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Brown’s Park in Laguna Beach

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This is Brown’s Park in downtown North Laguna Beach. It is an enchanting oasis tucked somewhere between Wyland Galleries and The Cliff Restaurant. It is easily missed if you’re not paying attention and a pleasant surprise if you chance upon it unexpectedly. It offers another welcome break from the busy Pacific Coast Highway which is what this lady sitting on the flat-top boulder is doing, I suppose.

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As you enter Brown’s Park, you’ll notice these bronze sculptures of a table, book, and two chairs. Seeing this, you get a sense that there is something special and playful about this place.

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Some of the things I look out for when I go exploring are interesting patterns and textures. So how about this brick wall that borders Brown’s Park? I love everything about it – the distressed colors that complement the foliage perfectly, the playfully peculiar pattern/layout of the bricks, even its juxtaposition with the cross-hatched wooden fence above.

The whimsical character of both this brick wall and the sculptures plus the refreshing, vibrant colors of the surrounding plants give this area, in my opinion, a fairytale-like atmosphere.

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Brown’s Park culminates in a view deck that offers a magnificent view of Main Beach. In my experience, it is never thronged with people so it is a great place to linger awhile and contemplate on life and the universe while you stare at the vastness of the ocean and enjoy the salty sea air.

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The railings of the view deck has two ironworks/stained glass art in the arts and crafts style. The one in the photo above reads: “In this fleeting moment what extravagant respite as booming surf speaks its mystical passage across the undreamed depths.” The other one reads: “In this fleeting moment, what extravagant respite as promethean sunsets blossom, blaze, and secede from splendor to mystery.”

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If you observe close enough, you’ll see graffiti carvings on the top wooden rail – professions of eternal love, proof of mundane existence, or just plain vandalism.

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Equally magical as this seemingly unassuming place is its history. The story goes that a businessman named Charles Bergfeldt bought a 2-storey house on this spot in the 1930s. This house, which the family enjoyed for generations, was destroyed by the El Nino storm that hit the coast in 1998. Instead of rebuilding the house, Joe Brown, its current steward and the grandson of Charles Bergfeldt, decided to donate the land to the city so that it may be transformed into a small public park where anyone can enjoy the ocean views that it offers. What a remarkable story! He could easily have sold the prime seaside property for millions of dollars. Instead, he generously shared it with the public. The park opened in 2002.

A poem by Joe Brown’s father is inscribed on a plaque at the entrance:

“Let me live in a house by the side of the sea,
Where men and women wander by
Where there is beauty and grace and excitement that’s free
On the beach, in the sun let me lie
Let me listen to ocean’s melodious roar
And its rhythm, so soothing to hear
As the foam-covered waves seem to reach for the shore
Under skies that are sunny and clear.”
– Joseph E. Brown

I told Troy this story. He said “I want to do shit like that!”

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Brown’s Park, 551 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

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The Top of the World

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Sometimes, when you wander aimlessly, you end up at the top of the world. Maybe not the best place for an acrophobic like me, but I’m trying to be brave here.

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We’re at Alta Laguna Park, colloquially known as “Top of the World”. Troy and I discovered this place by accident. We were driving along Park Avenue in Laguna Beach, wondering where the road leads, and ended up here. It was a sweet surprise, although the drive up the canyon road was a little bit nerve-racking for me. (I really have to get over my fear of heights. I’m guessing no resident in the area is acrophobic.)

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The park offers an expansive view of the valley on this side and of the ocean on the other side. And even if the valley doesn’t really offer any interesting scenes, it’s still a sight to behold. Have you done any exploring and accidental discoveries this week? If not, what interesting thing did you do this week? I’d love to hear!

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Alta Laguna Park, 3299 Alta Laguna Blvd, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

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The Artist Date and Peppertree Lane

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I’m rereading Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and taking a pledge to incorporate her two tools for creative recovery – the morning pages and artist date – into my daily and weekly rituals.

I’ve been doing morning pages for a while now although, admittedly, not consistently. I plan to change that and make it a part of my morning routine. What I’m really looking forward to is more stream-of-consciousness writing through my morning pages. As for the artist date which Cameron describes as a block of time dedicated to nurturing the creative consciousness, it shall be done, at least 2 hours once every week. It’s going to be fun! It will be my time as well to explore and document my local neighborhoods from a fresh perspective. Cameron wants this activity done in solitude – “just you and your inner artist” – but I will deviate a bit and take Troy with me. It’s going to be ok. He won’t distract me. We can wander and do things while engaged in our own thoughts. I promise, my creative well will still be amply filled.

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So for our first artist date, we headed to Laguna Beach. Our goal was to just walk along the Pacific Coast Highway, starting in North Laguna, and wander through the shops and alleys like a tourist. We weren’t able to go far because, true to word, we really only had 2 hours to spend, and half that time was spent eating lunch at C’est La Vie where the ocean view was refreshing, the service was courteous but painfully slow, and the food wasn’t bad but wasn’t exceptional either. Still, we had a great time and, at the end of the day, our creative pond was well-stocked.

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This is Peppertree Lane, a charming, historic building in North Laguna that houses a small number of shops and restaurants. According to records, the building was constructed around this majestic pepper tree in 1934 and acquired its New Orleans style in 1976. Troy and I lingered for a while here, sitting on one of the benches, soaking up the ambiance, imagining that someone on the second floor is practicing voodoo magic!

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Does anybody else take their inner artist out on dates? What do you do? Do share!

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Peppertree Lane, 450 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

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Somewhere I Have Never Travelled

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
e e cummings

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

Source: Viva by E. E. Cummings (a collection of poems first published in 1931)



This is probably my favorite poem ever! It’s just so intense and romantic! I first encountered it in my college literature class, back in 1991. As an introduction to discussing the poem, my professor played us this song from “Beauty and the Beast”. My heart melted as I got lost in Vincent’s voice!. While listening to the song in class, I tried to hold back tears. I glanced over at my friend and saw that she was crying! I felt better knowing I wasn’t the only sentimental one!


Analysis of the poem:

{somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond any experience}
Cummings starts out by saying he’s gone to a place he’s never been before and he’s happy.

{your eyes have their silence}
Here we see that he uses metaphors and allegories in the poem. We get a hint that this “somewhere” he “has never travelled” is not an actual place but more of a state of being. He’s captivated by her gaze (“your eyes”) which takes him to this quiet, peaceful place where everything else seems to vanish.

{in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which I cannot touch because they are too near}
The phrase “frail gestures” gives us a clue that he is talking to a woman. Now “frail” might be construed as negative but it’s actually a compliment, indicating that the woman is tender and delicate. Here we start to understand that the poem is a love story. Her gaze and delicate gestures are so powerful that he feels “enclosed” by them. Her effect on him is so deep within him – it’s at his very core – that it’s “too near to touch”.

{your slightest look easily will unclose me though I have closed myself as fingers}
He is saying he has guarded himself from love. Maybe he has been hurt before. But he freely lets his defenses down for her, baring himself completely with just the “slightest look”.

{you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens, (touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose}
He compares himself to a rose and she to nature. Just as a rose bud blooms in the spring, so does the woman have the power to open him up and breathe life into his soul.

{or if your wish be to close me, I and my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly}
Even though he willingly opens himself up to her, he will just as easily and readily draw himself away from her, if she so wishes.

{as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending}
Again, he compares himself to a rose, now facing its imminent death in the winter – a death that is not tragic but beautiful since the flower will bloom again in the spring. He describes her power over his life and his death – which, like the rose’s and if she so chooses, will not be a tragedy but a glorious celebration just the same as life.

{nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility}
He points out that her feminine ways are so powerful that they go beyond what we know and understand – they transcend the physical world.

{whose texture compels me with the color of its countries}
He compares her traits and characteristics to countries – countries in the woman’s ethereal world, and he is enthralled by them.

{rendering death and forever with each breathing}
Here, he re-emphasizes her power over his life and his death.

{I do not know what it is about you that closes and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses}

He can’t quite tell why she has so much power over him, although deep inside him, he understands – and that is enough for him.

{nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands}
So far in the poem, Cummings has been comparing the woman to nature but in this last line, he goes as far as saying that she is more powerful than nature. He is describing the rain as having small hands because a raindrop can go through even the minutest of opening in the soil to get to the seed which it enables to grow and open up. And he is saying that the woman has a much deeper effect than that of rain. (This is actually my favorite line in the poem. So romantic!)



Cummings first published this poem in 1931 when he was married to his second wife, Anne Barton. We may conjecture that he wrote this poem for her. His first marriage, to Elaine Orr, began as a long affair while Elaine was still married to one of Cummings’s friends. They were only married for two months when Elaine left him for another man, taking their 4-year old daughter with her. The court gave Cummings custody of their daughter for three months in each year but Elaine didn’t acknowledge this. He didn’t see his daughter until 22 years later. Hence he wrote “I have closed myself as fingers.” Unfortunately, his second marriage did not last long either. Cummings and Barton separated only after three years. (Posted September 28, 2010)




I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me your comments here.