Lessons from Miss Rumphius

Amy Weisberg, M.Ed., NBCTBy Amy Weisberg, M.Ed., NBCT      September 3, 2021

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Lessons from Miss Rumphius
“Miss Rumphius,” story and pictures by Barbara Cooney, was one of my daughters’ favorite books. They never tired of the story of a little girl named Alice who grew up into Miss Rumphius, The Lupine Lady. The lessons in the book are timeless and the message is so meaningful for both children and adults. Children, as they imagine their lives ahead, and adults reflecting on their lives, enjoy this book. Alice is the child of an immigrant family who came to this country on a ship. Her grandfather makes figureheads for ships and is an artist. Alice loves to help him in his shop by painting the skies in pictures. She loves to listen to her grandfather’s stories of places far away and wants to travel when she grows up and then live in a home beside the sea, like her grandfather. He tells her that those are good ambitions, but additionally, she must “do something to make the world more beautiful.” Alice grows up and works in a library before setting off to travel to faraway places where she meets special friends, climbs mountains, travels through jungles, and sees a variety of animals. When she hurts her back climbing off a camel, she decides it is time to live by the sea. Once settled, she remembers that there is one more thing she must do. She decides to spread lupine seeds in the town where she lived. She scattered the seeds, and they bloomed everywhere. She made the world more beautiful. Her great-niece, Alice, wants to follow her example and we are left wondering what she will do to make the world more beautiful. The lessons in this book, first published in 1982, ring so true today. We all long to find meaning in our lives, to have a purpose. We are hopeful that we can choose to do something that we are passionate about, that we can enjoy doing. We hope to wake up each morning, excited for our day ahead and to fill our days with both work and pleasure. We want to create a home in a place we enjoy living and find community there. We want to have adventures and see places in the world that are new and different. These are admirable goals, but the last thing, to make the world more beautiful, is more challenging. How can we make the world more beautiful? It doesn’t just have to be a vision of beauty; we can make the world more beautiful in so many ways. We can create music, act in plays or movies, and write books. We can serve people through politics, creating legislation that helps many people for years to come. We can lead a spiritual life helping people find comfort and peace. We can be community helpers protecting community members from fires and keeping them safe, or we can be in the medical field, keeping people healthy, saving lives, and finding cures for diseases. We can teach future generations and give the gift of curiosity and critical thinking. We have those here in Topanga (we often call them unsung heroes), who make our Canyon more beautiful. We have the Trash Warriors who keep our Canyon clean and litter-free and we have the Topanga Community Center (TCC) run by a dedicated group of volunteers who host community events to enrich our lives with the bonds of community. Our community has medical practitioners who support the health of the community. We have unique local restaurants and food vendors that nourish us with healthy food. The Topanga Library provides a beautiful space for us to gather to study, attend classes and sponsored events. We have Fire Station 69, our heroes who protect our fragile Canyon from danger and keep us safe, and the amazing 69 Bravo Helistop to provide the water needed to fight wildfires. Topanga Elementary Charter School, a fixture in the community, provides an enriched public education for TK-fifth grade students and Manzanita School and community homeschool programs that offer outdoor educational settings. There are preschool programs, including Children’s Corner, Topanga Montessori, and Calabasas Clubhouse, among others, for our youngest learners. Topanga Canyon is lucky to have the Topanga Coalition for Emergency Preparedness (TCEP) to act as a reliable source of information during emergencies and to help up prepare for them. We are fortunate to have the beautiful Topanga State Park nearby, and the protected land in the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to enjoy the nature we are surrounded with through miles of hiking trails. We have the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains to promote land stewardship and resource conservation, located here, whose work includes restoring the Topanga Creek. We have the amazing, historical Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum providing live theater, music, and acting classes for both children and adults. Our Canyon is filled with artists, and the Topanga Gallery features local art. We are treated to music by local musicians at events sponsored at the TCC, Corózon Performing Arts and The Canyon Bistro. We have venues for special events at The Inn of the Seventh Ray, The 1909 and The Mountain Mermaid. Our community has its own unique shopping centers, and stores, that attract shoppers from outside the Canyon as well as locals. You can run into people you know while at the Post Office, the Canyon Gourmet, the Fernwood Market, and the Topanga Creek General Store. Animals, local wildlife, domestic animals, have a special place in the hearts of the Topanga community which has equine facilities such as Topline Equestrian Center, Fair Hills Farms and Mill Creek Riding School. Topanga Animal Rescue’s Susan Clark provides animal emergency care and outreach education programs. Our local realtors, our ambassadors to the Canyon, not only handle the many transactions here, but generously donate to local non-profits, including Topanga Elementary Charter School. Our local Topanga Town Council is the link between our city and local government. Now, for self-reflection, think about what you can do to contribute to our community. How can you help make things more beautiful, keep our community safe and connect with others who are doing good things in our community? Wishing things were better is easy; jumping in and helping to better our community takes dedication and commitment. Take the lessons from Miss Rumphius to heart and make the world, and our Canyon, more beautiful.

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