Village Matters

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So Much Fun Ahead

By Ann Christoph
By Ann Christoph

On Monday we all gathered for a mini potluck, saying farewell to one of our most dedicated and endearing gardeners. She and her husband are soon moving to Australia. She’ll be close to her family where job opportunities have opened up and housing costs are doable for a young couple starting out. The rest of us of the older generation reminisced about what we had experienced when we were in a similar stage in life. “I was in the middle of it all—living at Haight Ashbury, then serving in Vietnam…I saw both sides,” one said. Another recounted his transition from lumbering culture–where differences of opinion were settled with fisticuffs–to an entirely different world, being a professor at UC Irvine. “We’re sitting here thinking that we once were where you are now. You have so much fun ahead,” he said, “so many experiences, finding your careers, starting a family… It’s going to be great.”

It still is. When we graduated from high school people said we’d look back on those years as highlights of our lives, almost as if it would be all down hill from there as we succumbed to life’s difficulties. Absolutely, difficulties were in our paths, but no, we have not succumbed. We’ve learned that every stage has its joys and highlights as well as challenges.

This past week I had several joys. The Garden Club tour of the children’s garden at Top of the World School was a delight. Each of us joined pairs of third graders who enthusiastically searched for fruit trees’ buds, flowers and fruits and penciled their observations on a chart. “What color is the fruit of a peach?” They puzzled over the limited color choices at the top of the page, then decided yellow-orange was close. Carrying on the fruit theme, teacher Kelly Osborne demonstrated the details of making lemonade from lemons picked right there in the garden. “Smell the lemons,” the children called. “The ones in the store don’t smell like this!” Again the students conscientiously, if messily, cut, macerated (new word) the lemons, added sugar and water, shook 30 times each, and enjoyed. “I’ll always make lemonade this way,” one said. “I’ll never use that powdered stuff again!” Then they dutifully cleaned up, washing the trays and containers, putting the lemon remains in the compost, and the trash in the trash.

Did you know that plants have BFFs (best friends forever)? On Saturday at the South Laguna Community Garden Park, Anna Maria Desipris told us to think of plants like people. They not only need nutrition, water and a healthful environment, they are much happier if they are near their best friends. Tomato and basil, for example, love to be near each other. Plants in the mustard family like to grow with onions, beets, sage and rosemary. Rather than just expecting plants to give us what we want, we might look at the garden from their point of view, fostering their growth and giving them what they need to succeed.

Later that day we enjoyed lunch in the restored Taverna on Ocean Avenue, originally the Laguna Federal Savings and Loan. Ted Wells, architectural historian, shared insights on Aubrey St. Clair, architect for Taverna as well as for the Water District, City Hall, Wells Fargo, Bette Davis’ house, English Garden/Sandpiper, and many others. He wasn’t just “a local guy” who made good. His work reflected much broader influences. He had worked in the Los Angeles and Pasadena offices of Greene and Greene, Wallace Neff, and Reginald Johnson. Important for Laguna, he worked in many styles, beginning the eclectic approach that now distinguishes our town.

Lastly, on Sunday Mark Chamberlain’s BC Space Gallery opened its show of the work of Peter Carr, artist, writer, and professor of comparative literature at Cal State Long Beach. I had met Carr briefly through his life companion, Jeanie Bernstein, and she had given me his 1974 illustrated poem book entitled “Anthem Aliso Creek.” I had kept it in my magazine rack for years, never reading it until just before going to see the exhibit.

His work is outrageous, full of messages, compelling. He was a founding member of the Orange County Alliance for Survival, which works for peace and an end to nuclear power. How long does it take to see the results of your work? He and Jeanie and the Alliance started the process that after all these years resulted in the shut down of San Onofre nuclear power plant, curator Andrew Tonkovich pointed out.

All this inspiration and encouragement to think broadly was in contrast to meetings earlier in the week where we listened to complaints about our rights being threatened, by the influx of inconsiderate tourists, and by the prospect of being required to preserve the historic qualities of our homes.

Are these worries related? The pressure of populations descending on our town, either for the day or by buying properties one by one, has the potential to severely affect our town and way of life. There are only a few ways we can resist and preservation is one of them. Enforcement of rules is another. We should be banding together to keep our town safe from over crowding and overdevelopment rather than fighting each other. We should be concentrating on the fun of living that is still ahead.

Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former mayor.



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  1. You should please stop trying to tow our cars. We live next door to your office and we’ve had two of our cars totaled on PCH. Please be a kind nieghbor. I’m handicap due to a near death fall and my dad that lives with me is in his 70s. Thank you kindly and be well.


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