Village Matters

By Ann Christoph
By Ann Christoph

My brother Bill sends me inspirational notes along with his frequent reports about the progress of his wife Val’s cancer treatments. This one struck home.

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16.

I admire his optimistic determination to carry on to the next step, concentrating on appreciating the insights that are coming day after day.

One would think Val’s cancer would suffice as sufficient impetus for the inner renewal department, but he also has multiple sclerosis, and recently has had two accidents that ruptured his one good eye. Right now he’s recovering from emergency surgery to repair damage from the last accident and can’t yet see to read or drive.

Courageously they are off to Houston for 18 weeks of treatments for Val. A torture? Or opportunity for inner renewal?

My college friend Jane came to visit on Sunday and together we went to the Garden Park fall festival and potluck. A beautiful day. After much dedicated planting, weeding, trimming and effort by gardeners the garden was growing and beautiful too. Its inner spirit was radiating through the music and smiles all around.

Jane and I looked at each other—it’s been years since our last visit–and we’ve aged. Hair whiter, wrinkles deeper, weight where it’s not supposed to be. She said, “I look out, I don’t look in the mirror…” and I added, “It’s better and better from the inside.”

Are there some analogies to our city and our way of life? Our town could be better and better from the inside, to match its lovely physical appearance. The pop-up workshop downtown on Saturday opened the door to thinking about both the outer and inner aspects of our future. What we treasure is that feeling, that sense of the inner spirit of our town. The participatory displays were trying to get us to think about that and how the physical environment is related to that hard-to-capture-and-define Laguna spirit.

It’s all interrelated–part of that spirit begins with the spectacular coastal mountain setting, the small-scale unique houses and shops, the trees and vegetation. But there’s more—our heritage–what our people’s thoughtfulness, courage and optimism have contributed:

A tradition of art and artistic response to the landscape.

A history of taking action—from the water system in the 1920s and ‘30s to our parks and open space preservation.

A conscience of caring for each other.

Now that the council campaign is over, we can concentrate on working together, being optimistic and thankful for the special opportunities we have here. We can build and renew our community relationships, and listen for the insights that radiate all around us. With our dedication and sensitivity Laguna Beach, the town, and Laguna Beach, the spirit, will be cherished, renewed and preserved.


Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former member of the City Council.


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