Today I’m excited to introduce you to a special guest and friend of mine, Carolyn Klein Lagattuta, an amazing photographer whose work celebrates all moments in life: big and small, bright and dark, funny and serious. Cat lives in Santa Cruz, CA where she captures everything she sees, and where her love for her hometown inspires her daily.
When I was a teenager living in a small town, I longed to be in a cooler town. You know how at that age, wherever you are sucks? There just wasn’t a lot to do where I was growing up. Lots of farmland and backroads – which I appreciate a lot more now. I wanted to be over the hill in Santa Cruz where there was a wider variety of people, totally different landscape, live music, the beach, and the boardwalk. So, when my friend Stacey and I were old enough to be able to go there, but not yet old enough to drive, we took about 4 buses and had many adventures when we would visit for a day.
I remember the thrill of getting off the bus and being in a small beach town where no one knew you. You could smell the salt in the air from the ocean, hear the screams from the roller coaster, see the cute guys rolling by on their skateboards. I was home. Quick stop to the liquor store for some cloves and we were good to go. We loved hanging out in the arcade and taking photos in the old school booths and going to Cowell beach to look for boys.
As I got older, I continued to visit Santa Cruz. I always had a different feeling when we drove over the winding freeway that connects the valley with the coast. I was just more relaxed on this side of the hill. More at home. I had a more peaceful feeling inside. So, years later, when my husband and I were ready to buy our own home together, we started looking over in Santa Cruz County and that’s where my love affair with this place truly began. We moved here in 2004 and it became such a wonderful place for our daughter to grow up.
The Boardwalk is just classic fun and I have had so many good times there as a teen and then later as a mom bringing my daughter, Anna.
The smell of cotton candy, everyone walking around barefoot with sandy feet, screams from the rides, kids playing the games hoping to win a stuffed animal, going on the log ride on hot days and standing next to it to feel the spray, the ocean right there. It’s just so much fun.
Seeing people of all ages running down the street or riding their bikes with their surfboards in hand never gets old. You can almost see the insane desire in their eyes to get in the water and ride the waves.
When a beloved surfer in the community dies, there is a paddle out (a floating memorial in the ocean) and all the surfers make a circle and bring flowers to honor that person. This one was for Jack O’neil who was a very special man, so the whole community showed up. There were bagpipes and people everywhere lined up to watch. I will never forget that day.
We gather at Lighthouse Field on Fridays at dusk to wash away the work week and watch my amazing friend, Rachel, in her beaded gowns make the most magnificent bubbles. Bubbles the size of cars. Kids gather and jump to pop them. Laughter and happy noises fill the air. People of all ages are watching and smiling from ear to ear, taking photos and appreciating the magic. And all of this is happening while people are cruising West Cliff, skateboarding, surfing, watching their dogs frolic at Its beach. It’s just such a feel-good time.
People also gather to watch the sunset. We all sit there and watch the light and the sky change by the minute in awe – it never gets old. Ever. Strangers make eye contact and smile as if to say, “We are so lucky to be seeing and feeling this.” And then when the sun sinks down into the ocean, we all walk to our cars feeling grateful to be in this spot at this time – whether we live here or are visiting.
I feel alive when I am on West Cliff. There’s so much to see. And if you’re lucky, you are around when a whale spends a few days in a cove near your office and you go sit in the ice plant in wonder with all the people who feel so fortunate to be witnessing this magical animal feeding on anchovies.
My daughter and I have a ritual where we drive, listen to music, and go see the sunset. Such wonderful moments.
I had a hard time picking photos because I have so many. There’s always something happening that’s worth saving. This place has my heart.
Carolyn “Cat” Lagatutta lives in Scott’s Valley, California with her husband and daughter, where she is always in awe of the ocean, the light, the wildlife, and her cats. More of her photography can be seen and licenced on Stocksy.