It has been two weeks to the day since I have dropped off my treasured picture of Michael for framing. I have been waiting impatiently. I have been looking so forward to retracing my steps back to Los Olivos and Neverland and this time I have two friends joining me.I have warned them in advance to expect a long night. Since Michael’s death my sleep patterns have changed. It is over a year since Michael’s death and the shocking loss has so affected me that I still have many late sleepless nights which lead to early morning sunrise bedtimes. Anyone who knows me knows that this is not like me at all. As a result of this body clock change I recently experienced some strange irony when my oldest daughter chastised me like a misbehaving teenager. I had just relayed my experience of being out and about in Beverly Hills until the wee hours and the fact that I had forgotten to take along my sweater which resulted in a miserable, unwanted sinus infection. My daughter, who is an amazing mother and has a passel of children, laughingly reversed the roles with a sharp retort of “Well… what I can’t believe, Missy, is that you were out running around until all hours of the night AND… without a sweater to boot!! What were you thinking?!” I found myself mind boggled and speechless for an answer and we both dissolved into laughter instead.
Beyond retrieving my treasure from the gallery, my goal this journey is to reach for the stars. This too is going to be a late night, as I have plans to behold the same late night sky, to gaze upon the same stars above Neverland that Michael once gazed upon. The property has changed, and although the countryside is still beautiful there are now only distant memories and echoes of the past joy, wonder and magic that Michael Jackson brought to Neverland. However the night sky… that beautiful quilt of moon and stars above will forever remain the same. Each personally and purposefully placed in the sky just above Neverland by our Creator just for our forever shining star, Michael Jackson. The Bible speaks of a time and place for everything and these stars, will in my mind, forever be placed in this sky, for all seasons, just above Neverland expressly to honor Michael Jackson for all eternity. Now I plan to peer into this late night sky … to lay back and look up and see first hand what Michael’s beautiful eyes beheld as he too felt the presence of God’s eternity.
Many MJ fans know that Michael clearly loved the night, loved the moon. I now think of sunset and the moon and remember Michael’s beautiful, innocent expression as wonder and creativity filled his being many years ago in an interview filmed at Hayvenhurst. MJ opens the tower shutters of his room and with one of those beautiful, glowing smiles only he could give says, “Hello, I’ll be right down.” Upon arrival he says while motioning toward the sky, “It’s dusk…the moon is out…this is the most beautiful part of the day. I can see some of the stars coming out. It’s very beautiful, everything comes to life. The fire flies are in the trees and every thing is becoming magic, I would say it is my favorite part of the day…dawn and dusk. It has a certain magic about it. Everything that preys upon the night starts to come out…be it the creatures or the birds. I like dawn also. Some psychologists say that dusk, for a lot of creative people… you reach your alpha state and you become more creative at certain parts of the day…but for me it could be anytime. I just like creating. It’s no special time…. but this (dusk) is very magical to me. It’s like a painting…it’s very artistic. It’s Magic.”
This is my Saturday off and I relish a chance to catch up on lost sleep. I am afforded a few extra luxurious, delicious hours of refreshing sleep which I will need given the late night planned. I have determined I will have a relaxing day… but I am anxious…Los Olivos is calling me. I am very excited to say the least, to see my beautiful art piece safely housed in its new frame. I meet up with my friends at our rendezvous spot, exchange hugs and niceties… but this ride has got to roll. I want to be on the road now. We all quickly pile on board and we begin our Magical Journey.
The drive through the little neighboring valley is like a comfortable pair of jeans for me. The familiar marine layer has settled in like an old friend over the orange groves. It hugs everything, it moves, you can feel it on your face, the moisture nourishes life and without fail the sun inevitably will break through the haze as it climbs high in the sky and life will burst forth. This ‘June Gloom’ as it is called never fails to give me the comfy feeling of curling up with a good book on a rainy day accompanied by the expectancy of a bright new day. How ironic that I look forward to June Gloom because it is the ultimate message of HOPE & FAITH to me. God always carries us through the dark times. He is our bright and shining light to guide us and He, although we may not see Him or feel Him, is ALWAYS there turning the seemingly bad into ‘beauty for ashes’. The Lord never fails to take what was meant for evil and turn it into His highest good. This is what June Gloom reminds me of. Looking back on the history of my life and all I have weathered clearly reveals that God never fails and always shines his light on those who love Him and Oh how I love the Lord! The most blessed I have been in my life were the times when I walked through the dark times but believed God was always there somewhere, somehow, carrying me, guiding me. Times when Faith was tangible and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt one day, no matter what the present circumstances, that the Lord’s love would shine brighter than all else. The Lord has NEVER failed me. I pray now that the LORD will intervene for Michael and bring justice. It occurs to me that only God can achieve this for Michael and He alone sees all things, knows all things. Nothing simply Nothing and no one escapes His roving eye. I thank God at this moment that Michael is safe in heaven with him, in His loving arms where no one can hurt him ever again. Michael there with the Lord for eternity, in his ultimate forever BLISS that he strived to find and live here on earth.
It is a glorious day in this valley; it is truly filled with the Lord’s beauty. I wonder what the day will hold. This lush valley we are traveling through is filled with many roadside fruit stands and nurseries. I make a mental note to visit here very soon when I have time to stop… and mention this to my friends. They have no idea why I am mentioning the nurseries as we fly through the small town which leads us out to the Pacific coastline. I want to surprise them today. I have promised them Magic and plan on delivering… but for now my mission is an appointment in Los Olivos. Ralph has called and said the picture is ready and he will be expecting me around noon.
Conversation flows freely as always in the car, while Michael’s music plays loudly; we talk and laugh about everything. It amazes me how close we have become in such a short time. As we talk about Michael Jackson, the Lord, family, work, past events and future plans I wonder to myself if I will be able to truly surprise them.
Now the Pacific Ocean comes into view on our left and it is just breathtaking no matter how many times I have seen it. I am a California girl and always make a point of taking a long look just to drink in the overwhelming vastness and beauty of the Pacific. To gain perspective on how really unimportant I am in the big picture of life… yet knowing God has His eye and His hand on me always, that I am LOVED and important to Him. I see the waves break on the sand and I wonder what sea life might be close by. Recalling days not in the too distant past when I walked the shore not far from here searching for sea urchins, sea shells and star fish as seagulls flew over head. I remember once there were even dolphins jumping high just off shore. The same familiar campers still line the beach in this prime beach goer’s spot that stretches along the way but on this trip the fun conversation pulls me out of my own thoughts and into the drive at hand.
Once again just as we turn inland the suns warm noon day rays burn through the haze and brighten the landscape. I am delighted as I wonder “Is God just doing this for me?” He knows my heart. He knows how much I love the break through of the sun from the early morning haze. I smile openly and decide YES! I will take my golden nugget and consider it a gift from the Lord, for it is the small things in life that bring the greatest blessing and joy for me. Now the lush green foliage and trees appear along the way and the same yellow sunflowers scattered across rolling hills are reaching their faces toward the blue sky and summer sun as the road begins to wind up the mountain and over into the Santa Ynez Valley. This is my third trip along this road and to me it is more beautiful each time. We steadily move along and the spectacular view at the crest of the hill reveals Cachuma Lake lying below us, stretching its wide fingers. Those watery fingers seem to reach forever and point the way toward Neverland.
Conversation and Michael’s music have comfortably ebbed and flowed throughout the journey… we are getting close now to Michael’s valley. It becomes quiet and we remark and wonder out loud about articles written and places MJ visited all over the world and how he always returned here to this California paradise. I become quiet and think about him in his own magical Neverland where he could just be himself. If only the world, the media, the greedy, the jealous, the opportunists had just left him alone… would he still be here? Yes I believe he would. My heart is heavy… I sigh…If only we could turn back time.
We are excitedly chit chatting as I turn left into Los Olivos. It is a VERY busy day here. There are many limos and travel buses which have brought the wine tasting tours into town from Santa Barbara. This time there is no easy parking spot available. We slowly search out a parking spot a block over from the art store but soon realize that a great parking place is now vacant directly in front of the town park where we like to picnic. My friends stake out the spot and I quickly retrieve the car to claim it. I just love this little park, the smells, sounds and sights of the town surround you here. To my disappointment there are no violinists here today; however we are all anxious to get to my appointment anyway. We eat quickly and then walk to the gallery. Ralph is waiting and greets us as we enter. I feel like a small child. I am so excited to see my special picture of Michael. To see how all the colors now compliment each other and I am definitely not disappointed. The porcelain mat Ralph recommended enhances Michael’s face bringing it to the fore front and the result is truly beautiful, just breathtaking. I am speechless. I am so incredibly honored to own a piece of Max Popov’s art. This is a gift I will treasure forever. To Ralph’s dismay and genuine wonder at how MJ fans have the ability to pull a camera out of no where the ladies take several pictures of me holding my precious art work while standing in the very spot Michael stood when he visited the shop many years ago. We stay for a while and chit-chat with Ralph. He is fun to talk to and happy to oblige, and entertains us by showing us his shop and other art work, but from my perspective it all pales in comparison to the piece I now have in my possession. I am thinking to myself as I have since the day I received it “Where will I hang Michael’s picture?” Still no firm decisions… I laugh to myself and wonder if I should share the thought out loud that Michael’s picture may just have to follow me around the house. A special spot in each room I spend time in. Hmmmmm…
We say our goodbyes to Ralph and head on out to enjoy the town. Now it is time… time for my surprise. Suddenly my chatty friends become quiet. I park just down from J. Woeste. They have no idea where we are and I tell them “Ok THIS is the surprise. This is the Magic.” We approach the gate and the giant chimes gently greet us. Yes my friends are silent… drinking in every sight, every sound. I ask them after we have entered in and they have been able to take it in, “Well is this a Magical Surprise?” I am thrilled to see the looks on their faces as they turn with complete awe and surprise and remark “YES Betty! You surprised us! This IS Magical!” We begin to explore what seemed to be every nook and cranny of the entire nursery. I discovered this day that this is an ever evolving place. Always growing, changing, rearranging. Michael’s hands are gone apparently purchased but there are many other beautiful items here which evoke Michael. Although in only two weeks time many things have changed, I realize too just like as in my life, since Michael’s death, reminders of MJ are simply everywhere. We stay close together as we move slowly along, sharing and drinking in each moment. The life of this magical land is pulling us in further with each step as together we smile, laugh and share each new revelation of MJ on this journey. At times we are speechless and just point. We wonder how this can be? This is not a place that openly honors MJ yet there are remembrances of him simply everywhere. I feel once again as if I have left earth and entered another mystical and magical world. Now the thought that the next time and all recurring times I visit here it will always be different, is now very appealing and alluring. We loose all track of time for in this world there is no time, only beauty. I am beyond pleased that I am able to surprise my friends with this treasured experience. I want the sights, sounds and smells to remain in my memory bank for ever. I want to always be able to call on them for refreshing.
We turn to read some enchanting rusted garden signs hung on the wooden fence and all stop at the same moment in amazement to read the words ‘Love You More’. There are sunflowers and butterflies scattered everywhere. Once again in the far corner there is the chicken coup with the happiest chickens on earth clucking away and above them the words ‘You Are My Sunshine’. I hear my friend exclaim in delight, “DOVES!” We all run to the back of the chicken coup and there they are… the Doves, cooing away. A few pose obligingly for pictures. Another dove hides his head each time I snap a picture and pops it back up to look at me as if to say “Paparazzi, get away from me!”
We continue on and find magical scenery everywhere. We drink in every moment not wanting it to end and investigate every possible spot, suddenly I am amazed to find a collection of little white doves placed in special arrangements and very affordable. We decide these will be the perfect purchase to commemorate our day here.
Next we find Ben, nuzzled into a cozy pot of moss. Another beautiful miniature landscape creation evokes a memory of the house Michael and his children lived in while in Ireland. Reluctantly after combing every corner we decide it is time to go, as we enter the charming old home this magic land revolves around to pay for our special selections we are delighted at the sight of a very colorful, display of cascading glass containers filled to over flowing with Tootsie Roll Pops.
Yes at every turn there is a whisper, a reminder of MJ. It is now time to leave for the next leg of the journey and we all seem to ‘sigh’ a collective ‘Farewell for now’ to this magical land. We secure our purchases along with my treasured art piece… our booty is growing.
Dinner time is approaching and several options are discussed but we all agree we must go to Solvang which is just one town over nestled in a neighboring valley. Solvang is a glorious Danish town with wonderful windmills and beautiful shops. I have been told about the delicious apple skivers with raspberry sauce served there and want to sample them. We wind our way through the valley and never before seen landscape and find that once again we are lost. Anyone who has ever driven any where with me knows this is normal. No one panics, especially me. I have found some very interesting and intriguing spots when lost. It has become a rule of thumb that you can not take a road trip with me unless we make at least three u-turns in search of the primary objective. This is simply beautiful, rich, lush, green countryside filled with sprawling horse ranches, large green meadows, long, winding picket fences and wine vineyards one right after the other. We discover a large barn in an open pasture where it looks as if a huge wine tasting session or gathering of some sort is being held. The crowd of cars and glow of twinkling lights decorating the large rustic building is very inviting but we have a plan and must find our way.
Solvang is just right down the road as it turns out… this is a delightful tourist trap with quant Danish restaurants, specialty, book and antique stores. Although still very back country the sights and sounds are so different here. It is a small town but there are many more tourists and more traffic here than in Los Olivos. This is not my first trip to Solvang and I remember my favorite candy store on the corner, the Fudge Shop. We visit several shops and right across from a collection of amazing Peter Pan snow globes I find a great necklace to memorialize the visit here. A little crown with many colored stones, Michael’s favorite colors, red, gold, blue. It is topped with a little cross and little charms hang from the bottom, a key, a heart and a tear drop… yes this is my Michael necklace. I purchase it and add it to the booty of the day.
Dinner is next on the agenda and is served up for us at a tiny café with a bounty of large Danish meatballs, a mound of mashed potatoes and gravy along with purple pickled cabbage, then of course apple skivers for desert. After dinner we move on down the walk way. At the Fudge Shop we were told Michael used to come and walk the streets and enjoy the sights so we too walk the streets to see the sights he saw. This is a town that rolls up the welcome mat early in the evening. Dusk is upon us and quickly doors are closing. Although it is a town that retires early there are beautiful white lights decorating the trees and the town takes on a completely different look and feel as they begin to glow. Suddenly the streets are mostly empty as tourists have made their way home, but there is one town tavern that is just getting started to entertain a small night crowd and the sounds of the music and singing from a local band spill out into the street. Although the majority of shops are now ready to go home for the night I am happy there are at least a few places still open so we can roam and shop since I am trying to stretch out our time until full night fall. This is a happy town with friendly people. They love the tourist here and encourage interaction. A great weekend vacation spot and I vow to return soon.
Now we head on back to Neverland driving through the night. Everything looks different at night and there is a blue moon glow on the landscape. In contrast to the neighboring valley with its horse ranches and bountiful wine vineyards the road that leads to Neverland is filled with cattle ranches. We discover the multitude of cows that are not visible during the hot summer days are now plentiful in the pastures as they graze the brown brush in the cool night air. There are seemingly hundreds of them. They stand in bunches everywhere as we drive by. Some very close to the road look out at us as if to say “Welcome back to Neverland”. I am reminded of a recent video of Michael in one of his many ludicrous depositions he was put through by people looking for a hand out, saying he obtained spending money from the cows and called it “Cow Grazing Money”. He looked like he really loved saying that. It baffled the lawyer. I smile a big smile as I share this with my friends and wonder out loud if any of them are the same cows Michael allowed to feast on his land, or maybe their off spring? The sun has set hours ago and the stars are out as we arrive and ease our way off the road at the gates of Neverland. The only people present are the guards as I park the car along the side of the road just under one of the two mighty Oaks that have stood as centurions here for at least a century. I wonder now if they miss their friend, Michael. A Sycamore Valley Ranch guard ambles into his large, black, security truck and begins making his rounds along the perimiter of the property with his search light beaming. The blinding light lands on our vehicle for a moment and then moves on satisfied we are not there to make trouble. We are finally here... the ultimate goal of the trip… Neverland… but for some unexplainable reason we stay in our car for quite along time… quiet…contemplative… listening to Michael sing… talking quietly. It seems as though hours pass, but it could only be moments, there is no real concept of time anymore… then finally we get out of the car to explore. I leave the doors open and Michael’s voice from the Invincible CD follows us. We walk the road listening as Michael’s voice grows fainter the farther away we go. We listen to the sounds of the night in this open country. It feels different now. We watch shadows moving in the hills and huddle together at some moments when a coyote’s howl is heard. The birds screech and there are sounds of rustling in the brush. The animals of the night are roaming close by. There is a full bright crystal moon tonight like no other I have seen in my life. Although we walk down the road away from the lamps in the Neverland driveway it is still very bright. No need for flash lights this night. We want to see the stars but this big beautiful moon has other plans for us. We locate Venus and if we turn our backs to the moon we can see other star formations. This gorgeous summer moon has not disappointed us and is simply amazing but makes it difficult to see the stars in the moon’s bright glow, so after many hours of gazing the consensus is we must check the calendar for the next crescent moon and return with the hope that maybe we may even see Michael perched there. We walk back and visit the Neverland gate, walk back up the road in the other direction. The moons glow follows us… we return to the car… it is parked on a slant which enables me to lean back on it fully, look up into the night sky and relax into the music. Feeling as though I fulfilled my goal to gaze up into the same night sky that Michael once saw, imagining him here once upon a time, happy and blessed beyond measure. I hold those memories in my heart. I listen to Michael’s perfect pitch and beautiful voice serenade us. I now have my very special art piece in hand, and a most special moment in time where I feel as though I was able to share in some very tiny way Michael’s God ordained view of Neverland’s stars.
You are my day... you are my night... like the stars in the night... I LOVE you...
The Magical Journey complete.
"Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pour through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy" shared by my good friend, Corona.
*United Fans of Michael Jackson *
*United Fans of Michael Jackson *