Finding Meaning

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Planning v. Spontaneity

By Skip Hellewell

The Beautiful Wife does our planning. Writing things on the calendar gives her comfort they’ll actually get done. It often works. In the years when she was busy rearing six children, she was good if there was a date written on the calendar for a weekend mom-and-dad getaway. We called these quarterly trips “minimoons” (for the honeymoon she never had because we married on a semester break when I was a starving student). If we could only get away for one night, it was a “micromoon.”

My job was to find some romantic bed and breakfast in an interesting place, but the BW was just fine with the Hotel del Coronado, or even a snug Idyllwild cabin. My other job was to arrange the babysitter. The kids were good with this, for it meant a weekend of hanging out with a cool older teen who didn’t know the house rules.

I concede that planning is important—but when it’s well done, there’s likely a woman involved. It’s not a male strength in my experience. For all its benefits, planning has a flaw—it’s the enemy of spontaneity. Ever been on a trip where you skipped the planned event and just explored a place you had never seen before? Bet you had a memorable experience. Which brings us to the most unplanned trip I’ve ever been on.

Some years ago, a group of Laguna men, four with boats, decided to take their teenage boys to explore what we vaguely knew as the Delta. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is over 1,000 square miles of islands, streams, sloughs, and rivers with about 700 miles of waterways. It lies between Stockton and the San Francisco Bay.

The planning was—please note the lack of women involved—nonexistent. We did have a time and place to meet and a general destination, but that was it. It was a trip without lists. No day-by-day list of events. No list of things to bring. No menu or shopping list. Not even a list of cooking equipment, though someone did think to bring a propane stove and a couple of pots. The families included names familiar around Laguna: Kimball, Hanson, Chesley, and Laws. When we met, there was one unfilled seat, so our 10-year-old son, Mark, happily got to join us.

The end result of this terrible lack of planning? One of the best-remembered father-son events ever. It was a Tom Sawyer experience, featuring three days of non-stop water skiing as the four boats explored the Delta waterways, interspersed with quiet periods of fishing. We camped on river banks, mainly determined by where we were at sunset. Meals were improvised, with canned pork-and-beans as the dinner entrée, but we did have a memorable lunch when we discovered the river hamlet of Hood, populated by Chinese workers from the railroad-building era.

When it came to an end, we loaded up the boats and dutifully returned to our planned lives. Planning is good, I’m told. But, if you ever chat with anyone who was on what is famously remembered as the Delta Trip, be sure you have a comfortable place to sit. He’ll have a story to tell about the joys of spontaneous living. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 9:30 a.m. (summer schedule)

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.


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