Tag Archives: Point Fermin

A new day, a new dawn

It’s a new dawn, a new day, a new life.

The first few minutes, I think I’m crazy. The water at Cabrillo Beach is never what a sane person would call warm. A deep trough off the shore provides a steady chill stream. And then there’s the wind. The channel off Point Fermin is nicknamed Hurricane Gulch for a reason. If you swim in the afternoon you have to watch out for the windsurfers that tack back and forth, into the shore and out toward Catalina. This time of year, the sea temperature hovers around 57 Fahrenheit. Even with a wetsuit on, the cold stabs at your face and fingers. When I first dive in, “I can’t do this” is my immediate reaction — every time, every day — even though I know I can. It takes a good 100 strokes for me to acclimate. And then I can’t stop.

Water has always been my element. I stumble on land, am scared to be high in the sky, but take to the sea like a fish. Still, I never thought I’d be an ocean swimmer. Body surfer, sure. Lake swimmer, yes. But for the first several decades of my life, I stayed close to shore even when catching the big waves. Then I moved next to Cabrillo Beach.

Cabrillo is a half-circle bay bordered by the cliffs of Point Fermin on the west and an artificial jetty of rocks on the east. Actually, it’s two beaches: The outer one I just described faces the Pacific, and the inner stretch faces San Pedro Bay, aka the Los Angeles harbor. The inner beach, also called Mother’s Beach, generally gets an F from Save the Bay because let’s face it, it’s a city beach with little ocean current. Tankers barrel in and out. Boats anchored in multiple marinas dump crap, literally.

But the outer beach earns an A, thanks to that gulch. I paddle the inside but only swim in the outside.

Swimming is not just exercise; it’s meditation. I count my strokes like a yogi counts breaths. The strokes are breaths too, of course: nose up for air every four counts. I’m scarcely alone out there: The Cabrillo Beach Polar Bears, a club that sponsors a New Year’s Day plunge, keep an orange buoy moored several hundred yards off shore, with a thermometer letting visitors know yes, it really is still 57. Sometimes I run into neighbors out at the buoy, stop and ask them how their family is doing. The first several times I swam to the buoy, it seemed impossibly far, and I clung to a boogie board for safety. Eventually I graduated to no board, just flippers, then no flippers. Nowadays, I swim right past the buoy and keep going.

These days, I need that swim more than ever. There’s a kind of ecstasy I get, pulling my body through the water, watching my hands cut through the sun on the surface, or lying on my back and staring up at the sky. And then there are the days when I think I am alone out there, in my groove, a trance — and suddenly, a dolphin swims right underneath me, or I roll over and discover I’m in the midst of a chattering porpoise pod.

The joke in my neighborhood is that we live in a small town called San Pedro. When I look across the inner beach and see the cranes and cargo ships of one of the busiest ports in the world, I know that I also live in a big city called Los Angeles. But when I’m out there in the ocean, floating alongside the kelp forest, I feel one with the world.

Of course today was a day to feel wonder and unity: a new dawn, a new day, a new life — “fish in the sea, you know how I feel.” A day of unity, of the renewal of accords and the return of water rights, of embracing the great middle of our country and its edges, of poetry and music, of a cowboy’s grace, of seasons of love, of a Boricuan from around the Bronx block singing this land is your land, a land of hope and dreams. The first day a woman, a Black woman, an Asian woman, became second in command of the United States. Hallelujah.

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Sunset, Cabrillo Beach, Dec. 22

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I haven’t posted any sunrises or sunsets for a while, but tonight’s was so spectacular I feel compelled to share. It had a been a stormy day, inside and out — torrential rain followed by piercing sun. Alexander Hamilton (the dog) and I took a walk out on Cabrillo pier; the foot of a rainbow waited for us at the end.

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Metallic Sunrise


Sunrise, Dec. 11, 2016

Sunrise, Dec. 11, 2016. Photo by Evelyn McDonnell

The sun finally broke through days of gray skies yesterday morning.

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Sunrise, Sunset

Sunset, Point Fermin, Dec. 8, 2016

Sunset, Point Fermin, Dec. 8, 2016

Every day I count my blessings to live in a beautiful place. San Pedro may house the port of one of the biggest cities in the world, but past the cranes, barges, and refineries lie the cliffs of Point Fermin and the dark blue Pacific Ocean. Unusually for California, our house is located on a bluff facing east, so we can watch the sun rise over the water from our bed. At night, we can take a short walk down the beach and look back at the point to see the sun setting, casting our house into darkness while lighting up Catalina.

I’m going to try to start documenting the daily entrance and egress of this celestial body, as it bids hello and goodbye to the west coast of North America. These photos are taken from Cabrillo Beach this evening. In the far right of the photo of Point Fermin, you can see the lights of our house, among others. It’s a good time to reflect on the things that are eternal, ineffable, and even divine.

Catalina Island, Dec. 8, 2016

Catalina Island, Dec. 8, 2016

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Awesome Art Auction!


Egg by Laurie Steelink

Tomorrow night, May 16, at the vintage and art store House in San Pedro, some incredible pieces of art will go up for silent auction — and probably be acquired for a steal. Some of the area’s top local artists have contributed unique pieces for the fundraiser for the Point Fermin Marine Science Elementary School PTO and the school’s centennial mosaic by Julie Bender. Among the dozens of items up for bid are ceramic eggs decorated by folks including WS Milner, Laurie Steelink, Larry Lubow, Douglas Morrison, Bud Shankle, and more. There will also be a ceramic vase by 5th grade teacher Kerrie Lloyd, a Flexible Flyer red tricycle, a vintage children’s desk, a bird cage in the shape of a Victorian house, books, film festival passes, cosmetics, accessories, and more. Attendees can also buy a piece of Point Fermin history by sponsoring a tile in the mosaic. Refreshments will be served, and there will be art supplies for kids to play with. From 5 to 8 p.m., with bids closing at 7, at 1002 Pacific Avenue.House Party flyer 3


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Pushing Limits at Camp CIMI

IMG_3481You could go as high as 30 feet, I’d guesstimate. From the ground, it didn’t look that far — just to the top of a two-story pole. But when you were dangling in a harness hooked onto a rope, being hauled up and up by a team of fifth graders, even halfway up seemed high enough. The feeling of vertigo was enhanced by the fact that you were on the side of a hill, and when you looked forward, the earth sloped away¬† — far away, all the way down to the ocean. It was a stunning view, the bay at Fox Landing framed by the steep cliffs of Catalina Island, with Los Angeles and the rest of the California mainland somewhere out there in the distant clouds. You knew, when you pulled the release cord, that you were going to go swinging out into that expanse, up into the air more than 30 feet above the descending terrain at the apex of your flight. The scenery was going to be epic — if you didn’t have your eyes closed tight because, like me, you’re scared of heights.IMG_3468

But I had to do it. The kids were swinging after all, even though some of them were scared too. I’d coached them to push themselves, to try new things: to snorkel for the first time — shoot, to be in the ocean, to swim, for the first time. If the boy who had such a frightening panic attack when he experienced the novel sensation of his head going underwater that I thought he was having a seizure (he neglected to tell anyone he couldn’t swim), could 10 minutes later be happily splashing along in the shallows, then I could climb that ladder, let myself be pulled up up and away, tug that release cord and swing out into oblivion.

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