Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Downpour in paradise

Friday evening, after a long and hectic work week, we drove out to Malibu. We had been invited to spend the night in a small cottage overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Our friends own a main house with a garden, and have just put the finishing touches on a small cottage below their property. Recently remodeled, the cottage was perfect for a secret getaway, a retreat, a romantic refuge.

By the time we got there, it was almost dark. The sky was cloudy, and storms were predicted for later that night. A funny kind of rendez-vous, with a thunderstorm predicted, but we were game.

Our destination was high atop a hill above Pacific Coast Highway near Paradise Cove. The road climbs up through a residential neighborhood, past homes that range from modest to massive, from charming to appalling. As the road winds up, the right side drops away into a wild deep canyon. Finally, another ascent past a county water tank on the left, and just before the pavement turns to dirt there's the entrance to Rancho del Cielo.

The main house and garden are beyond the curved driveway, but we had been told to park here and take the rustic stairway down the hillside to the cottage.

The cottage was originally two rooms, a kitchen, tiny bath, and bedroom, but a screened porch that runs the width of the cottage adds more space. The screened openings reveal a view of the Pacific Ocean.

Sofas, daybeds, and cozy couches offer havens to rest and lounge and watch the sky and sea. In summer, the breeze flows through the porch, scented by the native sages and coastal chaparral. In winter the screens are covered with plastic storm windows that shelter the porch from the wind and rain. Quilts and coverlets are there to shield from the evening breeze, or the winter chill.

The cottage opens onto a small lawn and patio tucked under the cliff the cottage clings to. There's a retaining wall that's been cleverly crafted to hold an outdoor fireplace, for warmth and cheer on cool nights. The space is so private that there are outdoor showers, where one can luxuriously clean off the salt and sand of the beach beneath a warm sky.

What could be more relaxing?

Friday evening, we were treated to a home-cooked dinner, champagne, and a chance to catch up with our friends. While we chatted, our dog Jack played with our hosts' dog, Franny. So far, the storm held off the coast. After dessert, our friends headed up the hill to the main house, and we stayed on the cottage porch, waiting for the predicted storm to hit.

And it did. It whirled in, at midnight or so, flinging wind-driven rain at our windows. We snuggled up on the porch. We read our books, and watched the Pacific storm come in.

The next morning dawned bright and clear, and while [The Man I Love] slept in, I explored the path above and an open hillside deck amongst the olive groves, that opened onto the view. I got pretty muddy, too! - in winter you should bring sturdy boots! Jack came out with me to sniff the fresh air. Birds wheeled in the sunlight - scrub jays, mockingbirds, goldfinches and seagulls.

It was clear for a moment, but then another wave of rain blew in, making the plastic storm windows breathe into the cottage. It was a good reason to go inside and take my coffee to the cozy daybed again. And wake up [The Man I Love].

We spent the day watching the waves of rain blow across the sky, clear, and then blow in again. If it was clear, we'd go outside and listen to the birds sing from the brush, but when the next cold breeze blew, we retreated to our cozy nest. We read, we napped, we enjoyed the day.

We took afternoon tea with our host before we got in the car and came back home. And even though we were only a short distance from home, we felt as relaxed and happy as though we had traveled off to a desert isle retreat miles away.

It's a good lesson. Take some little breaks from your work, and the world. Take some time to relax. You don't have to travel far - you can find retreats nearby. Refuge is where you find it.

If you want to retreat to this particular cottage in Malibu - email me. I can guarantee you'll enjoy it. The cottage at Rancho del Cielo is available for short stays and vacation retreats.


Elisa, Croatia said...

rightfully so the name fits, "rancho del cielo". I agree you don't have to go far to travel. I enjoy seeing pictures of your getaway.

Gilly said...

That looks a wonderful place to relax, and watch the weather! I love a wide open vista, and watch the clouds come in across the sky.

You described it so beautifully I could almost smell the sage bushes!

mo.stoneskin said...

The picture of your cup looking out the window is lovely. I wish I was your cup.

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

This sounds perfect. What a wonderful place and how great to have friends that are willing to share it with you!

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Oh, by golly, that is wonderful. What Mo said. I want to be the cup.

cactus petunia said...

What a wonderful getaway! I'm sorely in need of a weekend away with the man I love...wish we lived about a thousand miles closer!