Visit to Los Angeles

While camping near Acton, California, I took the train to Los Angeles Union Station and then transferred to one of the subway lines to some sights in LA.  The train ride was just under 2 hours long and the round trip cost only $9.50 – much less than it would have cost for gas plus the headache of finding and paying for parking.
When I arrived at Union Station, I headed to the restroom. It was easy to find since the women’s line stretched far down a hallway while the men popped in and out of theirs.  The restroom, in spite of its heavy use, was clean, well maintained and had classical music playing in the background.  And the line, as long as it was, didn’t take too long to allow people to arrive at the destination.
Some policemen helped me locate the subway line I wanted, one of many lines the subway had.  To ride the subway I needed a “TAP” card and was standing before the kiosk to purchase one when a young lady gave me hers saying she was leaving the city and didn’t need it.  All I had to do was load it.  What an unexpected blessing!
As a senior, the subway ticket price was $0.35 – what a bargain!  The whole transportation system impressed me.  Both the Metrolink train and the subway were clean and reasonably comfortable – no graffiti anywhere.  I found the air a little off on the train but that was the only minor discomfort.
From the Metrolink train I took passage on the Red line that went to the Hollywood area of the city.  The stops were quite distant from one another, much further than the stops on the Toronto system.  The train didn’t stop for long at each one, but since the stops were clearly announced before getting to them, people were able to board and exit efficiently.
Quite a few people were wearing masks, perhaps as a protection against the virus that threatens to become a pandemic.  I found this a little disconcerting and wondered if I should have brought my mask as well.  I haven’t been in such a large crowd for a long time.
From what I saw in my one day adventure, LA had everything from dilapidated hobbles to multi-million dollar homes.  There were several people who appeared to be homeless but none were panhandling.
As expected there was an abundance of touristy sites eager to lessen the load of my wallet.  So many hawkers offered “deals” on admission prices that I expect very few would have had to pay the stated door prices.  I opted to gawk and explore since there was so much to experience.  I meandered sidewalks embedded with the names and stars of the “stars”, watched live movie and television sets being set up and filmed and found more than one path dead ended by film crews that had commandeered the sidewalk/street.
Spanish/English speaking street vendors sold cartons of fruit, roasted meats and other delicacies which reminded me of my life in Ecuador.  Mixed in with the milling tourists, costumed characters abounded – Wonder Woman,  Batman, Iron Man, Cat Woman, Mickey Mouse, Spiderman and more.  Each offered tourists the opportunity to take a picture with them for a price.  One fellow who looked very much like Michael Jackson stood as still as a statue until someone paid him to dance.  He was good!
Even though I had a map and tried to keep some landmarks in mind, I did add a few extra blocks of walking while finding my way back to a subway entrance.  I had to walk on a sidewalk on a curtained off street to get to it. The curtains billowed like sails on a pirate ship and descending into the subway felt like going into the hold of the ship. After a day of walking and gawking I was glad to get back on the subway and take a seat.  It was far more crowded than it was in the morning.
Once I got back to Union Station, I found the line to the women’s restroom didn’t extend quite as far down the hallway as it did in the morning.  My timing was great.  The Metrolink train arrived soon after I found the correct platform and I was soon back to my peaceful camp for another night under the stars.  Stars that outlived and outshone the ones displayed on LA’s Walk of Fame sidewalks.

Lessons from an Old Tree

Some sights put a perspective on life.  This Cottonwood tree at Soledad RV park provided shade and shelter while Christ walked the earth.  After a glorious life of service, all that remains is this crumbling, insect sanctuary.  Even in its decay, it finds purpose.

A long-time worker at the park told me limbs cut high off the main trunk were 2 ½ feet in diameter.   She didn’t tell me how tall the tree was before it finally succumbed to weather and insect invasion, but she showed me a picture of men standing on the remains of gigantic, limbed branches several stores above the ground.

One weather-grayed, dried log sits not far from the stump.  It quite possibly was once part of the towering tree and is now being used as a base for a work bench.  In times past, it had a lofty, swaying home that stretched with life into the sky.  Now it sits immoveable on the damp ground, a humble servant not given much thought or consideration except for its utility of service.

The tree, even in its death and dismemberment, speaks loudy: a visual reminder of the passage of time and life’s purpose.

Long after the tree grew and graced the sky, long after it was domicile to countless generations of song birds, long after deer nestled securely under its sheltering boughs, but before the tree was destroyed by time and insects, the rangers considered making a hobbit home of the trunk’s base.  But that was not to be the tree’s destiny.  Men plan, God winks.  So now these humble remains of a once proud giant shelter and house burrowing insects.

As I ponder the sight, I sense that service and purpose is not always found in the heights of metaphorical swaying treetops but also in the dirt and mud of the invisibly mundane. Intellectually I reflect that none is to be counted more valuable; none discounted or disdained if God deems it so. Yet, as I look to the sky, I admit to preferring the tree top experience over one found in decaying debris like that beneath my feet.  I realize I still have much to learn about submission.  I’m thankful His grace will be sufficient to overcome my inadequacy. I have the gift of not knowing the future, but the larger gift of knowing the one who controls it.

There were several other trees and remains of trees nearby that have or had similar diameters, but I don’t think they are or were quite as large as what the submissive tree once was.  I tried counting growth rings on a stump that was close to four feet in diameter.  It had to be centuries old, but the growth rings were too difficult to clearly decipher on the grayed, weathered stump.  The lack of distinction of its fading lines reminded me that my lifetime on this sphere is truly but a fleeting moment in time.

I find both instruction and solace in these lessons. Despite the aches and pains that accompany this graying head and increasingly wrinkled envelop, I can count on divine direction and perfect purpose.  Of course, I am weak and hope for a calling to continued comfort.  But whether it be soaring heights or invisible allotment, my prayer is to be faithful to His call, humble in His service, and until it’s time to cast off this shell for consumption by the red wrigglers burrowing below my feet, with His help to find joy in whatever purpose I am called.

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