I n my twenties I lived in the Pasadena, California in the Los Angeles basin while I was in college and a short time after. I first arrived there after a flight from my rather rural upbringing in West Virginia. I was wide-eyed and instantly fell in love with the beauty, weather, and energy that was possessed by the Los Angeles area. No other city could have been more different from what I ever known previously in my life. I recall the very first thing that caught my attention — that being an incredibly tall palm tree gently waving in the breezy southern California sun.
I was fascinated with so many things about the Los Angeles, such as the lush plant and tree growth, majestic mountains, beautiful ocean, and most of which, the incredible mediterranean and art deco architecture that is found so predominantly there. Not to mention the cultural and artistic opportunities to absorb into my mind. Even the earthquakes, including the 5.9 magnitude quake of Whittier – a few miles north of Pasadena and the 4.9 magnitude earthquake of 1988 with its epicenter located directly under Pasadena, fascinated me more than they did concern me.
Regardless of how beautiful and fascinating Los Angeles was to me, there were times that I had to get back to my roots and run away from the never-ending-motion of the city. Often, I would drive high into the Angeles National Forest area of the San Gabriel mountains eventually arriving atop Mount Wilson. The only thing more magical to me than the Los Angeles area at that time was the view of the Los Angeles area from atop Mount Wilson. High above Pasadena, Mount Wilson watches over the entire Los Angeles area — above the clouds, above the noise, and even above the smog.
Mount Wilson is home to the Mount Wilson observatory, known as the astronomical center of Southern California. I’d park at the observatory and then by foot follow a long dirt path down the stop of the mountain to a very special spot. I know others may be aware and even visit this spot, but in my mind, this spot was my rock. The rock protrudes from the side of the mountain out over the city giving an absolutely perfect vantage point of the entire metropolitan area. It was also just big enough to fit comfortably two seated people. I would sit on the rock and stare at the magnificent sight – usually around sunset and into nightfall.
From that height, you can easily see the notorious Los Angeles freeways, but you can’t see the traffic. You can see the heat rising from the city’s floor, but you can’t hear any of the city’s noise. And often times there were days that, from the city, you couldn’t see the San Gabriel’s at all due to the smog, but even on the smoggiest of days the city looked beautiful from the rock.
The rock was a spiritual place for me. It was impossible for me to be there for any length of time and quickly fall into such calming and healing meditation. From the rock I could look out over the city I loved, yet turn around and see forest and nature — those things I had to leave behind in West Virginia. It was a place of balancing. I literally had both that I loved — an energetic and beautiful city as well as the rugged beauty of nature and no noise to speak of. It was so silent on my rock that I could often hear my own mind turn, or so it seemed.
On that rock I cried tears of joy, I cried tears of pain. On that rock I meditated, and I also emptied my mind. On that rock I laughed, and I also pleaded. On that rock I reminisced about my past, and plotted my future. On that rock I have loved and I have hated. On that rock I was me. On that rock I was really me.
The first person I chose to share the rock with was my mother who flew to California to visit me. This, too, was her first time in California as well as a city this big. I couldn’t imagine anyone else better to share this with than my Mother. Afterall, she is the most influential person in my life and taught me how to rise above and see the sky. I drove to the top of the mountain and we began the easy hike down the trail to the rock. Once we arrived, I jumped off of the small ledge down to the top of the rock about 3 feet below. I turned around to help her down to join me and instead of a face of excitement, I saw a face of dread, no, terror. I was able to coax her down after some time, but it was a bit short-lived as she just wasn’t comfortable. She and I climbed up off of the rock and focused our watch on the beauty below. It wasn’t until sometime later that I learned from her that she wasn’t scared for herself on that rock — she was scared for me. That’s my mother — more concerned for her children (even as adults like I was at that time) than she is herself. Despite the fear issue, the visit to the rock was a most wonderful moment that I have never forgotten. She being there with me made the rock even more magical and special to me.
Eventually I left Los Angeles for other opportunities, and despite my deep love for the city, I strangely wouldn’t return for nearly 20 years. Through the years I would take my mind back to the rock in hopes I can feel some of the mind and heart calming it so generously gave to me. I knew that one day I would have another special person to take to the rock. That day finally came when I had the opportunity to go to Los Angeles and Las Vegas with my partner, Jim. Within only a few hours of arriving in Los Angeles, we drove to Pasadena, checked into the hotel, and made the drive up Angeles Crest Highway to Mount Wilson. We arrived just before sunset and while he was hesitant to make that small jump down onto the rock — just as my Mom was so many years ago — he did. The view was breathtaking and as the sun began to set, it became even more spectacular. Much was said on the rock, much was unsaid. It was just … perfect and a feeling of completeness overcame me.