by parachute.

What gets me every time I walk up here is that it is literally minutes from traffic jams, Starbucks and crowded supermarkets, but up here it is quiet. Well, when the sun goes down, the coyotes start announcing that it’s dinner time and their howls echo off the mountains.

The air changes as you walk. Cooler air snakes between the mountains from the ocean and surprises you. And then a waft of warm air shows up and blows it away. Sometimes the clouds seem so low, you feel like you can almost touch them. We always stay too long and walk back in the darkness. Then it’s all silhouettes and mystery, and maybe a little danger. A few mountain lions live in the Santa Monicas. Could they be hiding on that ridge? Mostly we see bunnies and birds flying out of bushes, but somewhere there are bob cats, tarantulas and rattlesnakes, too. There are deer, too, but they do a good job of hiding. We’ve only seen them twice. A few times we’ve seen an owl take off and fly over us, so without any sound of flapping wings as to be eerie. We’ve had coyotes parallel us as we go down the hill. They didn’t look at us and we didn’t look at them.

The best is when there’s a full moon to light our way.

Every time I come back from a walk up there I feel like I’ve just been given the best gift.


Linda O. Johnston said...

There are many delightful things about living in the San Fernando Valley, Betty--and you've described a lot of them in a truly wonderful way! Where I live, which is pretty urban, we nevertheless do see deer, especially when it's dry, and coyotes. We know that skunks are around, too, but we rarely see them. A hawk often shows up on our utility pole to watch for prey. And now the weather has turned warm enough that lizards are showing up in our backyard again.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, we have a skunk in our yard or near it. One night my son thought there was a cat under his car and was calling "here kitty, kitty." Lucky for him the skunk knew it wasn't a cat and didn't come out.

Julie said...

Oh, Betty, you reminded me of so much! When my daughter was small, we'd drive through Malibu Canyon to walk on the beach, and we always had to honk the horn in the little tunnel on Malibu Canyon Road. I've seen deer on the lawns at Pepperdine more than once, even in the middle of the afternoon. Actually, I've seen deer on the grounds of the Getty, too. Thanks for bringing back some good memories.

Betty Hechtman said...

Julie, I'm glad I could bring back some memories for you. I started walking up in the mountains when my son was small. He's grown now, but still like to walk up there with me

Anonymous said...

Is it true you're coming to Sacramento?
When is the next book to be released? aka Barb the Brat

Betty Hechtman said...

Barb, I don't have any plans to come to Sacramento right now. My next book comes out in November and is called You Better knot Die.