Village Matters: Not Always a Downward Slide

By Ann Christoph.
By Ann Christoph.

Last week I had to hunt in the depths of my drawers and closet looking for my ballet outfit and shoes. There they were under piles of department store bags and exercise clothes from yoga and water aerobics. Although quite stiff, the slippers still fit. I could even get into the leotards despite disappointing silhouettes as viewed from both directions.

I was preparing for my first ballet class in more than 10 years. Gosh, maybe it’s been even more! For years I took lessons from Misha Sachnoff in the beautiful light-filled studio at Legion Hall. The classes were inspirational. With Misha we had the descendent of George Balanchine inspiring us to move, stretch our capabilities and appreciate the music.  Even though I didn’t have the talent or physique to excel at ballet, I loved it.  Then Misha left Laguna for New York, I injured my knee and it seemed my days of ballet were over.

There was an unsuccessful surgery and I struggled with a limp for five years before daring another operation. Then two years ago Dr. Gorab inserted a metal runner he invented into one side of my knee. It was called a partial knee replacement. Now no limp, no pain. Should I dare a ballet class?

Pilates, exercise machines, yoga, aerobics…all good and helpful, but none make me feel as good as ballet. I had to give it a try.

Now there’s another beautiful studio at the community center and another excellent teacher, Ondine Bierbaum. The familiar barres, rosin box, and earnest adult fellow  students subdued the uncertainty I felt. Then the music started, familiar moves began and tears welled up. How could I express the feeling of gratitude for knowing my body can again do what I had wanted to do all those years?

“It’s starting to come back, isn’t it?” the teacher said. I left hopeful and eager to improve, inspired to learn that a continuous downward slide in abilities is not inevitable.

Saturday the Planning Commission hosted a walk through our downtown. They are revisiting the Downtown Specific Plan, the document that sets the policies and regulations for development and businesses there. Commissioners and staff invited us, the public, to informally discuss our thoughts about what the future of the downtown should be. Comments in my group ranged from the creative to the impossible. And there would probably be disagreement about which suggestions fell into which of those two categories. The encouraging part was that so many Lagunans were there, people who value Laguna and care about the future of our city.

The event reminded me of the comment I have heard so many times from visitors or recently arrived residents, “I bet Laguna has changed a lot since you first moved here.”  The implication is that our town has changed for the worse.

Yes, it has changed, but there are changes for the good as well as those that some might regret. We’ve made many decisions that prove we don’t have to lose what we value about our town in the process of improving it. That’s the balance the Planning Commission will have to achieve as they plan for downtown’s future.

Change doesn’t have to mean that downward slide away from the Laguna that lives in our hearts and memories.


Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former City Council member.

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