Small moments on tough trips

Getty Museum and Gardens
The gardens at the Getty – a small moment

The trip to LA that seemed so hard was like all trips, a collection of big moments you expect and small ones you don’t. And one of the secrets of meaningful travel is to learn to relish the small moments.

In LA, my wife and I dealt with some hard situations. And yet, amidst all the tough issues, we found small, rewarding instances. The difficult encounters with family were not “happy” yet they brought with them a hard won kind of joy. Perhaps joy is not even the right word so much as a kind of satisfaction that comes from being present and vulnerable and honest. Family issues may not be easy, but they are real and in a world starved for authenticity, such struggles can bless us even as they try us.

But small moments of deep satisfaction also crept in unexpectedly in situations having nothing to do with what we thought the trip was about. In particular, one night my wife, boys and I ventured forth from the rest of the clan and went to the Getty Museum in Brentwood, CA. If you are ever in LA and want a cheap but wonderful date, go to the Getty on a Saturday evening. After 5:00 p.m. the parking, like the admission at all times, is free. Free (not a common word in LA or other major cities these days).

Even if you don’t like art, you can explore the exotic gardens or pack a picnic and hang out on one of the expanses of lawn. If you time your visit right, you can also experience an outdoor concert there. All for free. Or you can just lean over one of the many balconies and watch the dying light warm the white-now-orange Travertine stonework of the place as you absorb the sun setting over Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean. Earlier this day, the temperature had topped 100 degrees. Yet now in the evening, the sea breeze cooled and calmed us as we witnessed the play of light and shadow on the buildings, grounds and the surrounding City of Angels.

Fountain at the Getty Museum at dusk
Fountain at the Getty Museum at dusk – another small but meaningful moment
Beyond the coolness of twilight, the experience of the Getty satisfied us because it came as a balm amidst the hardness of frankness and the pain of situations that don’t go the way you’d hoped. It’s stunning how something like the space and timing and weather there soothed all of us and how much the exhibit on the 19th century artist Jean-Leon Gerome moved us. He has one painting of the Crucifixion shown from a unique perspective. In the painting, the focus is on the Roman soldiers leaving the scene. All you see of the Crucifixion itself is the shadow of the crosses that angle in from the lower right corner of the painting.

The Crucifixion by Jean-Leon Gerome
Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) – Jerusalem, also called Golgotha, Consumatum est; The Crucifixion, 1867

Despite all we were going through, this surprising work of art reminded us that even amidst a scene of suffering long ago far greater than anything we will ever experience, you can find a harsh beauty, an unexpected but deeply satisfying small moment that touches and enlightens us.

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