Posted By bbinns on January 8, 20091.7.09.
In the peripatetic life of this particular couple, the scenery is always changing but a few things stay the same. One of them is the wind chimes. At our 2004 wedding in Chianti, these chimes were worn on the wrist of Madeleine, the beautiful daughter of my dear friend Ronda, as she led our small, barefoot procession across the ancient, sun-baked stones of the borgo. Within a few hours of our arrival (if we’ll be staying more than a week), I hang up the chimes. At home in Athens they grace the furnished porch with their dulcet tones. Here, I mount them on a rough post just outside the door of our bedroom, at the sunny end of one of two legs that make up this Mission-style, central-coast residence, the peacful home of C’s cousin Bob. Long-time Roadfoodie readers will recognize this welcoming house from our visit last Christmas, when we stayed only five days. This month, due partly to the new program of Austerity ’09, we are staying for three blissful weeks.
It is a good place to set down for a spell. Far above the tiled roof, a gang of turkey buzzards rides the updrafts in lazy dips and circles. I have work to do, yes, but there is also time to walk, hike, reflect, and squint into a pleasing distance made up of the Pacific’s blue sparkle, green-gold hills, and lots of coastal oak trees. These are my hands-down favorite California trees. Unlike the inland oaks, which populate Paso Robles 30 miles north and slightly east of here, coastal oaks do not lose their leaves in the winter. As a result, the view here at the coast is far lusher than the winter views around Paso. And here at Bob’s, the olive trees around the periphery of the house have grown at least two feet since last year; their elongated silvery leaves wave gently and allow me to dream of Chianti. Not that it takes much to set off that familiar reverie.
The other item that goes with us everywhere is Stella. And now she has returned to her winter sport, body-surfing. The beach at Avila Bay is stellar for such pursuits, and although signs ban dogs between 9am and 5pm, there are always a few present. On weekdays, if we stay out of the way of the few other beach-users, no one seems to mind. Stella has a technique which pleases her: she dodges the waves while running at high speed, parallel to the incoming and outgoing swells. In this way, she can maintain control of her distance from and depth in the water at all times. Whenever the mood strikes, she collides with the surf and gets tumbled, sometimes perhaps more than she had intended. But that’s the fun part. Anyone who bears witness to this sport stops, slack-jawed in awe of her speed, enthusiasm, and sheer dogged persistence: this goes on for at least 20 breathless minutes before she even begins to slow down, and then ventures up the beach to see how her human entourage is faring.
Today is Stella’s third day of surfing since our arrival. There is more derring-do to her technique than last year; our little girl is growing up (I embody—rather than flee from—the middle-aged-couple-with-no-kids-and-a-dog syndrome). But back at the house she begins to shiver, and doesn’t stop—our little hot-house flower has caught a chill. (It may be 70F in the midday sun, but at night the temperature plummets to 35F.) Thus our evening become all about keeping ourselves and the little dog warm and toasty, in front of various crackling, flickering fires. That, and a redoubtable salmon soufflé made with local, yolky eggs, a bottle of Beringer reserve chardonnay, and excited planning of the menu for the Inauguration Feast-Fest, coming on January 20.