One of the nicest comments that I receive is that something I’ve shared on this blog has changed, favorably so, an opinion of Los Angeles. Visitors have frequently maintained their previous notion of Southern California, perhaps particularly of the greater Los Angeles area, was strictly one flat note. I’ve enjoyed expanding the vision.
There is much that is really wonderful about this state. Then there are undeniable drawbacks.
Los Angeles County accounts for about 26% of California’s population estimate of 38 million people.
When it takes me 60 minutes to go 30 miles–and that’s not the worst example I could give–I will admit breathing lighter is not what comes to mind. I have my survival strategies, however. Sometimes I spend the entire “trek” thinking about pioneers who traveled across the Oregon Trail. Fantasy works.
Bottom line? I live in the center of a pressure cooker.
But rather than focus on the negative, I long ago made a choice to find the “people, places and things” that excite my curiosity or quite literally lift me out of the congestion and provide a breathing lighter escape.
My latest adventure has been to fully immerse in the story of John Muir’s interest in Pasadena. I am enjoying Elizabeth Pomeroy’s “John Muir: A Naturalist in Southern California,” and as so often happens, one story leads to the next.
My curiosity was first aroused at the Huntington Library when I noticed a letter from Muir to Theodore Parker Lukens.
Lukens, a two term Pasadena mayor and prominent civic leader and well-respected conservationist, traveled to Yosemite in 1895 and joined Muir in the Hetch Hetchy Valley. This initial visit set the stage for Lukens’ lifelong commitment to protecting the timberland and forest reserves above Pasadena and beyond.
A mountain peak in Southern California and a lake in Yosemite National Park, for which he urged federal control, are named after Lukens. Muir often called upon his conservation-minded friends to assist him in his tireless effort to protect the Yosemite Valley.
I’ve driven by the Lukens house hundreds of times. It happens to be on the same street as my favorite independent book store. But I had never previously connected Lukens to Muir, so now the house takes on a whole new interest!
Notice the hitching post and mounting stone just sitting there waiting for a horse-bound visitor!
There’s every reason for me to believe that Muir spent time in his friend’s home. Muir, often called “Professor Muir,” was a frequent speaker in the area, including lecturing at the local high school.
The independent bookstore I mentioned? Vroman’s books is a Pasadena landmark.
A.C. Vroman was also a friend and supporter of Muir’s aims to protect the San Gabriel mountain area and other state-wide conservation efforts.
This is all new information to me, and I’m completely enjoying putting the pieces of a very large puzzle together, while also being pulled back to the relative “quiet” of the early 20th century.
Horse traffic would have been more my speed, I think.
I sometimes simply enjoy imagining what Muir and other early settlers in the Los Angeles area must have experienced and how they interpreted the natural beauty. I wonder what they would think if they could drop in for a visit today?
I get lost in this imagining and it somehow modifies the incessant noise that is a part of every day.
And to breathe even lighter?
The beautiful San Gabriel Mountains are close enough for me to touch them. And if I need to escape just a little bit more intentionally? Fifteen minutes can put me at Chantry Flat, about three miles into Big Santa Anita Canyon, and home to the last pack station in Southern California.
Just sitting here in the coolness and among the trees, and I contemplate what Muir said of the San Gabriels, “I had to contend with the richest, most self-possessed and uncompromising chaparral I have ever enjoyed since first my mountaineering began.”
I tamed the chaparral by car. But I could still imagine.
Breathing lighter? It’s all about where you put your focus.
If stress starts to build this week, replace the stress by identifying an area of interest and begin your own adventure. And if that doesn’t work fast enough for you…just find a place to rest your eyes and escape.
Let me know if it works!