Trees, seals, graves, friends and a virus

April 16, 2020 | My Jottings

How is everyone doing? I stopped counting the days a long time ago. I remind myself that with a warm home, a job I do from home, stable health, and an impossible jigsaw puzzle to do, I have much to be thankful for.

Then I remind myself that I cannot see my grandchildren even though they are within practically arm’s reach, and that they are growing up and changing without me being able to see them up close. Then I remind myself that they are going to forget that they love and need me, until they don’t love and need me anymore. And it won’t matter to them that I love and need them. Then I remind myself that I can’t have lunch with friends, can’t have dinner with my daughters, can’t drive to Tennessee to spend time with my sister-in-law now that my brother has died, can’t go to the library and peruse the shelves. Then I remind myself that so many I know have lost jobs, and so many I don’t know have lost loved ones. Then I remind myself that I can’t go to church and gather and kneel and pray with my church family. Then I remind myself that I can’t happily plan a menu and invite friends over for a nice meal around my table, enjoying conversation and laughter and the preciousness of their presence.

You can see how upbeat and productive I am. My inner life is truly remarkable. Sabotage… that’s what I’m doing to my brain, I guess.

Being an introvert, the first few weeks seemed almost like normal life to me. But now all these facts I’m reminding myself of have taken their toll, and I feel pretty down. Just the time to take to my blog and post something, right?

So I thought I’d share some pictures from the recent trip Lloyd and I took to my home state of California. We were there for almost two weeks, right as everything began to shut down.

I grew up in SoCal, but never made it to Sequoia National Park. We decided to visit there for two days and it was a definite highlight. We both agreed we should have planned for a much longer stay. It was spectacular being in the Sierra Nevadas and seeing these trees that were here when Jesus walked the earth.

This is Lloyd and me standing in front of the largest tree on the planet. The picture doesn’t even come close to showing how magnificent and massive they are. As we drove higher and higher (almost 9000 feet elevation), we gasped and gaped each time we rounded a curve and saw one of these giants in amongst the other trees.

We pulled over to take the picture below — I think you can click to enlarge. The gray squiggles in the middle of the photo are the switchback road we drove to get to the higher elevations.

Toward the end of our trip we drove Pacific Coast Highway north to San Simeon, where Hearst Castle is. My parents and I visited there many times, and it felt strange and sad and exhilarating to see it again, sitting way up on the hill. Lloyd and I had hoped to see an elephant seal or two if we squinted our eyes, at the Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery just north of San Simeon. Imagine our awe when we got out of the car and saw hundreds and hundreds of them sleeping on the beach. We were so struck by the seals we had to read up on them when we returned to our hotel. The males can be 5000 pounds, and I can see three in the picture below. The time we spent here was also a highlight of our trip.

When I was growing up in Covina, California, my parents and I would vacation in Morro Bay two-three times a year. Morro Bay is a sleepy little town on the Central Coast, and some of my happiest memories are from visiting there. Morro Rock is supposedly a volcanic plug, whatever that means. I just looked it up — it means this rock is a “remnant neck” of a volcano that was here millions of years ago.

Whenever my mom and dad and I would drive the five hours north to Morro Bay, I watched anxiously to see the rock and the three PG & E smokestacks as we would approach the town. Those monuments meant a fun stay in a hotel, foggy weather we loved, a walk on the Embarcadero, salt water taffy for my mom, a walk on the beach to gather sand dollars, drives up the coast to see Hearst Castle, eating at The Breakers, my parents eating clam chowder and me having a burger, dreaming with them that we might someday live there. They never made that leap because of my dad’s good job in Covina, but I remember the Morro Bay visits as happy times before my parents divorced and our family disintegrated.

I was thrilled to be able to show Lloyd Morro Bay and walk on the beach with him. We gathered sand dollars and marveled at long-beaked, solitary curlews that walked around in the sand close by.

We also visited my mom’s grave in Covina. She is buried next to her parents, Edward Bennett and Oma Leora McInteer.

While in the Morro Bay area we went to Los Osos, where my dad is buried.

We were blessed to spend two days and nights with my beloved childhood friend Denel. She and her husband Jerry have retired and bought a condo on the ocean in Solana Beach, just north of San Diego. Lloyd and I slept in their guest room and had the sliding glass window open a bit at night, listening to the crashing waves nearby.

This is Lloyd in Solana Beach — just look at what Denel and Jerry get to see every single day. We walked the beach with them and I rolled up my jeans and put my feet in the Pacific for the first time in decades. I used to swim in that ocean as often as I could. In fact, I used to swim as far out as my ten-year old strength would allow, until I couldn’t reach the bottom when I dove down, or see the faces of people on the beach when I turned to look back.

How could we go to Southern California and not visit Disneyland? I went to Disneyland at least once a year and sometimes twice in my younger years. I know it like the back of my hand, and wanted to experience it again, and see the new rides. It was a rainy day and we took umbrellas, but even the rain and visiting on a weekday didn’t prevent the lines of some of the most popular rides from having 90 minute waits. So we chose not to wait that long, although had I been by myself I would have done it. Denel and I went to Disneyland as children together, and she drove up to Anaheim from Solana Beach to go with us. The day after we were at the Magic Kingdom, the park closed.

Denel and Jerry also took us to The Flower Fields in Carlsbad Ranch, and that was such a treat. Never have I seen so many ranunculus flowers, nor varieties of poinsettias. It was mind-boggling and lovely. These are my favorite poinsettias:

We also visited my dear friend Diane and her love Danny. They have retired to Palm Desert and we stayed two days and nights with them in their beautiful home in a gated community called Sun City. I met Diane when I was 19 years old and we were both attending a Lamaze childbirth class in Yuba City, California, near Beale AFB where our husbands were stationed. We have been devoted friends for over 40 years.

Diane and Danny (below) took us to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, and we boarded a rotating tram car in the desert and in ten minutes were almost 9000 feet up, where there was snow and pines and views of the Coachella Valley I could have enjoyed for the whole day.

Everyone in the desert gets very creative with their landscaping since having green grassy lawns to water isn’t recommended. I think Diane and Danny’s back yard is unique and beautiful!

One of the best parts of the trip for me, was being able to spend time with my father’s widow Dorothy. Dorothy is one of the finest people I’ve ever known. It would take an entire blog post to tell of how she cared lovingly for my mother when she was ill, how she loved and served my father, how she blessed our family so richly. She lives in Atascadero with her son Jim and his wife Kim and their amazing family. We were welcomed there for lunch and when we left, Lloyd and I got in the car to drive away and I sobbed. I love her so much and know this was probably the last time I’ll see her on this earth. Dorothy used to paint, and the portrait is of her late father.

I have so many more pictures, but just thought I’d share a few from each area we visited. As we neared the end of our trip, we called ahead one morning to see if we could get an early check-in at the last hotel we were to stay in, in San Diego. They had closed indefinitely and never even emailed or called to let us know our reservation was voided. We took that as our sign to leave a day early, as everything in California was closing down and we wanted to get home to Minnesota. We had heard of “ghost flights” with hardly any passengers, but we were able to reschedule and get the last two seats on a packed Delta flight. We arrived in Minneapolis late, so stayed in a hotel overnight, grocery shopped the next morning, then drove north. I dropped Lloyd off at his cabin and continued on to my house by Lake Superior. We quarantined for almost two weeks before we were together again. We have been married for six months now, but we still have two homes. We spend three or four days together, then three or four days apart. It works well for us.

Today, I am taking my foster gal on a nice ride in the country, and we will stop at a burger place with carhop service. She is anxious to order their onion rings, a hot dog, and one of their famous fresh berry milk shakes. I think I might have a burger myself. 🙂

How are you holding up? Have you been doing anything creative? Watching anything good on TV? Lloyd and I have really liked a British series on Netflix that my friend Pat recommended called “Endeavour.”

God bless you all…


  1. Mariah says:

    I’m so glad you had such a lovely trip! To catch up with old friends is truly priceless, and to share your memories with Lloyd, also priceless! Thank you for sharing slices of it with us! You mention that it may be your last visit with your father’s widow and her family. So bittersweet. I think of my visit with my mother, last fall, and knowing it would probably be my last. I thank God every time I think of those moments, that I was able to share them with her!

    As for me, doing well. We’ve been very busy keeping our church services live-streaming and keeping our congregation together online! LOL…we’re looking forward to being able to gather again, but for now it’s all online, of course. Strange times, but I remind myself that God is still in control, He has never left His throne, and He’s not leaving it now, and this will pass. Life may never be quite what it was before, but my hope is that it will be better! Perhaps we will not take for granted the things that so easily become commonplace. Our friends, families, even just sitting at a coffee shop watching the world go by and sipping a delicious hot drink. It’s the small things, you know?

    Also, I haven’t forgotten that you mentioned the “A-Z of Me” and I will do it. I’ll email it to you. It’s a nice way to get to know someone from long distance, I think, though I’m concerned about becoming TOO introspective!

    All for now…I’ll email you soon. 🙂

  2. Just Julie says:

    So nice to read how you’ve been doing, Mariah. I appreciate your grounded outlook. I agree about the small things, which are really the big things! I received your a-z and thought it was great. I learned more about you and thank you for the time it took to share that with me. God bless you dear friend… xoxo

  3. SUSAN REED says:

    Hi Julie,
    So nice to get back to your blog and see pictures of your trip to California. I was in Sun City West in January and was surprised to learn that San Diego was only 5 hours away. I hope to go back to AZ again and then get over to CA.someday. God bless you and your love. ~Susan

  4. Just Julie says:

    Hi Susan! It’s always a treat to see you stop in here. Yes, there’s so much to see in the southwest of our country — I would love to explore again someday. I hope you are well and doing fine with sheltering in place. God be with you, dear Sue! xoxo

  5. Nancy Roney says:

    your trip looks beautiful. So wonderful you could introduce Lloyd to all your California friends. Before shut down my son and i visited my daughter and son-in-law i Oahu for one week and then second week on big island. flight back was almost empty 12 people total on plane capable of 200 or more passengers. Speaking of Netflix just finished series called Shtisel which is set in Jerusalem. Good story line and acting. hoping we open up soon. miss going to church and prayer groups and seeing church friends. we had one or two zoom meetings which was nice. I remembered one of your postings about balm of gilead and felt a needed to hear youtube link again. really enjoyed it. thank you. May you and all stay safe.

  6. Just Julie says:

    I’ve heard about those “ghost planes” Nancy. I’m glad you were able to visit your daughter. And thank you for the Netflix recommendation — I will look that up tonight! And when you mentioned the song Balm of Gilead, I had to go back and find my own link, and I listened to it again. Oh, how beautiful and comforting that song is. Yes, we need The Balm of Gilead for these times…. so glad He is present and able and in control. Hugs to you Nancy… xoxo

  7. Machelle Palmi says:

    Nice pics. Personally I miss my six granddaughters these days. One warm day I met my sons family on the bike trail and we biked together. Kids in a little pull cart. It almost felt normal until it was time to leave and the girls were confused about no hugs. They are 4 and 2.

  8. Just Julie says:

    What a nice idea to bike together, Machelle. I can just picture it. I have a five year old granddaughter that doesn’t understand any of this. I miss seeing their faces up close and hugging them too. I pray you are blessed and encouraged in unexpected ways today, dear Machelle. xoxoxo

  9. Sandra P says:

    Hi Julie,
    So much has happened. I got a new ipad, not all my contacts transferred. And like others Covid19 has made life most complicated. My hubby was wondering how Larry was. Then the Lord helped me remember the name of your blog this week and I have been catching up. I noticed you shared your brother died. Was this Larry? Did his cancer finally get the best of him? Remember John and Larry worked together for years and were buds in school. Please email me so we can reconnect as I no longer have your email?. I had to give up my blogging. I’m sorry to hear about your brother. Hoping you remember us as its been so long? Looking forward to hearing from you.

    You still write beautifully
    Hugs Sandra

  10. Just Julie says:

    It is so nice to see you here, Sandra! Yes, so much has happened, it’s hard to fathom it all. My brother Larry died in early March, after a long battle with esophageal cancer. I will email you very soon, and look forward to catching up. Thank you for your kind words… xoxo

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