Village Matters

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Love it All

By Ann Christoph
By Ann Christoph

Like loving that perfect person we chose to spend our life with, who it turns out has some qualities we wish we could “adjust,” loving Laguna means loving it all, the whole package. Quaint charming neighborhoods come with small houses, tiny rooms and eccentric floor plans. Close knit neighborhoods foster heartwarming hometown feelings and require diplomatically arranged parking compromises. Beautiful mountains, canyons and cliffs are susceptible to nature’s drama: fire, flood and instability. Classic Laguna ocean and canyon scenic vistas often include mature and historic trees.

These challenges to the standard American expectations are inherent in the drama, beauty, charm and uniqueness that Laguna offers. Learning that the prized and exquisite community atmosphere requires relinquishment of some of the individual wants we have been acculturated to expect is an adjustment, but a worthwhile one. Just as are the adjustments we make in our personal relationships.

Long before any of us were here to appreciate or seek the beauty of Laguna Beach, artist Anna Hills (1882-1930) came to California from the east coast and Europe “in search of something new to paint.” (Antony Anderson, art critic for the Los Angeles Times, p. 40 of exhibit catalog) She found it in Laguna Beach and extolled in the American Magazine of Art (October 1919, p. 459) “Here (artists) found miles of rugged coast line, with cove after cove and headland after headland, golden cliffs and dark brown, deep blue and purple ocean and clear emerald pools, lazy sea and pounding surf and above all a sky of clearest azure or perchance tinted with iridescent mists. And, if grown weary of these ever changing wonders they still wished to paint, they had but to face about without even leaving the sandy stretches of the beach or the rocky promontories and the foothills with their alluring canyons and deep shadows called them to new effort.”

But Hills was not only a contemplative and insightful painter, she was committed to Laguna Beach’s future and led efforts to plan and incorporate the city. She was a driving force in the construction of today’s art museum. To enhance Laguna Beach as an art colony, she worked to protect its beauty, preserve its trees and encourage its gardens. She helped to ensure the dedication of the land for Heisler Park.

It would have been incomprehensible to her that trees in our town are so threatened, that vandals, or intentional selective destroyers have cut into the trunks of trees near Montage. Or that public trees from the Egan homestead grove at the Valido trail entrance were in the process of being removed at the request of local residents. The cutting has been held in abeyance thanks to a city stop work order. The future of all of these trees still hangs in the balance.

Can we let the beauty of our trees and heritage shine through even if our expected perfect view or lifestyle needs to be adjusted?

Hills was driven to do as much art, education and community good as she could in her short life. An inspiration to us all. We have just a few weeks more, until Jan. 15, to experience Anna Hills life’s work at the exceptionally thorough and beautiful exhibit at the Laguna Art Museum, revealing her devotion to all things Laguna, loving it all, helping to build the future we are living today.

 

Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former council member.

 

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