Letter From L.A.

The Beach View

By Joseph Wakelee-Lynch
Photo by Jon Rou

At LMU, geography is gift: beach, ocean and mountains are all nearby. From the Del Rey bluffs, the views of them are spectacular. But the greatest view may be the view of the possibilities, some of which extend our geography.

 

At LMU, geography is gift: beach, ocean and mountains are all nearby. From the Del Rey bluffs, the views of them are spectacular. But the greatest view may be the view of the possibilities, some of which extend our geography.

In a neighborhood of Los Angeles, Sam Rodia, a solitary Italian immigrant, who suffered the death of a daughter and lived with searing regrets, gave more than three decades of his life to assembling and building a monument, the Watts Towers. The product of his labor is made of hard, physical things like steel rods, cement and glass. But what vision filled his imagination? Did he see something that would take 34 years to finish? Or was he driven by tomorrow’s task? Rodia’s handiwork now is a symbol of a city. When students or others go there, they may see that possibility, in the form of vision, is a force.

Earlier this summer, an LMU theology class rode by train to Arizona and New Mexico to study the encounter of Christianity and Native American spirituality in the Southwest. The focus was on the early contact between the two cultures, which led to both beauty and pain. Yet the students’ visit also was a first contact. We see the results of our forebears’ encounters, but the results of ours are possibilities. The history of contact is still being written.

This is how the city and the desert become LMU’s geography. But always nearby is the Pacific beach. Unlike the Atlantic beach, where we glance back at the “old” world, the Pacific beach seems always at the edge of things new. From the bluffs, the view is often hazy and indistinct. In late afternoon, the sun often sets in a blaze of radiant light so bright that it blinds the eye and obscures the beach, ocean and horizon. Yet, the eye can’t resist looking, then glancing away, then looking again. From here, the beach is where the far-off horizon begins, along with the dreams that take us there.

Joseph Wakelee-Lynch is editor LMU Magazine. He is also host of “Off Press,” the podcast of LMU Magazine. You can find other writings of his at his Editor’s Blog. Follow him on Twitter @jwlmageditor.

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