Pelican Feathers at Schoolhouse Beach, Ventura

During a heat wave, the residents of Ojai have the fortunate option of winding down through the mountains to the shore, where the temperature drops by as much as twenty degrees.  The drive takes twenty minutes, which provides just enough time to relax and clear your mind without feeling cumbersome.

A few days ago, Phoebe came home from preschool touting a long, slender black feather that she had found in the play yard– probably from a turkey vulture.  This prompted me to ask her if she would like to search for feathers at the beach.  She was greatly enthused by the idea.

I decided upon schoolhouse beach, a nice neighborhood beach in the Pierpont neighborhood of Ventura.  Finding free parking anywhere near the beaches on the weekends is chancy, so I was lucky to find a spot along the road in short walking distance of the sand.  The informal name of the beach is due to the local elementary school that is right on the shore.

Choosing a neighborhood beach has the nice advantages of:

  • free parking
  • less crowding
  • more surprises to be found on the shore before someone else scoops them up

The disadvantages:

  • it takes a bit of effort to find a nearby restroom.  If Phoebe were to tell me she needs to go potty, I would either have to walk about 10 minutes across the wide, sandy beach with her or drive a few minutes to use the restroom of the nearby Vons grocery store.  With a bit of forethought, this isn’t much of a problem
  • no lifeguard on duty

Upon arrival, we left our sandals and Phoebe’s stuffed kitty by the stone wall separating the sand from the asphalt, since I didn’t intend on planting ourselves anywhere along the beach.  I became quickly distracted with a swath of sand covered in small stones.  The tide would have had to have reached unusually far to deposit those stones there.  I wanted to show Phoebe the myriad colors and striations of these, but she was more interested in the two little girls she spotted building a castle a few yards away.  I gave her permission to join them and collected bits of seaweed  myself in small containers, hoping she would examine them later with her magnifying glass and add them to her science collection.  Glancing at the parents of Phoebe’s new playmates, we exchanged polite smiles of social approval.

After a little while, Phoebe joined me among the clumps of seaweed and examined some unusually bright pink pieces with a magnifying glass and a smooth piece of driftwood.  The color for seaweed that commonly drifts on to the shore is bright green or brown… sometimes a deep red.  Every time I glanced up, I saw the few families around us watching.  Everyone has a natural curiosity to explore our environment.  How many of us feel free to do so?  A little boy ran up and asked what we were looking at.  I responded, “See how pink this is?  What do you think this is?”  He gave his opinion and ran off again.

I asked Phoebe if she would like to walk with me up the shore and she followed.  I began spotting large brown feathers among the sand which look to have come from pelicans.  We gathered several and placed them in the large plastic bag, one of which was so long that it stuck out the top of the backpack.  I pointed out some sand pipers on the other side of the jetty rocks and then suggested we head back.  From that point on, Phoebe was struck with awe by every stone she came across.  I was concerned that we had insufficient sunscreen coverage by that point, but appreciated that she was learning the lesson I wished to instill: to observe and marvel at her surroundings.  Eventually we returned to the road and found Phoebe’s stuffed kitty safely where we left her, guarding our sandals.

Pelican feathers arranged in terra cotta plants at home.

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