A few days ago, while in New York, I went to an IMAX at the Natural History museum that simulated the world in prehistoric times. As the cameras allowed the audience to "fly" over the landscape, I began imagining how the creatures of that time would react to the landscape of today; ravaged forests, concretized fields, flashing lights and strip malls crammed as densely as possible into what was once beloved wilderness.
Don't worry. This isn't yet another call to turn the clock back and pretend progress is an evil force.
But it is a cry to question the insidious -- and insistent -- encroachment that happens one square mile at a time in our own communities, often with us locals doing little to take a stand.
I have lived in Malibu, California for over thirty years. Coming from the Midwest, it still feels strange to say that. I'm not a "hip Californian"; I'm proud of my Midwestern roots, and still feel deeply nourished when I go home.
But I love my adopted town. Despite what you may read in the press, Malibu is actually a very close-knit community of people who care deeply about the extraordinary environment that we feel privileged to live in and protect.
When I arrived back from my travels -- a fast-paced tour of 3 cities, 9 parenting presentations in 10 days -- I was weary, and very happy to breathe the air of my adopted home town. I opened the local paper as I settled in, and discovered that our cherished Malibu Trancas Garden Center, one of the very last vestiges of true local color and mom and pop ownership, had been given a 30 day eviction notice.
For those of you reading this from afar, it may mean little to you that us poor Malibuites might be losing our Garden Center. But this place represents Malibu to those of us who moved here long before the high-end retail shops took over because the rents became prohibitive to locals who had operated here for years.
The Garden Center is a sprawling, messy, homey place for children, chickens, bunnies, conversation, potlucks, wedding, and of course flowers. We wander in with our kids and our grandparents, just to sit on a bench, watch the fish in the pond, chat with Shelby or Debbie, and breathe the air. Local kids have grown up volunteering here; people come every day to buy fresh eggs.
It's not a hip, sanitized Chelsea Market'ish faux farm place. It's the real deal. And now that there is "progress" coming to the adjacent land it inhabits, our Trancas Garden Center has been given 30 days to leave.
I'm not a political activist. I don't usually join protests. I'm a peaceful, low-key kinda gal. But this news sparked something in me, perhaps jolted me out of complacency, especially as I remembered the pristine way our planet looked when it was first offered to us.
I ran into a friend last night at the beach who shared my feelings, and told me about how other locals had similar views. I set up a Facebook page to help locals take a stand, and we're planning a meeting to figure out what we can do in our own small way to "Just Say No" to the demise of the Mom and Pops that matter so much to those of us who call a place our home.
Seeing the earth as it must have looked millions of years ago reminded me that we are but visitors here, guests allowed to briefly inhabit and enjoy this magnificent planet. I'm inspired to do a little, maybe a lot, to voice my concerns, and to do what I can locally to preserve the little pockets of beauty that matter so much. I hope you'll do the same.