Splat! All over my shoulder. Well, stuff happens, but a morning walk along Ballona Creek grants us the joy of welcoming a day in our Marina del Rey area, our sanctuary of safety and quietude.

My friend and I stride in the dirt along the bike path avoiding

active souls like fast walkers, joggers, bikers, skaters and an occasional rubbery-legged drunk.

Drawing in the newborn day’s salty freshness enlivens our bodies, clears our minds.

We meet the “regulars” most mornings: an “eightyish” man in a hooded sweatshirt who walks with vigor and persistence — doctor’s orders. He totes blue hand weights, grunting and swaying as he pumps them up and down.

Another couple must start out at dawn, for they’re always bundled up in dark, heavy coats, ear muffs, red plaid scarves and furry gloves. They walk huddled together in deep, secret conversation, like two spies plotting an escape. Occasionally they break out of their spell to look up and acknowledge us — one “regular” to another.

And then there’s Cathy with the sunshine smile, in black tights and long-sleeved shirt, no matter the weather. Her “hi” sparkles, but beneath that glow I always sense a great sadness, since Scotty, her morning companion with the wagging tail, was killed by a car.

The path is lopsided and rocky, so I keep an eye down to avoid stumbling. My friend lurches off-balance at least once each morning, for she’s a risk-taker, looking up to the sky, at boats with fluttering sails, at pelicans skimming the water. She rarely glances down, but I find the seashells, anthills and money. Since her hand operation, I have walked on the left. If I walk on the right, I invariably get socked by her cast.

Approaching the jetty, gulls greet us with stares, just daring us to proceed. They do scatter, but there are always the brave ones who arrogantly shuffle away at the last moment. They appear so regal, attired in jewels — a red ruby on their beaks, and four white pearls dotting their black tails. Aligned out on the beach like sentries, they always stand facing the wind, poised for flight.

Waves roll into the creek and slither along the rocks blanketed with green, velvet moss. Fishermen perch atop boulders staring at the water, waiting, waiting for the big catch.

On weekends, families tag along dragging iceboxes, hibachis, blankets, pillows and an abundance of food. It’s a whole day’s affair, and it’s free.

At the jetty’s end, we absorb a spectacle of blue open space, white puffs over the Palisades and UCLA crews stroking in rhythm.

Inhaling the crispness, the spray tickling our faces, we share the delight of living in Marina del Rey and, splat! The poster in my kitchen says, “When you get lemons, make lemonade,” but I think I’ll carry an umbrella.

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