This is Lily Bear. Normally she’s a fluffy chow-type with a good four more inches of fur. In this picture she’s sporting a three-day-old, very short haircut. She’s eight or nine years old, a chow mix (golden retriever?) who came to us from the pound five years ago.
One of the many wonderful things about having L. Bear around is the joy of walking her in the neighborhood. In the morning, Tom, Lily Bear and I go together, and then later in the afternoon she and I go on our own. Watching the landscape change, talking to the neighbors, developing real relationships with them, building community – trying to be in the place in which I find myself as fully as I can – it all feels so good.
Because she’s getting older, the Bear is happy enough to stop wherever I want her to so I can take pictures. She’s done with tearing over the hill into the chaparral after anything moving. The horses in the Cal Poly pasture no longer drive her nuts. Now she sniffs around a bit and then she lies down to wait till I’m ready to move on.
Every so often I’ll share some pictures and reflections on our walks here.
Our neighborhood, Monterey Heights, occupies the northeast corner of San Luis Obispo, a college town, population 44,000, equally distant to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Our house is five blocks from the entrance to Cal Poly, a state university best known for its architecture, engineering and agricultural programs. We live in what’s called a “mixed” neighborhood here: students and permanent residents.
Right now, the moment you step outdoors you take a deep breath. The enchanting scent of mock orange is everywhere, a delicate, complex citrus so delicious it stops you in your tracks. Breathe! it says. Breathe again! The scent’s source is Pittosporum Undulatum, a messy, invasive Australian tree guilty of dropping sticky red berries which get tracked into our house year-round unless they’re swept up. (Thanks, Tom).
The week or two of bloom is worth all the trouble.
From the top of our hill, you can see the freeway winding its way up Cuesta Grade on its way north. Between here and San Francisco is the extended metropolitan area of San Luis Obispo, including Paso Robles, and about 300 miles of lightly used land, painfully dry ranch land interspersed with military properties: Camp Roberts and Fort Hunter Liggett, and the mountainous Los Padres National Forest. The highway crosses the mountains in the graceful way it does because of one brave, good-hearted man, a true conservationist, Harold Miossi. I’ll tell his story another time.
Though the name Monterey Heights covers more area today, our house is not in the original 1925 Monterey Heights subdivision. It’s half a block into the Slack tract, a softly sloping grid of oddly wide streets and mostly small 1950’s houses lying between Cal Poly and the older neighborhood. Of the original Monterey Heights, the city’s Cultural Heritage Committee writes:
In designing the new neighborhood, MacRorie-McLaren Company used an innovative design approach, much different from conventional neighborhood designs elsewhere in the City. Their approach reflected a more “naturalistic” approach to creating neighborhoods, a movement pioneered by Landscape Architect Frederick Law Olmstead and popular in the 1920s and 1930s. The Monterey Heights neighborhood features pocket parks and curvilinear streets, a layout which deviated markedly from the traditional street grid patterns common at the time.
Many of homes in Monterey Heights are as beautiful and unconventional as its design:
The woman who lives in this beautifully painted house paints houses for a living.
The man who built this fairytale of a house built whimsical walls of misshapen bricks all over town in the 1920’s. I think there are about six.
Needless to say, Lily Bear is is more interested in homes belonging to animals than those of humans. This got a good long stretch of her attention.
It’s a gopher hole, one of many thousands in the area. Last week’s rain washed this one out.
Grace, grace, grace.