While Utah and most of the rest of America was being pounded by snow and ice, San Diego was warmly slipping out of November and into December and Christmastime.
Christmas lights lit up yard and houses; they seemed to be trying too hard to make up for the lack of the Christmas signature snowy scenes.
Well, San Diego has its own Christmas signature scenes.
A major one is Poinsettia.
A lot of the poinsettia that are bought in North America are raised in the northern San Diego area green houses.
Most folks think of poinsettia as a potted plant that gets chucked out after Christmas is over.
Locals don't toss their poinsettias pots.
They cut them up and share poinsettia sticks from their Christmas plants.
The sticks are literally just stuck into the ground and in a year or two they grow sky high.
How fun is that?
Even more fun: Having my BFF Gail also in town for the Thanksgiving holidays, out visiting from her home in Colorado Springs!
We both grew up in San Diego and our parents still live in San Diego. Our Dads have birthdays the same week so we often wind up in San Diego over Thanksgiving time.
It is a nice way to meet up and have some time together.
We had already met up for lunch in La Mesa a few days earlier.
Usually we work in a time to walk together on the beach each visit too.
Tides are especially high and low November and December which makes beach walking even more fun at low tide.
As we arrived at the beach, I was really surprised to see that kelp had been washed up all the way to the sea wall and beyond.
Bernie and I had taken a walk on the beach earlier in the week; I had noted the low tide time and Gail and I plotted to get to the beach and up to the tide pools at the best possible low tide time.
Winter storms were raging far north of Southern California.
Sea birds were flocking on our beach, including a few kinds of birds we had never seen before.
I thought this funny little bird was gull.
Later I showed my Dad my photos of the bird and he identified them as Terns!
He thought it was a Caspian Tern, but I think after looking more closely, they are actually Royal Terns, based on their white foreheads.
Don't they look like a bunch of bald headed guys with just a wild fringe of hair around their heads?
Then land again just a few feet away.
Maybe their were tired out from a long migration flight; maybe they just figured we didn't pose too much of a threat.
Gail thought it would be fun for me to attempt to get a photo of her in the middle of the bird flights.
I had her walk backwards towards the birds, facing the sun.
The silly birds just sat there or just shuffled a few feet away as she got closer and closer to them.
Maybe they just sensed that Gail is a really kind person and posed no danger to them.
(Photographing birds over wet sand always makes for cool pictures with their mirror like reflections included.)
The surf was definitely "up", especially compared to the prior day when Luke was playing in the water.
The first few days we were in town the waves rarely broke more than two inches high.
When Bernie and I walked the beach he taught me a new beach trick.
He walked up to the goose neck barnacles on the pier and stroked them like the clusters were a large cat.
The barnacles swayed in the direction of his slow gentle stroked after he lifted his hand.
I was amazed and couldn't wait to show Gail.
When Bernie stroked them they definitely swayed.
I had stroked them too and saw the same slow collective movement.
(And yes, it does feel really odd to stroke these hard things.)
I had never really paid much attention to them before.
They are such interesting little clusters, how ever did I miss studying them before?
Scripps pier, where local children grow up being dared to surf between the pier pilings.
They often do dare to do so, even after also growing up hearing their mothers warn them about not surfing or swimming between the pilings.
Adults love to attempt to take photos with the sun setting framed perfectly at the end of the pilings.
We discussed the mussels she had recently seen on sale in the super market. I told her mussels were delicious.
She had never tried eating mussels before.
I kind of wished I could try harvesting some from the beach to try some day.
Gail and I both are constantly amazed at nature and beauty.
The chain-like pattern created by tide water flowing over the sand was enough to make us stop and look and enjoy for a bit.
I snapped a fast photo of Gail.
She had just a few days earlier learned that her father is facing a serious illness.
Lots of changes are ahead for her and her parents.
A walk on the beach was a way to step away from all that the news meant for a bit.
Last year we walked together as I faced the impending death of my mother-in-law.
God seems to manage to get us together during many of our life milestones, both good ones and bad.
Taking in the booms and spray of the waves crashing upon the shoreline rocks engages us as we walk along.
This is actually a pretty unusual scene for this beach. The tide is at a record low; making the usually below the water rocks subject to the crashing wave action.
Translucent kelp and shoreline mussels share in common a golden color, stolen I think from the many golden sunsets of summer.
My favorite picture of the day:
I do not know how or why small holes form on shoreline rocks but each hole has become a micro tide pool and has also gained a resident.
I blew this photo up and found it was like a "Where's Waldo?" scene composed of sea forms, including a tiny, smaller than a dime sea anemone opened up into a full bloom.
We rued the fact that we weren't wearing water socks so we could have explored inside this tiny cavern.
Hermit crabs scurried along in game of follow the leaders.
(During my earlier visit to the tide pools with Bernie I was chagrined at parents who pointed out hermit crabs as snails. Huh? And despaired for America's future when a good sized young lad wanted to pick up a hermit crab after seeing us holding one, yet he was too afraid it would pinch him. I pointed out how tiny the claws were and how that even if it did pinch it would feel like a tiny poke. He still couldn't bring himself to hold one. Sad.)
They really move fast too...this one flipped itself upright and raced off Gail's hand before I could click a photo of it running.
Love those bright blue bracelets!
The tide pool area present patterns and colors galore.
When Bernie and I came here, he took a mussel and shattered its shell, then tossed the meat in bits into a quiet tide pool.
Within seconds fish and crabs raced out from nooks and crevices to feast on the unexpected bounty.
Some of the fish were tiny inch long opal eyes, grey with a small white dot on the middle of their spines.
I expected them; what I didn't expect was to see six inch long sculpin to also dart out from beneath the rocks!
I mentioned what Bernie had done to Gail.
We toyed with the idea of pulling off a mussel and feeding a tide pool too.
Guess we are still just too girly to want to crush shell and pull out smelly bits with our bare hands.
The tide was still going out as we walked back and the pier piling bases were being revealed further out too.
Bernie and I had seen lots of starfish the other day; I was eager to show Gail them too.
Orange and purple...
Gail was the one that figured out how to really make the star fish stand out.
They just look like regular old starfish...
I suppose they eat the mussels?
(Yes they do! These star fish are in Fat City! All-You-Can-Eat Mussel buffet!)
I get a kick out of how sea life layers and reside on each other.
And how one goose neck barnacle has stuck its neck out beyond the others.
(I later learned that in Spain the gooseneck barnacle is considered a delicacy. If you want to whip up a batch as an appetizer, HERE is a fast and easy recipe. Personally I think I'll pass.)
She drove us the three blocks back to my parent's house and dropped me off.
When would see each other again?
Hard to say.
We plan a get together in Idaho in mid February.
Hope it can happen.
A lot can happen in the next eight weeks.
It seems odd to think that mid February IS just eight weeks way doesn't it?.