Remembering a friend with simple but challenging words

 

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Today we gathered with friends and family to say goodbye to an old friend. It was bittersweet in the way that memorials are; sadness and tears in the immediacy of loss, but also a special and particularly heartwarming gathering, seeing some friends again after long absence, and smiling at personal stories and memories of the life we were celebrating.

The service was beautifully simple. By the standard of so many I’ve attended it was actually brief. But the words that were shared touched me very deeply in that they were to the point. They didn’t require an accompanying sermon. They required no amplification. The few short readings shared from The Book of Common Prayer said all that needed to be said.

The family chose a scripture reading I’ve heard dozens of times before, but today the words gained life  as they described a special, very kind man. The challenges are simple and clear; not so easy perhaps to live.

“Let love by genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:9-18

This reading fits the life our friend will be remembered for. I don’t see a lot of ego in this brief passage–perhaps these calming words are worth contemplating in a world that likes to stir up conflict. Peace.

History and nostalgia rolled into our local Dinosaur Park

I was introduced to a video that  I wanted to share. Fitting it in with other content is a little uneven, but I’ll contort a bit to make it as congruent as possible. It simply makes me laugh and I enjoy sharing a laugh.

I think most Californians know how the media portrays the state and we know how to laugh at the stereotypes and caricatures that at times label an entire region.

And it is a very large region. But as you already know, the greater Los Angeles area is really made up of many, many smaller cities with rich local history vital to the well-being of its inhabitants–and likely not a part of a tourism campaign.

I recently thought about how “small town” my own city can feel when my daughter brought to my attention the 50 year anniversary of a park that was very special to both my children growing up.

Dinosaur Park Play Day

I had no idea 50 years had passed since the whimsical sea creatures were installed at what was then called “Wells Park.”   DSC_9714

My grandparents lived just a block or two away in an era when it was still possible to walk directly through their neighboring elementary school at the end of their block, no locks or barriers, and with no division between the school playground and this delightful park.

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My children have the happiest memories of walking with their great grandparents and spending countless hours here. They grew up with this park. It has long been called “Dinosaur Park”  or “Monster Park” by local children, who, the story goes, saw the sea serpent as a dinosaur, and the name just stuck. DSC_0710

Fifty years ago when the sea creatures were installed I knew nothing of their significance, but in 2006, the Friends of La Laguna formed to restore and preserve “Dinosaur Park” when it was announced that the city intended to demolish it. A dedicated group of people devoted endless hours to preserve this special place. IMG_3606

There’s more than simple nostalgia contributing to why this play equipment is now listed on the California Register of Historical Resources.

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The park was designed and constructed by Mexican concrete sculptor Benjamin Dominguez. La Laguna was the capstone of his very long career in Mexico and the United States, where as an artist he blended the artistic medium of his Mexican heritage with children’s play space.

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La Laguna of San Gabriel was Dominguez’s final project. He was 70 years old when he was commissioned for this project, and using themes and characters from some of his previously installed playgrounds, our children have grown up with “Minnie” the whale, “Stella” the starfish, “Ozzie” the octopus and “Flipper,” “Speedy,” and “Peanut,” the three dolphins.

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I’m really grateful to the Friends of La Laguna for their response to save this playground. The Saturday celebration brought out many city officials and the artist’s youngest daughter who appeared to be very touched at the reception and praise of her father’s work and contribution.

If I start with my grandparents and their tie to the neighborhood and this park and then reach to my grandchildren playing on the same equipment, we’re spanning five generations. I think that’s very special all by itself.

It’s not a big tourist draw, I understand, but it’s a little gem in our city, and I’m grateful for the small town, grassroots effort responsible for preserving it for my grandchildren.

Doesn’t this have a small town feel?

Embracing May Gray and June Gloom…or maybe just accepting it

Los Angeles averages 329 days of sun per year. It’s actually quite warm and sunny most of the winter. Then sometime mid-May we shift into May Gray leading to June Gloom,  a weather phenomenon that appears this time of year in Southern California, as cyclical as spring and summer.

Most years after about two weeks of little or no sunshine I lapse into feeling like I need to hibernate. We are sunshine people and I don’t do well without consistent exposure. This is an embarrassingly hard thing to admit when I know how many of my blogging friends live for months with extremes of cold and damp, without even a spot of sun until mid-spring.

I’m not alone in my physical reaction, however.

With great interest I’ve read numerous studies linking sunshine to mood. Natural sunlight provides essential vitamin D and can protect a person from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sunlight boosts key mood boosting hormones and wards off some forms of depression.

May and June are typically the cloudiest months of the year in coastal Southern California. The clouds are formed when the  marine layer moves in late at night and the resulting damp and gloomy pattern hangs around until late afternoon, when finally the setting sun makes a brief appearance below the clouds and there may be a couple of hours of “happy” sunshine.

A fun and informative blog post on this natural phenomenon can be read HERE, but basically all that’s required is cold Pacific Ocean water, an ocean current known as the California current and a high pressure formation.

There are some benefits to this moisture-laden foggy weather, however. In a mega-drought cycle it is a wonderful reminder that Mother Nature knows how to make an appearance and send a little relief. We aren’t using much outside water right now. Conservation isn’t nearly the challenge it will be in a couple of months.

May and June are somewhat unique, but in July and August the fog associated with the beach areas following hot summer days can also roll in and cool further inland.

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The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is in the Brentwood neighborhood.  On a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean, but it isn’t “at the beach” in the same sense as the Getty Malibu campus. These  photos were taken last August as friends and I visited on an afternoon and stayed into the evening.

Temperatures at my house, less than 25 miles away, had been in the 100s that day. As we strolled around the campus the fog rolled in and the temperature dropped enough that we were cold…and a little wet.

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Mother Nature knows how to cool us off and is doing her best to assist the parched environment.  So I’m doing my best to embrace the benefits of May Gray and may even be looking forward to June Gloom.

We have Hollywood Bowl tickets tomorrow night seeing Neil Diamond in concert for the first time–it’s our first time, not Neil’s. I won’t know until tomorrow if I need to plan for wet weather. No umbrellas are allowed inside the Bowl so this could be exciting.

It is a three-day weekend as we commemorate Memorial Day. Monday will be a quiet day at home, I’m anticipating, and maybe I can get caught up with some of you. I’ve not been spending much time blogging recently.

I have been very busy during the day, yes, but you see, May Gray HAS been making me want to hibernate, and my evenings have been very short! Maybe I need a sun lamp? (If you’ve just endured a long, freezing winter you have my permission to roll your eyes.)

Whatever Mother Nature delivers to your door step this weekend, I hope you have a very enjoyable one. I’ll look forward to hearing about it.