Growing up in the northern, landlocked state of Montana, California seemed like a paradise one could only hope to visit. When I found out my family would be moving to that magical state, visions of a life on sandy white beaches kissed with sun and balmy sea breezes whispering through stately palm trees occupied my thoughts as we prepared for the move. And so, after a few days of driving across several states, we arrived in Lompoc. No beaches, white or otherwise, and no sunshine either as the rain was continuous those first days in my new home. As for the palm trees, I thought those must reside only in Hollywood's imagination or perhaps they too were hiding from the rain for I didn’t see any in Lompoc. There were other things that I loved about my new home but the dreams of living among palm trees and beaches had been lost.
A visit to Refugio Beach a few months later rekindled those dreams and as I spied the palms standing guard to the ocean I thought ‘this is the California I dreamed of.’ Over the years those palms have signaled the return home when I see them as we travel north. They have provided shelter from the summer sun, the backdrop for family pictures, a point of interest in gorgeous sunsets and even the occasional back rest. They were the stabilizing and static element of my vision of California.
However, time moves on and with it comes change. For the Refugio palms, planted in approximately 1928 by Nelson Rutherford, this has meant erosion by the ocean waters next to which they reside. The once three rows of palms are now a single, if staggered row and the storms of winter 2016 reduced their numbers further. It is heartbreaking to see these statuesque guardians fall though there is some consolation in the fact they have left 100+ offspring throughout the park. And so the circle of life continues and with it the one constant we have, change.