Winter in Malibu reminds me of winter on Chicago’s North Shore. When we first came sweeping into Malibu, it was a crisp 50 degrees. I was reminded of Chicago winters on Lake Michigan. It’d be so cold, the waves would freeze in mid-air. I am serious. I’m sure I can find a picture of the lakeshore, with its frozen waves looking like the Arctic tundra.
Malibu’s real mellow in winter, even though, of the 13,000 population, many remain, including some celebs, who can be spotted buying groceries in their pajamas, like everyone else. Right now, everyone’s wearing almost all the layers they own, and look more Patagonia than Vogue—which is aligned with my fashion sense, too. I don’t feel out of place wearing my Keens with socks.
My husband’s been asleep on the couch since 8:30PM. It’s now about 9:30. He’s been working 80-hour weeks for months. He covered the Super Bowl, then Whitney Houston’s funeral, then the Oscars, which is what brought us out to California. I stayed with friends and family the first half, then we met up for the short trip from L.A. to Malibu, where we’re renting a house. I call it “The Matchbox,” because that’s what it looks like—a teakwood box nestled between mansions. It was one of the first houses built on this small beach cove with only 10 houses, and was restored in 2007. The rest and relaxation are hopefully restorative. The only negative is how quickly the hours of precious vacation slip away.
Now it’s 4:30AM. I knew I shouldn’t have let my husband fall asleep on the couch, because, just as I predicted, he was up and restless at 4AM. “I’ve never seen so many stars,” said Brooklyn Boy when he returned from his night wanderings. I was compelled to get up and do some stargazing, too. It was worth it! I might not have seen so many stars since a trip to Arizona with friends in 2005.
Thursday morning we drove up into the mountains and hiked in Big Sycamore Canyon. The trails were well maintained, the scenery was beautiful, and weather a perfect 60 degrees and sunny. UNFORTUNATELY, the trail substrate was gravelly sand, and our toddler LOVES sand. She would barely take three steps before wanting to plunk down and play in the sand. She also loves dirt. It’s hard to get anywhere with her when there’s an attractive substrate to play in. So, we’re dragging her, cajoling her, tricking her into looking for hummingbirds and bumblebees, pleading with her, challenging her to march… I just wanted to round the bend of some foothills and get a view of the spectacular canyon. I don’t have the patience my husband has to negotiate deals or carry her 30 pounds on my shoulders.
If you’ve read my blog, you probably know I have this great Deuter backpack for her, which I’m still using, but which I of course left in New York. Today I’d packed my computer backpack full of snacks, water, and a diaper change. I could have predicted what happened next. We improvised and shoved Adela between my back and the pack, and she took a ride up the canyon.
After lunch by a Native American wigwam, we headed back to the parking lot. I think we’d made it about a half mile out, maybe a mile. That’s an accomplishment with a 2-year-old in tow and no wheels. On our way back, Adela was once again fixated on the ground, collecting rocks and sticks, and stopping every two steps to dig to China. Normally, walking ahead, pretending like you’re willing to go ahead without her, compels her to hurry up. I do this sometimes in the woods by our house. I’d never let her out of sight; it works on a long, straight stretch. My husband was reluctant to participate in the experiment, but I convinced him to keep walking ahead, and let about 100 yards get between her and us. I was confident it would work. She looked up a couple times, and took a few steps. I asked David to keep walking with me, as far as we could get while still in sight. It’s hard. As a parent, you feel the umbilical cord stretching to the breaking point. You feel it more than your kid does.
Along comes a lady, walking her dog. Adela’s a bit scared of dogs, though her confidence has been increasing. I wondered how she’d react to the dog passing her on the trail, without us nearby for reassurance. As the lady passed, I said, “She’s very independent,” with a little tongue in cheek certainty, as the kid is only two, and clearly not ready to hike alone.
“Yeah. So are the coyotes” she retorted.
Well, THAT’S enough to spur a parent to heroic leaps and bounds. BUT, I resented the fact that along came a stranger and imposed her fears on me. I hung back, but my husband thought I was too cavalier.
What are the odds of a coyote snatching our daughter? Troops of hikers had passed us along the way; the place was by no means deserted. The parks department left THIS sign as warning:
Yet, there were no warnings about coyote.
However, a coyote in Oak Park, California, snatched our cousin’s dog a couple years ago; and there were reports of coyote roaming my hometown in Chicago; those stories came to mind. My research shows SOME reports of coyotes in this park. BUT they’re nocturnal. And what are the odds of our daughter being snatched by a coyote in broad daylight on a well-traversed trail? I think as a parent you have to weigh risk realistically and not be motivated by fear—especially someone else’s fear, that doesn’t vibrate in your own heart. I’m not reckless. I just believe in educated risk. Clearly, my challenge in this life will be having a daughter who also loves to take risks!
Guess what. It’s 4AM and I can’t sleep. I think I was anticipating waking at 4AM to do more stargazing, after last night’s spectacle. Either that, or the ocean’s just too damn loud. This is how close we are to the water’s edge (high tide splashes the door!):