Beautiful homes line the west cliff face of the beach in La Jolla (luh-HOI-uh), California, located just 14 miles northwest of San Diego. The homes are situated at the perfect angle to see the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean at the end of each day. Slowly, however, this sandstone cliff is crumbling away, and soon the historic home of one of La Jolla’s most famous residents, Dr. Seuss, will likely crash into the ocean below, endangering the very ecosystems and landscape that inspired many of his works.
Dr. Seuss’s La Jolla
After World War II, Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and his wife, Helen, moved to La Jolla, where he began to shift his focus from drawing political cartoons to writing some of his most well-loved children’s stories. When armed with the knowledge of what to look for, visitors to La Jolla can easily see Dr. Seuss’s illustrations around every turn, whether they’re walking along the beachfront or kayaking near the cove’s cliffs and caves. But you need to know what to look for, or you might miss out on these striking connections.
The Cat in the Hat
The Cat in the Hat, published in 1957, features a rather odd-looking orange fish with a high-stress personality who tries to restore order to his home. Dr. Seuss only needed to look out into the bay to see his inspiration—the Garibaldi fish. Though found frequently in La Jolla, this distinctive, bright orange fish is rarely seen in places away from the southern California coast. And the Garibaldi fish is, interestingly enough, an aggressive defender of its natural territory.
One of Dr. Seuss’s later works, The Lorax, published in 1971, is a story of a Truffula tree. Much of the scenery in La Jolla is reminiscent of Seussian-style illustration, but one tree in particular stands out as the inspiration for Seuss’s Truffula tree: the Monterey Cypress. Like the Garibaldi fish, this tree is unique to the California coast; with specialized climate needs, these trees do not readily spread on their own. Although Monterey Cypress trees are not numerous, some have been dated at two thousand years old. A famous image of a lone Monterey Cypress tree, with its irregular trunk and tufts of bright leaves at the top, still stands to remind its viewers of both Dr. Seuss’s drawings and his story of the lone Truffula tree.
La Jolla Birdwoman
In addition to writing children’s books, Dr. Seuss was also known for his political cartoons and his personal illustrative works. In the 1960s, Seuss drew a series of illustrations titled “La Jolla Birdwoman.” They were gently satirical, comparing the many birds of La Jolla with women in La Jolla society. La Jolla attracts many birdwatchers; but even if you’re not a birder, you might get a laugh from seeing the local birds and local women juxtaposed.
Dr. Seuss’s World
Plenty can occupy your time in La Jolla—from just sitting on the beach to surfing and kayaking. But as you play in the waves and look up at the cliffs, you can also see the irregular curves of the rock, the haziness of the horizon, and the undulating surface of the ocean and be brought back into the world Dr. Seuss created in the imaginations of thousands of children.
Dr. Seuss, courtesy of DrSeussArt.com