Opinion: The Autumn of Our Years 

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It’s so hard to reconcile living in such a beautiful, bountiful place – with so many privileges and delights – with the human misery occurring in so many other parts of the world. How did we manage to get so lucky and ascend the karmic cycle?

And yet, have we ever, in our lifetimes, experienced such utter despair and existential angst over the state of the planet and the hateful divisions among people? Doesn’t it boggle the noggin that we haven’t progressed as a species, with all the science, tech, and, in many cases, spiritual development at our fingertips? 

As recently as 2018, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker was writing persuasively that life was getting better across a host of measures in his book, “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.” But just a half-decade later, our innate reptilian savagery reared its hideous lizard skin again – this time up close and tragically personal across social media platforms. Coupled with the awareness and impacts of climate change, income inequality, homelessness, pandemics, mental illness, mass shootings, mass migrations… I could go on, but it’s not my intent to depress you. Instead, I am here to focus on the good.  

We can start by just marinating in the juiciness of our shimmering hamlet by the sea. 

It’s fall people, the greatest of all seasons in Laguna. The weather remains warm, the sun luminous, and that saturated autumn hue casts a special golden glow on our hillsides as the sun reflects lower across the horizon and sea. The summer cavalcade of Philistines have departed, our streets are tranquil, the kiddies back in school, the rattlers in hibernation, and the joint is ours again for the taking.     

Like I told many friends experiencing massive despair after the 2016 Presidential elections, just get out in nature, and you’ll be fine. She has all the answers. In Japan, they call it forest bathing. Here, we should simply christen it coastal sage scrubbing. So get out there for a little salt and sage scrub, won’t ya?

Fall is also the season of the apple, that prosaic, workhorse food that is perhaps Kazakhstan’s greatest contribution to the world outside of Borat. Because, as we know, eating one medium apple a day can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation, all of which support a healthy heart. There are over 7,500 varieties worldwide and some 2,500 in America alone. Now is the time to think outside the bin, with so many exotic local varieties appearing for a fleeting moment at our farmer’s market and grocery aisles. Say adieu to those lowbrow Fiji, Gala, Pink Lady and Honeycrisps that are stored for months in controlled atmospheric chambers where the temperature, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and humidity levels are adjusted to put them into hibernation. Those are Frankenapples. Say bonjour to the ephemeral Snow, Lady Alice, Sweet Tango, Summerfield, Mutsu, Pipin, Cripps and Cosmic Crisp apples, all delighting our shelves now and no doubt grafted by some mad apple growers into some singularly exotic combo of sweet, crunchy, tangy and tart, with nuance and hints of flavor like fine wine. Just like our Orange County mailman Rudolf Hass did in 1925 when he planted a single avocado seed that truly changed the world.  

Besides delicious and healthy locally grown foods, two other paths to well-being are central to the human condition – art and nature. Say no more.  

It’s November, time for our museum’s annual, mind-blowingly immersive Art and Nature initiative, which debuted last night and runs through the weekend. This year’s main event is “Rising Inversion,” from artist Christopher Cichocki. This installation morphs from a “sprawling arc of sand and barnacles into a luminescent orb rising over the Pacifica.” No psychedelics needed. Make sure you get to the north end of Main Beach between now and Sunday night, just before dusk, to be part of the magic.  

Then there’s our illustrious Coast Film & Music Festival, starting next Wednesday and running through Sunday. The festival has easily become our town’s singular celluloid sensation, showcasing adventure sports achievements around the globe and celebrating many of our local heroes who have shaped them. It’s a feel-good gathering of our uniquely talented community and the athletes, filmmakers and musicians collaborating in some of the most thrilling and inspiring footage on the planet. This year, don’t miss their special, day-long “Coast Summit,” an educational and environmental symposium on Thursday, bringing luminaries and activists across the adventure spectrum (and from here at home) to share their stories.  

If none of this makes you feel better, then there’s the old standby: pour yourself a stiff one or twist a fatty, put your feet up, and watch that Pacific sun melt into the ocean while singly loudly along with Monty Python’s, “Always look on the bright side of life:”  

“If life seems jolly rotten 

There’s something you’ve forgotten 

And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing 

When you’re feeling in the dumps 

Don’t be silly chumps 

Just purse your lips and whistle, that’s the thing 

And 

Always look on the bright side of life 

Always look on the right side of life.”

It’s Laguna, and it’s reflecting right back atcha.  

Billy is the CEO of La Vida Laguna, an outdoor adventure company, and the host of “Laguna Talks” on KXFM radio – Thursdays at 8 p.m. Email: [email protected].

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