Opinion: Village Matters

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Taking it Seriously—And Joyfully

ann christoph

“I am writing this in September, because I don’t know if I will make it to Christmas,” so began one of my Christmas cards. Problem was, I didn’t read these words until two weeks ago when I finally got to that pile of cards stacked on my buffet. “I must call Maureen,” I thought to myself, remembering our high school days together. So last Monday I did. The voice on the  phone apologized, “My mom passed away in June.” I had a long talk with daughter Keri about our high school years. I was amazed that she knew the names of all our classmates—she had studied the yearbook and absorbed her mother’s stories. I was able to add a few new ones to the repertoire. My friend Carly later told me consolingly that maybe that conversation was just what was supposed to happen and I shouldn’t regret my lax timing on reading the letter or the phone call.  erhaps, but the whole incident got me thinking once again about the importance of each of the lovely days we are given, and the opportunities we have to do meaningful things with those precious moments.

But it didn’t stop there. Is someone is trying to get my attention? Last Wednesday our ballet class returned to the Susi Q after a year and a half of Covid hiatus. All masked and spread apart along the barre, mostly slim in black leotards, we plied and tendued to the inspiring instruction of our ballet mistress. It felt so good to be back, but now it’s scary and uncertain again.  Saturday there was a notice from the dance studio and the city. This week’s class is cancelled.  Our teacher is ill with Covid, and we all need to be tested after a five-day wait. What? Having been vaccinated is a consolation, but there are plenty of stories of break through cases, and transmission to others is a concern.

The gift of lovely days seems to have a threatening overlay.  But I am seeing significance in every encounter and in sharper focus than ever before. On Friday, Bob Borthwick gave a Garden Club talk on his major design projects under the heading “The World is a Garden.”

Alta Laguna Park, San Clemente Trail, Avalon Waterfront at Catalina Island—a life of positive and thoughtful contributions, caring for the parts of the world assigned to him with the gentle touch of a creative gardener. Then Bill Atkins, curator of Gallery Q, took me to see the latest art show at Susi Q. A critique of Thomas Kinkade by Pat Sparkuhl is beautifully and skillfully presented, its message revealed by careful study: Kincade, a talent gone awry. Then Pat himself arrived. I felt I was part of a carefully scripted play. Fist bumps only with this wonderful artist I have known for decades, but have rarely seen. I spoke about this possible column and the blessings of being here, and how fragile it all is. “Yes, you can see me today,” Pat added, “and tomorrow find out I have some condition… and I could be gone.” Off stage.

The 9-11 remembrances and Afghanistan losses reinforced these sentiments; we are temporary stewards, yet with responsibility for guarding goodness.

Will we be dominated by the voices of the discontented? Who see threats to liberty around every corner? Vaccine and masking resistance, anti-gun control, and overriding anger on a state and national scale. Here at home letters and columns full of accusations. Councilmembers berating well-meaning people who are just trying to improve and participate in their town. The tone is wrong and somehow we need to rise above it. Let’s take seriously our assignment to elevate our community discourse and actions.   

Lives too short, sickness lurking in unknown corners, we all share those vulnerabilities.  We can make the best of the human dilemma, bringing joy and optimism and work as a community.   Plant a garden, feed the homeless, reward contributors, organize a love march, write a letter praising someone, save a park, deliver a card or flowers, pet a dog, thank someone unexpectedly, smile. We can turn a corner.

Ann is a landscape architect and former Laguna Beach mayor. She is also a long-time board member of Village Laguna, Inc.

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