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California Dreaming

Updated: 6 days ago

It’s early July and I’m back in Santa Barbara, my second home. The weather is perfect – warm, but not too warm, with a light breeze, foggy mornings and evenings, and bright sunshine throughout the day.

It’s a beautiful city with architecture ranging from Victorian, through California bungalow, to mission-style adobe. The tree-lined streets of downtown slowly mount the foothills to the Riviera peaks which command a panorama of the ocean and Channel Islands.

Santa Barbara viewed from Stearns Wharf

Beyond lie the canyons and peaks and walking trails of the Santa Ynez range, the abode of rattlesnakes, bobcats, racoons, skunks, mule deer, and the occasional mountain lion and black bear.

As I write from the patio in Lower Riviera, the turkey vultures soar high overhead on thermals, scanning the ground for carrion, and hummingbirds hover like minuscule helicopters in the lemon tree above the daybed. Songbirds rehearse their repertoire in the trees behind the property, but otherwise, silence pervades the upper reaches of the city. Only the tiny spiders are busy, spinning their webs in the branches of the lemon tree.

Lemons on a lemon tree viewed against a blue sky

We leave our little cocoon and drive downtown to buy more art materials at Art Essentials and wander through the galleries dotted around the State Street precinct. The town isn’t overly busy – there are just enough people to generate a lively, holiday ambience as the locals continue their celebrations of Independence. There is almost a party atmosphere, with little groups chatting while they wait for the pedestrian lights to change, and dog walkers stopping to admire our canine companion.

Downtown Santa Barbara street scene with U.S. flag.

After lunch we return to our contemplation of the courtyard, drowsing pleasantly in the shade. Time seems to stand still, and yet the sun moves inexorably from east to west, lengthening the shadows beneath the trees as another day in Paradise draws slowly to a close.

I am never happier than when spending time in this lovely part of the country, a tranquil bubble in a troubled world. For a time, I can almost forget the conflicts and political toxicity, and simply devote myself to creating art and soaking up the beauty of the region.

Sometimes I feel so helpless in the face of global strife, distressed by the polarisation of politics enacted daily in the hothouse realm of social media. Sometimes it’s difficult to strike a balance between remaining informed and a tendency to doom scroll, and the news is rarely good.

I am relatively privileged, living in a safe part of the world, and able to visit this delightful corner of California. So, while I am powerless to effect change, perhaps through a determination to tread softly on this Earth and generate positivity through the creation of beauty, I can add my small offering to the store of light in darkening times.

It is, I believe, the responsibility of artists and poets, who channel the dreams of civilizations and mirror the collective angst, to tread the thin line between offering a voice for collective suffering and encouraging hope. There is unsuspected strength in beauty, and when we remind the world to raise its eyes and gaze at the stars, we help to bring balance to an unbalanced world.

As you can see, today I am in a reflective mood after the Fourth of July celebrations and looming presidential showdown, the elections in the United Kingdom, and the creeping political unrest in my own land Downunder. So, by way of compensation, I offer you some images of my work born of a lifelong pursuit of higher consciousness.

Perhaps their pale reflection of my dreams will provide a moment of peace in the drama we call life.

Artwork of bird flying over the coast

Rustic assemblage

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