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An oasis from the bustling and burgeoning city limits, it was one of 12 parks that Los Angeles owned in 1899. It was known for its palm tree lined walkway, cultivated rose scented gardens, and artisanal well. It quickly became a communal place the people could call their own. Children swam in her fountain, men scattered the lawns playing horseshoes, and women gathered to find refuge from their daily chores on her benches.  The people of Los Angeles understood the importance of this special place, a 19-acre retreat they called South Park.

But this lush and green sanctuary would not last long. A hundred years later, it is barely recognizable – the grass is gone, replaced by a dirt patch, and only the palm trees that once defined the park remain, only hinting at the grandeur of days gone by. This lonely park now serves as a reminder that the things that give us life can quickly disappear if we do not care for them.

Wherever we live and whatever we do, all of us have things that bring us rest, things that help us find restoration, healing, peace, and hope. For some, it might be curling up with a good book, for others, it might be cooking a good meal or picking up a paintbrush and watercolors. For me, it’s gardening. When I feel the need to restore my soul, I can think of no better way than getting my hands in the dirt. All of us have deep core soul needs, but in a fast-paced, hard-pressed world, the first things we forget about are usually the things we enjoy the most. It’s easy to say, “I’ll do that later,” “I’ll do that this weekend,” or “I’ll do that once things slow down,” but the reality is that when we keep putting off the things that bring us life, we keep putting off life itself.

… when we keep putting off the things that bring us life, we keep putting off life itself.

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We need to tend, care and even occasionally fight for the things we love, experience joy from, and find peace in. Our souls find strength to carry on and move through the mundane of life when we experience rest — that place where we can take a moment to quiet our minds, bodies and souls and find connection with our hearts again. These moments are so important, for without them we become listless wanderers, running on empty.

How do we tend, care or fight for these things? It starts with prioritizing and scheduling. If you’re like me, you might hear “schedule” and “prioritize” and immediately shrivel up. Ugh, who wants to have to schedule “me time”? Everything else in life is scheduled, why do we have to schedule that too? But here’s the thing, if it’s important enough to schedule your time with others, your time to pay the bills, or your time to grocery shop, aren’t you just as important? We must make rest a priority, even if it means carving out time for it and – gasp – saying no to other things in the process.

We need to tend, care and even occasionally fight for the things we love, experience joy from, and find peace in.

If we don’t prioritize this time, we might not be ready when it comes. We’ll have a moment to breathe and have no idea what to do with it. As a result, we must not only be aware of what we need, but also be prepared to enjoy it. If you find rest by cracking open a good book, for example, are you perusing the new release section on your Kindle, walking the aisles of your local library, or building a bedside stack for when your soul needs to rest? I know for me personally, my garden bed is dead because I haven’t done anything with it in a year. I haven’t prioritized where I need to. I’ve been pruning fruit trees, trimming rose bushes and tending to the water lilies in the pond, but my soul longs to see life birthed – to see new blooms, new sprouts, new life. I need to save my pennies, scroll through my seed catalog and prioritize my compost bin.

Even the strongest of us need some rest, some time alone to recharge and restore our souls. It’s impossible to find strength when we’re constantly giving to others. We must find our South Parks, or build them, so that we can sit and let the wind speak to our senses, attune our ears to the music of the winged bird, and find refuge in the blades of green.

Where is your South Park? How does this article resonate with you?

Top postcard image courtesy of the South Bay History Collection, CSUDH Archives
Second image courtesy of the USC Libraries – California Historical Society Collection  

1 comment

  1. The striking piece of this article is the recognition that rest an rejuvenation is unique to every individual. The “look” of rest is in the eye of the beholder. For some it is a day of couch-dwelling, for others it is a mountain hike. This cannot be a point of comparison or judgment but must serve as joyous respite.

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