One of the most paradisaical places in Southern California is the Los Angeles Arboretum, and most specifically—particularly in years when the artesian wells in the area are flowing—Baldwin Lake and “Baldwin’s Belvedere,” the Queen Anne-style cottage and its grounds on the shore of the lake.
Where the Arboretum now sits used to be called Aleupkigna by the Gabrielino Indians who occupied the site. Then, in 1875, Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin purchased the land and turned it into his estate.
Lucky Baldwin’s “Belvedere,” a Queen Anne Cottage on the Shore of the Lake
As soon as the coronavirus quarantine begins to fade away, Martine and I would like to spend a leisurely day there feeding the geese and ducks (which we’re not supposed to do, but you tell Martine that).
The Gabrielino Indians who lived here are pretty much scattered to the four winds, except they gather together at times to remember what they lost. The tribe has no reservation and is not recognized by some government authorities. One of their main sites is within walking distance of me: Kuruvungna Springs, also called Gabrielino Springs, is on the grounds of University High School at Barrington and Goshen in West Los Angeles. Every year, they have a low-key powwow at the Springs around Columbus Day.
Yesterday Martine asked me if we could drive to the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia. I was reluctant at first, as it is an hour drive at high speed over several freeways, but I was delighted that Martine actually wanted to go somewhere that was interesting to her. And the botanical gardens of Southern California are favorite destinations for her. She is shown here siting on her tripod cane chair, wearing one of my old guayaberas and a Mexican straw hat, looking at the ducks and geese plying Baldwin Lake.
We would up staying over four hours, much of it with the geese and ducks.
A Mother’s Day Portrait of Mom with Ducklings
Most of the time was spent around the lake and its various inlets. Having seen all the signs about warning not to feed the birds and wild animals, Martine felt she had to explain to the geese why she didn’t bring any food for them. They did not seem to be very put out by the lack of bread crumbs because they were so busy rooting around in the grass for the insects and plants that form much of their diet. Still, it was interesting that she felt so bad about not being able to feed them herself.
The View Across Baldwin Lake at the Queen Anne Cottage
Because we have had a wet winter, Baldwin Lake no longer looked like a large mudhole. It was covered with millions of tiny leaves that had fallen from the surrounding trees (you can see them in the middle photo above).
When she is at a botanical garden, there is no trace of the depression that marred so much of her life in the last year and a half. She no longer wants to escape to another city: She can’t because she has spent her savings on previous abortive trips. Instead, she is taking long walks in our neighborhood, which, probably, is good for her.
Today I took Martine to the Los Angeles Arboretum. There we ate at the Peacock Café, where various peacock moochers attempted to cadge some treats from us. Martine was good (the Arboretum doesn’t want visitors to feed their wildlife), but I couldn’t help leaving a few crumbs of bread on the side of the table, which were voraciously accepted.
Martine and I are going through a difficult period. She still wants to leave Los Angeles. Not being married, I could not stop her. All I could do is keep the welcome mat out for her at all times. If she left, she would probably go back to Sacramento, where pretty much the only people she knows are in the cemetery. I feel sometimes as if I were treading barefoot on broken glass. Still, the way things are, I prefer being with her than without her. We have been together for almost thirty years, and I like being with her, even during difficult times.
Martine at the L.A. Arboretum
No, I am not interested in looking for someone else at this point so that I can celebrate Martine’s attempts to live alone without friends or funds. Some people are difficult, but if they are at the same time gentle and kind, they are worth their weight in gold.
Afterwards, we went to the China Islamic Restaurant in Rosemead, where I ordered lamb chow mein with fresh dough-cut noodles and sesame green onion bread.
The California drought of 2014—the worst recorded in the State’s history—was brought home quite suddenly to Martine and me when we visited the Los Angeles Arboretum today. Baldwin Lake, which in normal years looks so beautiful (see photo below) is now a giant mudhole. Typically, the lake is fed from runoff from current rainfall, of which, for iall intents and purposes, there has been none this year.
Migrating ducks and geese still made it a stopover, and Martine was ready for them with some day-old bread. But the fish in the lake looked as if they were gasping for breath. It was heartbreaking.
Baldwin Lake in Better Times
We still had a good time at the Arboretum. The Canada Geese were actually not too proud to accept Martine’s bread, The mallards and squirrels also came up to her for handouts.
I am hoping that our drought will eventually come to an end. I would hate to think that Los Angeles would become like Chile’s awful Atacama Desert, where there is almost no measurable rain over an entire century.