Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I took this photo today using the histomatic setting on my iPhone camera. (Yes, that's the kind of high quality photography you can expect here at Never-True Tales. You're welcome.) Isn't it blue? As in, deep-sea-azul-cloudless-sky-berry blue?

Too blue, probably, but I don't care. I like it because it was blue today here in Laguna, California. I snapped the shot after setting down the stack of beach chairs slung over my slightly sunburned shoulder while waiting for Toby to make his weary way up the sandy stairs after a long day of blissful nothing; when I squinted into the horizon (and the screen of my phone, impossible to see in the glare of the sun), all I saw was sand meeting water meeting sky.

Which of course the human eye feels compelled to capture and record and store away on hard drives and in albums and on postcards. (We cannot help it.)

I picked the histomatic lens on a whim. Or put more more aptly: on a wave of nostalgia. This small stretch of Southern California beach (exactly one-quarter mile long) has been a part of my personal canon, my family's internal dialogue, my entire life. My grandparents bought a house on the hillside above it in the 1960s (back when normal people could buy ocean-view property in Laguna Beach). In fact, they settled here because my great-grandparents were living in a home just outside this photo's left-hand frame.

My mother grew up spending summers (and all seasons) on this beach. I grew up spending summers on this beach. My children have grown up spending summers on this beach. There are photos of me taking some of my first steps here. I remember years worth of sunburns and sunscreen and water-logged days with my sister and cousins in the 1980s. I remember sullen teen years and happy college breaks spent here. I brought my own babies here.

And the beach and surrounding neighborhood hasn't changed much (thank goodness for homeowner's associations, I guess), but the general breed of people who live here seem to have. It's a newer, faster crowd, I suppose. Whereas everyone used to pad up and down the street with beach gear while burning their feet on the hot asphalt like self-respecting beachcombers, they now zip around in souped out golf carts driven by tweens. Whereas my grandmother used to know all her neighbors, they've one-by-one been bought out by new buyers who can afford the multi-million dollar home prices.

And in the four days we've spent here this vacation, I haven't seen even one of these new-to-me owners enjoying their unobstructed Pacific Ocean views on their patios and decks in even one (out of at least 40 hugging the cliffside) of their multi-million dollar homes. Where are they, on a fine July day, if not enjoying their beach home? Working? Vacationing elsewhere? Zipping around in their golf carts? (In all honestly, I cannot remember noticing or not noticing this in the past, so it could be that this has always been the case...except, I guess with us.)

In family photo albums in my grandmother's house are snapshots taken with genuine histomatic lenses, faded yellow around the edges, peeling from their pages. They show such similar scenes to the one above that it's uncanny (and I wish I had a scanner here so you could see this for yourself). Most of them depict my mother and her brothers on this same patch of sand as teens and young adults, my grandparents under an umbrella (mustard yellow instead of today's citrus stripes...or is that just the photo paper?). The swimsuit styles are different (if you look closely enough) and the kids in the foreground are holding canvas rafts instead of foam boogie boards, but the sentiment behind the moment is the same as what I see before my eyes in the present: tranquility. Recreation. A tanned father, a young mother, a child digging with a shovel, all touched by a momentary ray of something golden...a dappling of luck, an arbitrary sprinkling of fortune. Fickle, even if you're marking the passage of time in terms of generations instead of golf cart models.

But even so, on this perfectly blue day, July 14, 2010, this photo means one thing more: my family right where I left them, under their cerulean skies with salty, sand-grained water lapping at their toes.

This entry has been included in Seven Clown Circus' Wordful Wednesday.
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