New Eyes

It’s not every day you go someplace familiar and see it with new eyes. We enjoyed a whole weekend traveling along familiar paths while discovering  new perspectives and places. The weather was California gorgeous as we drove along the coast north of Santa Barbara. The only clouds on the horizon were the CalTrans signs that flashed orange dotted messages of road construction and expected delays through the Gaviota Pass miles ahead. We encountered slow moving traffic miles before the highway turns inland cutting through a narrow gorge. As we creep-ed along, merging into a single lane of assorted vehicles, there was plenty of time to appreciate a familiar stretch of road with new eyes.

The slightly curved macaroni shaped tunnel, blasted through the Santa Ynez Mountains for northbound traffic, was closed as a huge new culvert was being constructed just north of the tunnel. The two northbound lanes had been reduced to one then diverted onto what was ordinarily one of the two southbound lanes. I was seeing the deep gorge and trecherous s-curves of the Gaviota from a new perspective much as drivers experienced it before the tunnel was built in 1953. Always an anxious stretch of road, it was a relief to swing back across the divider to the familiar softer curved double lanes climbing the Gaviota Pass grade.

Our ultimate destination was the PCPA Theatrefest in Solvang, A Danish community along the central coast of California. We had front row seats to see The Rivals, a delightful 18th Century comedy of errors by Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Full of rapid fire dialogue laced with malapropisms, it was the physical comedy that caused me to laugh until I cried. I developed “new eyes” for this over the top part of theatre when Susan Kelejian, an actress and current USC social work graduate student, came to work with the women at the Lighthouse. She coached us through the progression of normal walking to wildly exaggerating our body movements and facial features. She was teaching us the basics of clowning and the heart of comedy. Her wonderful teaching definitely enhanced a hugely enjoyable evening of theatre. I saw the actors’ hilarious “business” with new eyes.   

Solvang was a frequent destination for us in the late 80s and early 90s, but not so much anymore. The pastries at Mortensen’s are deliciously the same, but most of my favorite shopping haunts no longer exist. Times have changed. Boutique vineyards have sprung up over much of the Santa Ynez Valley and tasting rooms pour out their tramplings on every street in this quaint village. We walked from one end of town and back experiencing the changes. remember the past, but not really missing it. We’ve changed too. Finding new eyes for the present; noticing the changes. No longer captivated by this charming little town in quite the same way we once were. 

Like the wise men, we headed home another way. Intent on avoiding road construction and traffic delays, we took the equally scenic drive through the Santa Ynez Valley past Lake Cachuma, crested the mountains above Santa Barbara, and negotiated the two-lane slalom course down the chaparral covered countryside to rejoin the freeway headed south. Hunger encouraged us to stop in Carpinteria, a community we ordinarily drive straight though…unless we’re indulging ourselves with a detour to Foster Freeze for the quintessential chocolate malt or root beer freeze. Instead we decided to explore the main drag and it renowned state beach considered the safest in California. We were seeing a community we’ve generally taken for granted, or traveled through without regard, with new eyes. In addition to the hearty lunch at Tony’s, we were well nourished seeing this small beach-side community in a new way.

If you’ve traveled to familiar places, what have you seen or experienced differently with “new eyes?” What are the mental snapshots you have of these places? What captions would you include under these photos? What gratitudes would arise out of these experiences of seeing with new eyes?

5 comments to New Eyes

  • Jeannie Cavender

    Hi Lynne,

    Could truly appreciate your “New Eyes”. My son and I had plenty of time to take in all that surrounded us as we traveled up to see “The Rivals” last Thursday. We were part of the commute traffic going north so it just about doubled our time. Our intended dinner at the Vineyard House was cut off by time limitations though we discovered Mirabelles Inn and Restaurant just around the corner from the theater giving us a bit more time and a delicious dinner.

    Carpinteria has a number of hidden spots that are fun to explore – it is a unique community.


    Enjoyed the play th

  • Sandra

    I grew up in the Central Coast — we used to go school shopping in August in SB! Our children attended UCSB and Cal Poly, so we have had occasion to visit with renewed eyes as well. First, there is the expansion of the wine country beyond all belief! I too remember Solvang in the old days. My husband came back from a junior year abroad in Copenhagen and went every Saturday morning to visit with the old-timers to keep his Danish current — and good enough to pass the UC language exam! Our son lives in SB. We visited over graduation weekend last month, and he took us to Cold Springs Tavern on San Marcos Pass. I swear, the dancers on the road were the same as 40 years ago — or maybe their children… The same,…but different. Thank you for the memory jog. Sandy


    Enjoyed your blog to familiar places up north of us. BUT, what I really enjoyed was the word, “malapropisms”. It brought back memories of an English teacher in junior high who told us all about “Mrs. Malaprop.” Language can be such fun.

  • Pam Runkle

    Loved your description of the coast north of LA where I live. You have a way with words!

  • Susan

    Hi Lynne- one of my favorite plays, The Rivals. I had no idea you saw it! I’m so glad you were able to experience it with what you call “new eyes.” I expect as well that they will never be the same (as far as Commedia/physical comedy goes). Wonderful.

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