Absolutely Perfect

It has been such a beautiful summer here. In normal years, the inland valleys heat up, and the fog is pulled over the coastal areas. The weather forecast is always “night and morning fog and low clouds, partial clearing in the afternoon, highs about 65 near the coast…” Lately they’ve started calling it the “marine layer”. But this year, it was apparently cooler inland much of the time, and the fog has not been our constant summer companion. You can’t imagine how happy it makes me. Sometimes that marine layer stopped just past my house, and I could be in the sun by walking fifty yards up the street. We’ve still gotten fog this year, just not the all-day-long, or even all-week-long that we usually get. Instead, I’ve spent my lunchtimes on the patio swing reading books on a nearly daily basis. The old law has been broken- the one that says we’re only allowed three days of sun before the fog returns. And the one that says you don’t need to get your shorts out of the drawer unless you’re packing to go somewhere else. It’s usually well into September before we start getting the warm fog-free days referred to as “weather for the locals” because it occurs only after the summer tourists have stopped coming.

The traditional end of summer for children and resort towns like Santa Cruz is Labor Day weekend, and I’m mainly writing about it because it was absolutely perfect. I’m going to want to remind myself of it during our cool rainy winter. (At least I hope it’s rainy- our water supply is completely local, and last year we didn’t have a lot of rain.)

Friday night was an Opening Event at the Museum of Art and History. This time it celebrated a new book by Geoff Dunn. Geoff went to High School with my husband, Frank, and comes from another family that’s been in Santa Cruz for about 100 years. His new book is “Santa Cruz is in the Heart, volume 2”, and the exhibit has pictures of people from Santa Cruz history and their stories and some artifacts. For the event, Geoff barbequed hot dogs on the outdoor patio of the museum while his daughter Tess Dunn and her band played music in the Atrium. She writes, sings and plays the piano. Tess has severe health challenges, and is determined to live her life to the fullest. Search for her on YouTube and prepare to be impressed. I enjoyed her music, but the noise and acoustics in the Atrium made it so I couldn’t understand the words. It was still warm enough when we left that we didn’t need sweaters. Warm days in Santa Cruz are rare. Warm evenings are extremely rare.

Saturday was the Highland Games in Pleasanton, and I drove a couple of friends up to them. If you are anywhere around the fairgrounds you can hear bagpipes. The many bands are either standing practicing, marching practicing or performing all over the place. Many of the Scottish Country Dance classes perform (including mine, but I wasn’t in the demo group). Clans have tents and invite people with the right ancestry to join them. I’m a member of the Guthrie clan based on an ancestor, John Guthrie, who left Scotland in 1700 for Northern Ireland, and his son who came to Pennsylvania in 1730. So I spend time at the Guthrie tent, and march with them in the Clan Parade. We’re a small group- three in the parade this year- me, Clan Guthrie USA President Jack Moore, and Mel Guthrie. Here we are with our banner:


It was very hot, but fortunately there are many indoor shops where you can buy Scottish or Celtic items, eat scones with clotted cream, taste whiskeys, etc. Outdoors there were also Highland cattle, sheepdog trials, a birds of prey exhibit, and lots of food booths.


After leaving the games I joined my friends and other Scottish dancers at Gay 90s pizza place in downtown Pleasanton, just a couple blocks from the fairgrounds. We eat on their outdoor patio, which is especially nice considering how rare it is to have evenings warm enough to eat outside on the coast. They serve huge amounts of food, and quite a few of us split an order with someone else. We didn’t want to eat too much, because after dinner was the Scottish Country Dance Ball at the Vet’s Hall. Fifteen dances, some of them done a second time because we liked them so much, but I didn’t feel as worn out as I often do at the end of a Scottish dance party. This was followed by refreshments, then the long drive back to Santa Cruz. We got home about 12:30 am.

This weekend was also the Begonia Festival in Capitola. Sunday morning, while I slept in, my husband was roped into helping women decorate hats with begonia flowers. This is because the hats are sponsored by the Capitola Museum, and my husband has been the curator there for about a month now. He didn’t have a suitable Hawaiian shirt, but I had a large one I loaned to him. He got several compliments on it.

Thanks to John Nicol for this picture.

Thanks to John Nicol for this picture.

After he got back, I walked down to Capitola to watch the Nautical Parade. As I approached the village, the beach was PACKED TO THE GILLS!


At the bridge that the floats went under, I saw it was PACKED TO THE GILLS!


I couldn’t see a thing from the bridge, so I walked down the Esplanade. There are several places where you can walk between buildings to balconies overlooking the lagoon, but they were PACKED TO THE GILLS! I walked onto the beach where the area of sand surrounding the lagoon was PACKED TO THE GILLS! But I managed to find a place where I could get a fairly good view between beach umbrellas to take pictures of the floats covered in begonia flowers. One float is a Genie in a teapot. One is a Magic Schoolbus, with octopus on top. One appears to be a pirate/dragon ship. I’m not sure about the others. The crowds thinned out after all the floats had paraded around for awhile, and I looked around at other things. Here are some pictures:

P1020259 P1020264 P1020276 P1020268 P1020267 P1020272

Also around town I took these pictures before going home:

Chalk art on the seawall

Chalk art on the seawall


T-shirt and poster sales

T-shirt and poster sales

This woman let me photograph her begonia-decorated hat.

This woman let me photograph her begonia-decorated hat.

That evening, I saw a message on Facebook from my friend Peter that he was doing some work in Hayward, and would like to come to Santa Cruz on Monday and take us out to lunch. How wonderful! This Peter is married to one of my college friends, Louise, and they live in the East, so I don’t see them more than every few years. After College, Louise and I both traveled- me to the Peace Corps in Samoa, and Louise to Israel, Greece, Germany and Aberdeen, Scotland where she met Peter, and they’ve been together ever since. That day started out cloudy, but cleared up and reached the 70s in the afternoon. We had lunch on the balcony of the Stockton Bridge Grille in Capitola, overlooking the same lagoon I’d visited the day before, but without the crowds. We had a long relaxing lunch enjoying the view, the weather and the company. After lunch we walked along the creek where rowboat races were happening, some of the floats were still moored, and someone was having a yard sale. I saw a dress that looked like it would be fun to dance in, and bought it. Peter snapped this picture.

dress at yard sale

Then we went to the Capitola Museum so Frank could show Peter where he worked.

Peter, Frank and me at the Capitola Museum

Peter, Frank and me at the Capitola Museum

Then back up the hill to the car, and to our house. I showed Peter around the garden, and he went back to Hayward. A wonderful perfect weekend. And the fog has finally returned as I write this the following Saturday after a hot day in San Jose.


About Jill Perry

Since 2005, I have been the Curator of the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden, a part of Guadalupe River Parks and Gardens near downtown San Jose. I write about the Heritage Rose Garden, my garden and my travels when I feel inspired and have time. Since I have no regular schedule, if you'd like to know when I write a new article, please subscribe to this blog.
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One Response to Absolutely Perfect

  1. Judy Belden says:

    Jill, I really enjoyed reading this blog! And I loved the photos!! The colors on the floats were so clear and vibrant! I want to go see the exhibit at MAH.

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