Tag Archives: Laguna Beach

Bird Park, San Diego

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

I remember my uncle’s visit in Southern California. We were living in Laguna Beach at the time, and, recently widowed, he was traveling to New Zealand from New England. We were a half-way resting place and ever so happy to have him.

My uncle looked upon it all incredulously. From Connecticut to California it must have been like landing on the moon. Main Beach is to Laguna Beach what “The Town Green” is to New England. In Laguna, a well-tended lifeguard tower stood in lieu of a white gazebo. And sand and surf where there was usually a lawn. Main Beach bustled with people, tan, fit, and half-clad.

I was seeing all this through my uncle’s eyes.

“Everyone’s in motion, aren’t they?” I asked. He could only nod.

Today our daughter lives across from Bird Park in San Diego. Bird Park is a part of Balboa Park, the famed legacy of Kate Sessions. Balboa Park may be to San Diego what Central Park is to New York City.

There is something so timeless about this scene from our daughter’s front door: a child and a swing, families picnicking. Strollers, bikes, rollerblades, scooters. Stretching routines and soccer practice.

Constructed in the shape of an enormous bird, Pershing Drive is the “branch” on which the “bird” stands. Employing native plantings to attract local birds, Bird Park is the brainchild of San Diego artists Robin Brailsford and Wick Alexander.

I raised my children not far from here in this climate when they were very young. Out every day, all day, is how I remember our time together. We were card-carrying members, regulars at The Wild Animal Park, now Safari Park. Strolling The Kilimanjaro Trail, lunching at picnic tables, napping in a double stroller while still moving.

A short jog off The Kilimanjaro Trial, we liked to cut through an Australian Rain Forest exhibit for the girls were fond of wallaby’s and kookaburras—as amused by the names as much as the animals. For me it was the vegetation, a green respite from the dry brown heat of the African-based trail. In the shelter of the rain forest I pointed out bronze signs in braille to two little girls who were learning to read English at the time. Their fingers running over and over the raised dots in each sign.

Sometimes you are all of one place. The climate became us. The park, wildlife, and horticulture, became us. I could see my daughters in khaki uniforms one day working summer jobs there. But then we moved. How did we ever move to the desert when San Diego was desert enough? I ask myself this now.

I live on an island now, and I have become it. I hear from friends that the bulbs are pushing up, and I must return.

Life moves in mysterious ways. Sometimes in circles, sometimes in avian shapes. But never in a straight line.

 

Perching birds of San Diego, in no particular order: Black-chinned sparrow, California towhee, Common yellowthroat, Horned lark, Western wood-peewee, Vermilion flycatcher, Western bluebird, Barn swallow, Blue grosbeak, Yellow warbler, Savannah sparrow, Loggerhead shrike, Northern rough-winged swallow, Red-breasted nuthatch, Rufous-crowned sparrow, Gray vireo, Marsh wren, Fox sparrow, California thrasher, Lark sparrow, Black phoebe, Tree swallow, Dusky flycatcher, Sage sparrow, LeConte’s thrasher, Lawrence’s goldfinch, California gnatcatcher, Tricolored blackbird, Say’s Phoebe, Wrentit, Bell’s vireo, Yellow-breasted chat, Red-winged blackbird, Lucy’s warbler, Chipping sparrow, Western tanager, Spotted towhee, Dark-eyed junco, Hooded oriole, Song sparrow, Brown-headed cowbird, Rock wren, Olive-sided flycatcher, Yellow-rumped warbler, Black-tailed gnatcatcher, Bushtit, Verdin, American robin, Lesser goldfinch, Green-tailed towhee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western kingbird, Violet-green swallow, Cassin’s kingbird, Black-throated sparrow, Phainopepha, Cactus wren, Purple finch, Scrub jay, Bullock’s oriole, Grasshopper sparrow,  Scott’s oriole, American goldfinch, Purple martin, Pacific-slope flycatcher, Lazuli bunting, Western meadowlark, Ash-throated flycatcher, Great-tailed crackle, Blue-grey gnatcatcher, Orange-crowned warbler, Brewer’s blackbird, Willow flycatcher, White-breasted nuthatch, Hutton’s vireo, Canyon wren, Crissal thrasher, Steller’s jay, Plain titmouse, Northern mockingbird, Bewick’s wren, Warbling vireo, Pygmy nuthatch, Bendire’s thrasher, Warbling vireo, Pygmy nuthatch, Bendire’s thrasher, American crow, Brown creeper, Mountain chickadee, and Common raven

 

 

 

 

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The Power of Art

starry-night-by-van-gogh1We left Seattle in torrents of rain and darkness and stepped into sunny Laguna Beach for a few days this week. Our good friends opened their arms and opened their door, and throughout our stay I saw their home as an art gallery—for they live with it every day, all this local, live, and original art.

In a word, the impression it made was life-changing, a feast for the eyes.

Walk into town in Laguna and everything is about the arts, from what you hang on your walls to what you drape on your body. Walk Heisler Park overlooking the ocean and the smell of oil paints is intoxicating. From sun up to sun down for three glorious days in Laguna Beach, I submerged myself in the visual arts. I saw paintings in the landscape, the sky, and the water.

My understanding is that the town of Laguna Beach was practically founded by artists who selected it as the perfect spot along the Southern California coastline in which to set up their easels. Where the hills meet the sea and the sea circles in with southern facing coves, and a Mediterranean climate blankets all.

I am trying to carry that mind set home with me. I am talking about Art. What others find a luxury or frivolous, I find essential. I think it may be for us all, though many don’t know it. And that, in fact, may be what is wrong with this country.

For I know this: if everyone were involved in the arts, either in a creating or enjoying capacity, the world would be a better place.

We can do this. Think of the miles of corridors and acres of waiting rooms in all our institutions and offices, and what is on the walls but framed printed reproductions. Over and over again, the same prints. I think we’ve gone numb to art in this country.

Have we forgotten that there are artists out there? Think of the number of art students alone. All the original art being made with hardly any hope of selling. Have we forgotten the power of art and how it can save us? American abstract painter Darby Bannard said it well, “The power of art is not in communication but effect; what it does, not what it relates.”

Just as a writer sees and hears with words, one who takes up photography starts to see photographically. Sculpt, and become extraordinarily sensitive to texture and form. Spend an afternoon in art galleries, and walk back out into a world that is suddenly as rich an oil painting. On and on, art saves us from our worst selves by putting life on a higher plain.

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