Most people bring a casserole or a salad to a potluck, but Loraine Hollingsworth of Laguna Canyon brought cactus pads (nopales) and a ukulele. There were two large tough prickly pear cactus pads, and several new thin tender ones. The large tough ones were for planting at the South Laguna Community Garden Park so that in the years to come we will have our own supply of new thin tender ones to add to our vegetable repertoire.
She demonstrated how to peel off the thorns from the tender nopales and cut the cleaned green slabs into squares or strips, ready for the pan where they were to be sautéed like onions. Then they are added to many recipes. Papa’s Tacos, for example, offers nopalitos and eggs on their breakfast menu.
Loraine had been invited as part of the Susi Q ukulele class to play John Denver’s Garden Song at our event, so for a bit the nopales were set aside while she joined Sally Coffey and Tom Joliet on the stage. “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.”
Everyone has his or her own garden growing, in some form. At Pete Fielding’s 80th birthday celebration this past weekend at UCI, there was a review of seeds sown and nurtured, the harvest of his life work, and a surprise component. I knew him as a Three Arch Bay resident, university social science professor and transportation expert. He was head of the Orange County Transportation Agency in the 1970s. He was also part of the Fred Lang instigated subcommittee for the South Laguna General Plan. It was because of this plan that South Laguna has a backdrop of preserved natural hillsides. Without the plan there could be Nyes Place type roads cutting up the sides of the hills and development notched in throughout. Pete advised and helped shepherd this plan as we brought it forward for adoption by the county Board of Supervisors.
In the tribute portion of the event, Pete’s friends, sons and daughter and academic colleagues spoke of his accomplishments and how he had influenced their lives. I told of his contribution to South Laguna. Stories were poignant and heartfelt.
Then Pete got up to speak. After the thanks, his talk took a surprising turn. He recalled that one of his students in the early days of UCI had given him “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan’s pioneering book that expanded how our culture views women’s abilities and contributions. “It changed my life,” he maintained. He called up a former student, Gen Giuliano. As she told her story we knew what a difference a changed attitude about women’s roles could mean. “I was returning to the university after being home bringing up my children. At that time the opportunities for women like me were minimal.” But step-by-step, Pete advised, encouraged and guided. Now she is a full professor at USC and director of the National Center for Metropolitan Transportation Research.
The unlikely cactus makes a tasty meal; the non-standard person excels beyond presumed limitations, both aided by those who nurture at just the right moments.
Looking for opportunities wherever there is a space, a plant, a person, and going beyond expectations; inch by inch, step by step we make our life gardens grow.
Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former council member.