Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday on the Freeways

I'm waiting for Emily and Christian to arrive to pick me up to spend the day together. Christian has prepared me for traffic and speed on the freeways today being really crazy. I am bringing my knitting to distract me, willing to sacrifice ohhing and ahhing at more California exotica in order to preserve my mental health.

Our first full day in Cali we headed north to Azusa to Christian's apartment. He arranged a tour of the beautiful campus of Azusa Pacific University with a friend whose job it was to give tours to prospective students and their parents. It was a GREAT tour! ( Thank you Douglas Clay McCoy!) Douglas is a Californian and probably wondered why I was so frequently exclaiming over the trees and plants. He'd point out an original building to the campus...and I was impressed not by it's history but by the incredible bougainvilleas climbing up posts and stretching and dripping along the buildings edges in hot pink and oranges. The campus is like a giant botanical garden. Plants we singly place in pots and baby on a window sill at home grow is wild "patches". And this is the time of year when the locals are apologetic for how scrubby the vegetation looks!
The mountains literally begin at the edge of campus and students climb them. There are trails to hike and I learned through Google research that Azusa is called the Canyon City. I also learned that not too far from my baby boy's apartment is a place called "Rattlesnake Gulch" now when Christian tells me he's going for a hike I will worry about rattlesnakes on the path...and then there are the cougars up in the canyon...(the reason the APU teams are called "cougars"? You be the judge!) And the coyotes he's seen on the golf course right outside his front door.

I loved the campus.It is full of wonderful surprises. You turn a corner and look to the top of a several storey building to find in big letters at the top "God First", or an ivy choked wall in which a beautifully, but simply carved wooden door sits. Douglas told us that students post things on the door...opinions and thoughts and then other students respond on the door. Reminds me of Luther and nailing HIS thoughts on that church door in Germany.
Here and there around the campus are pieces of sculpture done by students. WONDERFUL pieces that delight you. AND....stained glass sky lites and hallways filled with art installations. Little architectural and artistic "surprises" to delight everywhere. I liked the long, broad stairway flowing from an outdoor courtyard, the edges of each step edged in a different colored tile; colors descending in rainbow order. I loved the prayer garden with a small "wailing wall" where students write prayers on paper and insert their prayers in the cracks of the wall just as in Jerusalem. Douglas told us that it was contributed by a benefactor who was felt so strongly about it and passed away the day after it was dedicated.
I was stunned to discover that Azusa has five fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls THE Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as other noteworthy scriptural artifacts.
All in all, I was pretty blown away, not only by what I could SEE, but what I HEARD about the programs and the integrity of the University. The growth seen all over campus and in the surrounding community they touch. I especially loved the new, state of the art Science building. Etched on the outside Glass walls facing the streets bordering the campus are words from the Book of Genesis, lest anyone passing forget WHO created science and all it's elements.

Several times during our visit this time I have found a confusing thing the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood and at APU. We enter a door INTO a building only to quickly find that there is no ROOF save the beautiful blue sky above our head. Walls with no roof. I do not think this building concept would work in Michigan, but for here, it's magic. It would be a painful thing to waste time being IN a building when outside is perfect light and temperature and no bugs and lush plantings and fountains. So much of California seems to be one big, beautiful courtyard.

It is a great convenience that APU also has an excellent Masters program in College Counselling and Student Development because once Christian visited the campus there was no question of his becoming a Cougar. And I so totally understand this. I think I would like to be a cougar, too and live in this wonderful place.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"We're Not In Kansas Anymore, Toto!"

It is Day 3 of our stay in So. California and I am getting reacquainted with my frustration that words and photos are inadequate to convey the essence of this place...though I am unable to stop trying. On our southbound route to church services this morning( A Presbyterian congregation meeting in a Jewish synagogue in Newport Beach!?!),Carmen Garmin, our GPS instructed us to get into the left lane and "make a U-turn when able". As we complied we looked up to see the San Gabriel Mountains covered with snow against a sky of Impressionist purpley blue in the distance. It was a breathtaking surprise. It was so beautiful we all gasped.

There's been alot of that going on. Saturday was a day of whip lashing from a contemplative and unexpectedly sentimental stroll through Yorba Linda's beautiful Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace, to touring the impressive campus of Azusa Pacific University literally at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains and finally to a totally surrealistic pilgrimage to downtown Hollywood after hours. At the end of the day I felt as though I was some sort of stroke victim whose vocabulary had suddenly dwindled to one word used over and over again..."wow!"

To the heavenly,exotically spicy smell of humongous California Pepper trees with their convoluted branches and clusters of cream and pink berries or to wondering WHAT smells so good and realizing you are standing next to a row of eucalyptus.
To city streets lined with towering palm trees or glossy leaved trees trimmed in the shapes of perfect, deciduous gumdrops as far as your eye can see ahead.
To the man selling sequined gloves out of a brown paper bag ten feet from where "Michael Jackson" and "Prince" stand talking to gaggles of teeny bopper girls (what the heck are THEIR parents thinking of???)
To Szechuan Green Beans and Crackerjack Shrimp at Hollywood's Ghenghis Cohen's
To wondering what homeowners do with the hundreds and hundreds of plump oranges and grapefruit hanging from the trees in their landscaped front yards?
To realizing as Christian's passengers on the freeways of So. Cal. that if he needs to find a new way to make a living he is probably qualified to consider NASCAR racing.
To a bird, with a tail twice as long as it's body sitting in a bush at Del Taco.
To small trees bursting with kumquats previously seen only in a little basket in the "exotic fruits" section at Meijer.

Everything here seems different. The light is brighter, different. The trees and plants are exotic; greener greens with flowers of such technicolor bright colors it seems they can't be real. The air has a spicy smell and all these things seem to draw people out of doors. Perfect temperatures, no bugs...I think it makes for the uncontrollable draw to be outside here. People hate to be separated from the Eden outside. The chapel we worshipped in this morning had outer walls of floor to ceiling glass panels giving the sense that we were all worshipping in the garden. And what can you say about snow capped mountains? Oceans? The fascinating architecture. You know the movie, "The Wizard Of Oz"? The movie begins in black and white until Dorothy's tornado spun and flung house lands with a thud in Oz...and Dorothy looks out the bedroom window and everything is suddenly in COLOR! That's what California is to me. WOW!!!