Here in Morro Bay, I am amazed at the things coming into bloom and already blooming in the middle of February, knowing that at home the daffodils haven’t even begun to show their faces. But I miss my garden, I miss spring in my garden, I miss smelling the cold fresh earth as I pluck the shotweed from the ground, hoping I’m weeding early enough to not be blinded by one of its lethal missiles. Yes, I’m one of those people who actually likes weeding–nothing like a good Zen weeding session where it gets dark before you realize that not only has lunchtime passed, but your morning coffee is ice cold in the dirt-covered insulated mug nearby.
One sign of approaching spring here on the central coast is the end of the breeding season of the Northern Elephant Seal, Mirounga angustirostri at the Piedras Blancas rookery, home to about 17,000 of the once-endangered animals. In February, they are birthing and the peak of mating is now, right around Valentine’s Day. I had hoped to visit the rookery earlier this year to see the incredible sight of the males competing for a dominant position on the beach. The winners, called alpha males or beach masters, each will have a harem of females. So, although I missed that, I did get to see the adorable babies when we went there yesterday with Raedeen and Bill, friends of ours visiting from Oregon. The sun wasn’t in the best spot for photos, but I did take a few.
Our friends had never been to Hearst Castle nor had Harold, so although we were fascinated by the elephant seals and would have liked to spend more time there, we had to get going to get to the castle for our tour reservation. Hearst Castle is now a California State Park with much of the Hearst Ranch now in a conservancy with 13 miles of coastline and 82,000 acres in state hands and forever protected from development. I won’t write a lot about the castle or the Hearst family as there is so much information readily available, but it is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.
The castle itself is essentially a museum housing Hearst’s extensive collection of art from around the world. At one point he owned an estimated 1/4 of the world’s art. In the late ’30s and early ’40s he sold off at least 20,000 items, still leaving a museum’s worth of objects, some dating to B.C.
Photography is allowed in the Castle, but not flash, and due to either gloom or the glare from windows, lamps, etc. it is difficult to take good photos. I took a small number of interior photos and few of those came out well, nor did I take many exterior shots; however there are so many good photos on-line that anyone interested in seeing more can easily find them.
This is only a small section of one of the two libraries in the castle. Even with two libraries, there wasn’t enough shelving for his books. There were 3,000 in his library/study/office shown below and over 4,000 in the other library in the photo after that. Many are rare and valuable first editions, some signed by the author.
We saw very old contracts, musical scores and manuscripts on sheepskin that had been made into lampshades. Hearst had commissioned architect Julia Morgan (his architect in designing and building the house) to create lampshades, some from a medieval choir book, thought to be Spanish. I find it hard to believe that someone who appreciated fine art as he did would have done this, but this is what we were told.
Julia Morgan, the first licensed woman architect in California, worked on the project for 28 years with Hearst. She was one of the first to build earthquake-safe construction, but all the same, I wouldn’t want to be in that castle in an earthquake.
The indoor Roman pool (below) is incredibly beautiful with the reflections of the walls and ceilings on the water creating amazing optical illusions making it difficult to tell where one leaves off and the other starts. The pool a decorated with eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes. From ceiling to floor the walls are decorated with 1″ tiles, some brilliant with fused gold inside.