Letter Perfect

Letter Perfect, a stationery and fine gifts store, has occupied Summerland’s most beautiful downtown building, the former Just Folk, for several months now. Locals are crossing their fingers that the unique store and gallery becomes a more permanent fixture.

Letter Perfect’s strong Summerland stance

Letter Perfect, a stationery and fine gifts store, has occupied Summerland’s most beautiful downtown building, the former Just Folk, for several months now. Locals are crossing their fingers that the unique store and gallery becomes a more permanent fixture.

Each month the store has staged an impressive art show in the spacious upstairs gallery, with openings that feature music, wine and appetizers. Summerland resident Leslie Person Ryan, Letter Perfect’s owner, has a deep interest in promoting art, lately specializing in art for a cause.

The current show, scheduled to run through March 15, is dedicated to the Santa Barbara American Heart Association. Twenty artists, including artists from Carpinteria and Summerland, contributed works of art “inspired by love,” with a percentage of the profits from sales going to the Heart Association.

Leslie is a passionate Summerland promoter, and if enthusiasm is a measure, her efforts to boost the downtown’s flagging viability should yield results. A Summerland theme pervades her store. “Every day is summer” is the motto she’s developed for a line of goods featuring the Summerland name and a big yellow sun. Napkins, cards, t-shirts for young and old and even specially made shortbread cookies bear the logo. Plus, my favorite, a small box of CaliBressan chocolates specially curated for Summerland.

Leslie’s especially proud of the latest addition to her growing inventory: a custom pottery line created by Jason Sanovich, a Mendocino artist. The ceramicist is producing tumblers, vases, mugs, bowls and plates in white porcelain and dark clay, many bearing Letter Perfect’s Summerland sun logo.

The building on Lillie Ave. is a big space to fill, and Leslie is doing her best to pack it with goods and art shows. So far, it’s been a month-to-month endeavor, but Leslie is working hard to secure a longer-term lease.

Capturing coastal essence

Summerland photographer Reeve Woolpert has been spending his days wandering the pristine environs of the Nature Conservancy’s newest treasure, the Dangermond Preserve. The 24,000- acre preserve, donated to the Conservancy in 2017 by Jack and Laura Dangermond, encompasses the former Bixby Ranch, including Point Conception.

Preserve director Michael Bell spotted Reeve’s nature photographs on sets of notecards created for the Gaviota Coast Conservancy and was impressed. He hired Reeve to develop a series of images for note cards to be used to thank Conservancy donors, helpers and volunteers. According to Reeve’s contract, his photographs may also be used for other publicity purposes.

Bell couldn’t have picked a better person for the job. For Reeve, who has long specialized in taking pictures of wild, untrammeled land, photography takes on a spiritual aspect. He says he takes picture of what captures his imagination and looks for what he calls “the stages of history” in a place—how land forms have changed, plant communities have advanced and receded, how animals and humans have impacted each other and the land.

For his current project, Reeve’s subject matter may range from taking photos of old U.S.G.S. benchmarks he’s discovered to crystal clear water in a tide pool to the footprints of coyotes and wild boar. He described to me an old fencepost about to tumble into the sea. That post, he said, was repurposed from a former railroad tie that had once been a tree. He says he especially appreciates the “resourcefulness of old ways.”

Reeve says he is still coming to grips with the great privilege he’s experiencing as he walks and photographs the wild coastland that has survived largely undisturbed for so long. He’s a close observer, studying the environs, waiting for certain times of day, cloud cover or sunlight, before taking his shots. He will take many, many photographs before winnowing them down to a few. No sunsets included, he said. He takes pictures of “the sun’s light on the world.”

Unfamiliar lettuce

Okay, this is a silly nitpick left out of my last column. I bought one of those big plastic bins of spring mix lettuce at Costco. The label advertised 22 different kinds of greens might be in the mix. My box mostly consisted of the tough, fringy variety of lettuce. I recognized the mizuna, which tends to be a little tough (websites recommend cooking), but tango, tatsoi and lolla rosa? Were those really lettuces or the names of pole dancers?

After research, I determined that most of my lettuce must have been tango, another fringed variety and distinguished from red mizuna by being green. You can’t fit a whole leaf of either of these in your mouth without a bit of stuffing, leaving the fringy part or the tough white stem draped over your lips.

I’m pretty sure my mix contained no lolla rosa, which is described as magenta in color. Or tatsoi, also known as Chinese flat cabbage. Pictures of that lettuce looked tender and succulent, and nothing tender made it into my bin. There was no romaine or green chard or baby butter or any of the familiar lettuces either. Maybe it’s a winter thing, with only the toughest varieties surviving the cold. I should have just steamed the whole batch and served it with soy sauce and Sriracha.

One good thing: A hot shower on a cold day.

Fran Davis is an award-winning writer and freelance editor whose work appears in magazines, print and online journals, anthologies and travel books. She has lived in Summerland most of her life.

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