To west of West

Jeff and the boys on one of our evening walks along a canyon trail near our home. Vandenberg Air Force Base, sometime in 1990.

Jeff and the boys on one of our evening walks along a canyon trail near our home.
Vandenberg Air Force Base, sometime in 1990.

“Lands there are to west of West,
Where night is quiet and sleep is rest.
Guided by the Lonely Star,
Beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I’ll find the heavens fair and free,
And beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
And fields and mountains ever blest…”
J. R. R. Tolkien

I think I would have loved California under pretty much any circumstances, but our earliest days there were absolutely magical.  When we left for the west coast in January 1990, we had just passed from one of the most difficult periods of our lives, and driving through the rocky Gaviota Pass felt like the transition from one world to another; a new world more wild, remote and unknown, full of adventure and a paradoxical serenity.

We lived on a lovely street on Vandenberg Air Force Base, in a modest little house where we would spend some of the happiest times of our lives.  Down the street from our home, not even half a mile away, was a trail with expansive views of the surrounding wilderness.  There was abundant pampas grass lit up by the setting sun (Matt is holding a stalk in the photo), and from one point, we could glimpse the Pacific Ocean.

That trail became a favorite place for evening walks.  Though we never saw the mountain lions or coyotes others said they had seen there, it still felt like a small wilderness trek each time we went for a walk along the unpaved path. It was wonderful to have an enchanted kingdom close enough that we could go strolling there any evening we chose.

Vandenberg was a fabulous place for young boys to live; there were huge, deserted beaches with dunes and tide pools and Titan missile launches, and we saw more deer, raccoons and other wild animals there than we have seen anywhere before or since. (The terrible Painted Cave Fire just south of us that year drove huge numbers of animals to seek refuge to the north.)

The Air Force has taken us to some wonderful places we learned to call home, but no time is quite as cherished in our memory as those wonderful years of our sons’ early childhood in one of the most uniquely beautiful places on earth.

We made friends there who have stayed with us in our hearts to this day (and some of them probably will read this post and remember right along with me).  Our sons’ young playmates are grown now, and many of them have children of their own.  I wonder if they think of those years as fondly as we do?

When I look back on a life full of blessings for which to feel grateful, our years on the rugged central coast of California always come to mind. Those fields and mountains are indeed “ever blest” in our remembrance.

One year ago today:

Twilight and dawn

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Judy

    The photo you took and the words that you’ve written show the wonderful love that fills your heart. Happy Mother’s Day, Julia, from one mom to another!

    • Thank you, Judy! Happy Mother’s Day to you too. I’m coming to realize that the biggest benefit of love is what it does to the one feeling the love, even in the absence of reciprocation. It’s hard to let go of expecting any returns, but living alone forces that lesson again and again. And love, in the final analysis, really is its own reward. ❤

  2. Connie Reed

    Great blog Julia! Happy Mother’s Day! Praying you have a wonderful and blessed day!

    • Thank you, Connie. Hope your Mother’s Day was great. I had a lovely surprise. Nishchal Ghimire, a very nice young man from Nepal who has been Matt’s driver/companion/adopted brother for over 8 years now, took him shopping for me and let Matt choose whatever he wanted to buy for me. I must say he did a great job. He bought me a beautiful Calla Lily plant with yellow flowers (we used to have Callas growing in our front yard in California many years ago) and also a lovely bouquet of flowers. I arranged them with some irises, columbine and snapdragons that are blooming in my flower beds right now. I remember how your mother and grandmother were gifted with floral design so I just had to share this with you! Thanks for being here.

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