Since Independence Day we've been living in a beach house
that looks out on to California's Monterrey Bay.
From the deck we often see thousands of circling sea birds.
As they begin diving for fish, humpbackwhales zoom up with cavernous open mouths.
I wonder how many of those birds end up like Jonah or Pinocchio.
We see their spouts, their snouts, and sculptural tails slapping the water (part of a fishing routine, we read). Being near them is a humbling experience.
A six-minute walk down the canyon takes you to the shore framed to the south by the city of Monterey and to the north by "Surf City", Santa Cruz. We love going there for free concerts,
Los Lobos performing last weekend
"Dharma's" great food, and watching the action on Steamer's Lane. There you can watch surfers shooting past on 10-foot waves. Notice the hand shadow on the water?
When beach walks get old we head south to hike Point Lobos.
The state park is one of our country's prettiest places.
At the end of the day,
we bundle up and climb the bluff for sunsets. The sun setting behind Santa Cruz six miles away.
Bundling is required as it is always cool on the California coast. It's like there's a huge air conditioner outside always turned on. Brrr.
We get some sun but San Francisco-like fog roles in most of the time. Locals complain but we think cloud living is kind of cool...at least for a month.
If you want more sun you head two-miles inland. That's where the strawberries grow and temperatures rise 20 degrees.
It's strange to by a beach with water too cold to touch (unless you are a whale, otter, or the seals we often see). If you want to get wet there's a heated public pool nearby. On the entry gate is a sign that says, "Do not swim here if you have diarrhea or have had it in the last fourteen days". Note: It's safe to swim with me.
After all these swims, hikes, and concerts we head back to our cottage-by-the-sea and put clothespins on our noses again as life isn't perfect.
When we arrived a month ago we made a list of things to fix in the south of Santa Cruz house shared by my wife's large family. A downstairs heating vent cover was missing so we replaced it. A week later The Big Stink began.
I had seen a rat by the back door a few days before. The rat was too fast to photograph. What you see in its place is a toy chihuahua, which looks more like a rat than a rat does.
My theory is that the rat came in, jumped through the vent hole before we screwed on the cover then proceeded to starve to death. When we turn on the house's heating system the horrible smell got worse. I tried to locate his rotting body but could not.
PUTRID IN PARADISE
We went online and asked, "How long does it take for a dead rat to stop stinking?". Estimates range from ten days until our vacation ends next week.
We attempted to mummify it by turning the house heat on high. Then, it really stunk!
Better cold than stinky, we keep the windows open, dine on the deck, and dump "orange blossom" oil on chunks of driftwood placed around the house.
Sure, there's cold sea breeze passing through the cottage but we keep bundled up. The house smells like waves crashing into an orange grove. We're happy with that. Now we can use the clothespins to dry the laundry.