Bloom Where You are Planted By Gabby Friedenthal

She is riding what that looks like an extra large, souped-up golf cart. Not fancy, just big. She swerves up on the tree laden path that Matt, my 7 year old, and I are walking on. We are on our way back from Laperts’ Ice Cream Parlor, licking our triple chocolate brownie ice-cream cones with fudge topping. Her dog, a Westie, is calmly sitting by her side, obviously used to this wild and crazy 60 year old lady’s romps in her funky vehicle. “Best thing I ever bought!” she announces out loud. “I just ride it all around here in Paradise – Me and Dixie, that is.” Matt , taking her friendly lead says “I’m Matthew and I’m seven and my brother, he’s older, he’s Adam, and he is ten. He is with my Dad learning to surf so I got to get ice cream. Me and Adam both learn in Spanish and we live in Culver City which is near Hollywood. ” Not Hawaii, not Kauai, the island we are currently visiting, not this so called Paradise, but Culver City. “Used to live in LA” the lady snorts. “You couldn’t get me back there with a ten foot pole! The thought of it makes me shudder. Why would I ever leave here and go back to that concrete jungle? I mean just look around you. Who would leave this Garden of Eden?”
It’s true. We are staying in what appears to be Paradise. Kauai, also known as the Garden Island is one of Hawaii’s four main islands. It has been rated the second most beautiful place on earth, the first being the Galapagos Islands. Words cannot justify the elements here. Whoever God may be, he or she took a paint brush to this place and created a palate of green I never knew existed. This plethora of green flora is neatly accentuated by vibrant reds, burnt oranges, deep purples, bright yellows – and most all the other wowing colors the human eye loves to look upon. The ocean, it’s true, is crystal clear and the spectrum of blues range from dark and deep to shiny aqua to the lightest of baby boy mediums. And the fish? Wow! Designers from around the world must have snorkeled here before racing home to create blueprints for fashions’ finest.
It’s very still here in Kauai. Target is not the neighborhood hangout. They don’t even have a Starbucks on the North Shore of the Island, where we are staying. There’s no freeway. And it’s quiet. Very, very quiet.
It’s a few days after our arrival and things have slowed down enough so that I can more clearly hear the musings of my busy mind. As this stranger rants about how she can’t take how spread out LA is and how congested it is and how poor the air quality is and how too many people have fake boobs, that old nagging doubt I had neatly tucked away comes not creeping, but leaping right back. Haven’t I thought the same thing on one too many occasions? That the traffic gets to me, especially when I am sitting in the midst of it as I inch my way ever so slowly across the few blocks from my home to the market. That the mere thought of the 405 freeway often depresses me. I’d love NOT to hear it from my front yard, or feel the thick smoggy air on hot days. And what exactly am I doing in the land that bespeaks the holy body type, 36-24-36. I’d love not to wonder if city life is bad for my childrens souls or if I am somehow depriving them of a childhood centered in nature.
It seems like all the people are smiling here in Kauai and the flowers are jumping for joy to be in this ultimate of locations. The ocean is so warm I can actually swim in it, and I simply love the feeling of “aloha” and “mahalo” slipping off my lips. OK. I get that I AM on vacation. Vacation seems to be the only place I manage to put away my running “to do” list that otherwise lives with me like an annoying mosquito bite. The multiple, many fold hues of color here metaphorically remind me that nothing in life is black or white and nor would I want it to be. Yes, my life in Culver City has its imperfections, but imperfection is one of life’s many ingredients. No way around that one. When I worry about whether it was a mistake to raise kids here in LA, I need only listen to Adam and Matt chatting about this recent fourth of July in Lindberg Park – how cool the pirate ship at the parade was, how awesome it was to bounce in the super-duper bounce house the neighbors chipped in on, and how much fun it was to hang out with friends all day long.
My children are delighted by the beaches in Hawaii, by the snorkeling and swimming and most importantly the shaved ice. ( We have had one every day so far. You must try them with ice cream at the center!) But, my children are equally delighted by Fourth of July and Halloween in our neighborhood or a fun day at the beaches here in LA. They are thrilled to play with their friends, and are happy as pigs in mud when we go on a trip to Jamba Juice or Menchies.
Yes, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the pace of my city life and I want a bubble bath at some chic resort where half naked tribal men carry me from the hotel room to the spa on one of those platform things Cleopatra rode on. But like Adam and Matt, I am also so often delighted by what my life offers me. I live in a lovely neighborhood with caring people. I have friends and family nearby. The weather is wonderful. And I feel blessed that my children are growing up in a big city with all of its fabulous diversity, sprinkled with a small town feel that is exceptionally special.
I’m a sucker for affirmations or quotes. I love that someone out there used words so eloquently so as to speak to me in ways I often find very helpful. This one comes from my Mom. My mom is an artist and of course I have had to call her many times to share about the elements that make up Kauai’s wonder – the myriad shapes of the plants and the trees, the perfect symmetrical designs found in the flower petals, the roots of huge trees dangling in mid air. “It’s not like we don’t have our own beauty here in Los Angeles.” she says. “But we often fail to look at our surroundings with the vacation eyes we save for times far away from home. You need only look at all the beautiful things blooming right where you are planted.”
Genius! Bloom where you are planted. Simple and true and ultimately necessary to be a happier person. It’s not that it’s easy to do – to bloom where you are planted! I am not often even that good at it. But Kauai has slowed me down enough to understand the beauty and the joy I so often experience in the concrete paradise I am happy to call home.

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