Yesterday, I tormented a friend (who is soldiering through the frozen misery of winter in New England) by mentioning my plans for a late-afternoon stroll on the beach to catch the sunset. I promised photos. (Note to self: Never torment a witch.) It was sunny and bright when I left West Hollywood, only to turn grayer and darker as I cruised down Sunset Blvd toward the sea, until this:
I was hoping for a last-minute save by Mother Nature. It would have been awesome if the sun dropped down into the ocean and set the underside of the clouds on fire! But this was not to be. Instead, it looked like someone kicked a leg out from under the cloud cover, sending its northern edge crashing down into Malibu. Run! beach celebs! Run!
It was at this point I decided a walk on the sand was probably not mandatory. That would have required scampering down the steps 100 feet to the beach and (the main deterrent) 100 feet back up. Plus, it was already 60 degrees and threatening to plummet into the 50s. Suddenly seemed like the perfect evening to wander the park that runs the length of these palisades along Santa Monica’s Ocean Avenue. (There was a little splash of muted pinks and purples in the clouds out to sea, but that lasted about a minute. Then, fade to black…)
Funny thing. The cloud bank that lowered the curtain on the setting sun also draped the palisades in a premature darkness. I realized I’d never walked along here in the dark, and there was an interesting play of light and shadow going on in every direction. I meandered, camera in hand.
The old-fashioned lamp posts are set far apart, letting stretches of the park stay deeper in shadow, here and there interrupted by pools of yellow light. The lamps, though, assault a camera lens like a solar flare. When I got between the lamp and the tree, the leafless ficus branches seemed more like coral than wood.
Then I began to stalk my photographic prey by letting the trunk of a palm tree eclipse the glaring light. Click. The spreading white limbs of a massive ficus took on the warm glow of a bonfire – with inky black silhouettes of towering palms standing sentry high above.
Tilting the camera angle slightly up and away from glowing ficus branches… the willowy palms against the night sky took on a more sinister attitude, all black and blue and collars-turned-up cool. Like a gang of bad ass Gullivers surrounding Lilliputian me. Or those nasty aliens from War of the Worlds – fitted with giant Phyllis Diller fright wigs.
For one last look out before heading home, I walked over to the fence that keeps people like me from tumbling down the cliffs to an unhappy end on Pacific Coast Highway. Ocean and sky were now swallowed up completely in the impenetrable void. Only the lights on PCH gave away the curve of the coast north from Santa Monica, then west out to Malibu.
Pushing my little camera/phone’s zoom to its limits, the distant lights of Malibu reveal the border between sea and sky, but the colorful blur looks to me like DNA test results. The ones lawyers show to juries to dis/prove paternity and other kinds of guilt.
I didn’t get the sunset I wanted yesterday. But they seem to happen almost every day, so I’m not too concerned. And I got to discover a different side of a familiar place: after the lights went out. Nice way to end Day 043 of #100happydays.