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It’s all right here

by Steve Harrison

Like many of you, my husband and I go for a walk as many mornings as we can. With the pandemic and safer-at-home regulations, it’s became even more important to get outside and breathe. We are so lucky in Claremont to be surrounded by natural beauty and the majesty of Baldy, Cucamonga, and Ontario Peaks crowning the town. We aren’t very creative in our route, we do basically the same short loop every morning.

We’ve gotten to know Frank and David, who keep the trees trimmed and sidewalks clean. We are on a nodding familiarity with many neighbors as they leave for work or take their morning constitution. Clouds, birds, and bees enliven our views, as do the cars racing up past us on Mount Baldy Road, especially after a snowfall.

At heart I’m a collector: paintings, friendships, recipes, books, and knick-knacks enhance my life and my world. It took me a long time to think of myself as a collector. I’ve known some great ones. John, the husband, collects historical photographs and has over 10,000 crammed into his study, providing the base for three scholarly books on men and masculinity. A former teacher friend had hundreds of Limoges boxes.

My friend Randy started with inkwells, has hundreds of brass candlesticks, a wall of religious icons, and numerous archeological and geological novelties. Rufina in La Verne has a wall of crosses and a nest of feathers. We have associates who have had numerous jobs collected out of choice and necessity— their resumes read like itineraries, a history of their lives. My painter friends collect many images, the base for future paintings, and many art lovers collect their creative interpretations.

On my walks I’m particularly drawn to acorns and pinecones. I’m struck by how both can be these perfectly formed natural icons. Both hold the DNA of noble, California trees. It’s a good reminder now as our town with its significant urban forest has taken a hit. It will be years, if not decades, before the holes from our grand trees’ absence will be filled. Yet, it is nature’s way. When I bemoaned the death of a small tree in our yard to a friend, her response was, “Well, they’re not all redwoods.” Point taken.

In our yard we have one tree that I loved. It came up from an acorn, dropped, I imagine, from a bird’s beak. The oak was multi-trunked and provided a wonderful shield from the neighbor’s house. More than one landscaper commented on how great it was and remarked how lucky we were to have had it come up naturally and for free. We lost it in the windstorm last week. There is something about the majesty of trees. I wish I had planted more when we moved here 20 years ago. Now on our walks I pick up many an acorn and throw them on our slopes hoping they will take root.

We are all surrounded by nature’s beautiful objects, free for the picking, if we just take a moment and look. Maybe that is what is good about a routine route for the walk. After I clear my mind, breathe in the air, nod to fellow residents, I can look at the little things that I could easily just pass by. My collecting brings peace, it helps center me in my world, just like a yoga class or breathing exercises. The trick is to stop and look around. I hope as we get back to “normal” that we won’t forget to observe the beauty around us. Claremont has an abundance to behold; and though we mourn what’s lost, there is still so much here.

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