The Poetry of Heisler Park

This is a sunset view from Heisler Park, which runs about a mile and a half along the cliffs just north of our downtown Main Beach in Laguna. A lot of locals stay clear of this park because it attracts so many tourists, but it’s my favorite spot in the city. It reminds me of other public promenades in cities around the world, where families gather to picnic and everyone strolls the waterfront admiring the scenery and each other.

The city recently spent a wad of money and several years on a two-phase renovation of the park, which has gardens (including fabulous succulents and other new plantings), look-out points, benches, public art, bathrooms and a lawn bowling club. They’ve done a terrific job, and made it more inviting without sacrificing the simple, natural beauty and views. My husband and I walk the pathway several times a week, and I was excited to discover this newest addition–a small sculpture garden by hometown artists Naomi and Scott Schoenherr.

This mini-park–including several low, natural rock benches, several mosaic installations and a water fountain–are directly above my favorite wave-watching beach–Rockpile. (I even was inspired several years ago to write a poem–my first–about this beach, and enter it in a contest. More about that later…)
I haven’t loved some of our city’s more recent public art additions, including two of the most prominent in Heisler Park (see what you think: a large, breeching whale and a 911 memorial.) But that’s how public art goes–it’s a political process and impossible to please everyone.

But I do love everything about this little spot–especially the artwork!

I checked out the Schoenherr Studio web site, and learned they carve their designs into the clay and then install the pieces as mosaics. (These gears are ceramic, too!) The details blew me away. The goal of the sculpture park, according to the artists, was to connect the city to the ocean.

It makes sense, then, that they have elements that are both mechanical and natural. The pieces have names, such as “Time Connected” and “Tidal Pull.”

If you happen to have read my blog recently (Click HERE for my tribute to this bird), you will understand why I was surprised by their choice of this Hooded Oriole as their featured bird. You might think they would have featured a sea bird, but to me this bird now makes total sense. They love to nest up in our local palm trees.

I saw this sculpture as a type of tribute to the interrelatedness of our local sea creatures–lobster, octopus, squid and fishies–which are making a comeback off our local shores thanks in part to recent passage of the Marine Life Protection Act, which protects the tide pools and reefs in California from over-fishing.

Here’s the fountain, which is inlaid with more of their exquisite mosaic images.

This is called “The Divers,” and features our local Cormorants.

I’m afraid my photos don’t do these gorgeous murals inlaid in the ground of fish and kelp and other sea life.

It reads: “I followed the tide to the waterline, the course of the moon, the path of the park.” (It took me a while, but I now realize this is a quote from the poem–below–that was written to inspire this sculpture garden.)

As we inspected the different mosaics, I spotted this plaque on one of the stone posts. After I read the poem, I realized it was the poem that won first place in that city writing contest I entered several years ago. My poem had won third place.

At the time, I was mainly after the prize money–I won $300! I know, not very poet-like of me. Actually, I truly love Rockpile and felt inspired to wax poetic about it. But after seeing this plaque (I’d forgotten all about that contest.), I remembered the instructions were to write a story or poem about Heisler Park, and the winner would serve as the inspiration for this commissioned sculpture park. (In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have alluded to the homeless “problem” in the park at the time.) Oh well.  Just kind of cool seeing that poem–and the lovely little space and artwork it inspired–there.

We are so lucky to have a city that appreciates nature, art and the value of beautiful, public places where all people can gather and enjoy themselves.

5 thoughts on “The Poetry of Heisler Park

  1. I haven’t yet seen the new art additions, but have fawned over the mosaics that are featured on the ground thereabouts. I’m ecstatic that these local artists and poet are getting recognized, I love their work! If only you’d have won first place, you’d be part of Heisler Park for eternity!

  2. Lagunadirt has brough the sun sparkle of the gem Heisler Park to light. I thought I knew every inch of that complex ocean vistaplex, but alas I overlooked the poem. thank you….It says it all….

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