As 2016 comes to a close, life has thrown curve balls that took away the time and energy I typically dedicate to this little corner of the internet on Oakland Momma; it has left me feeling disappointed. I hate to overuse the phrase life balance; I know it is the perpetual goal we all seek as we watch the term fly across pages and screens. As you may know, sometimes I find solace in the definition of a word; in this case I turned to how balance is defined as a verb. To keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall. I feel like I fall everyday; many times. So is balance best looked at over a long period of time? Such as a whole year? Perhaps so in my case. Balancing marriage, parenting, family, household, and blogging in 2016 led to times when one of those fell on a daily basis. On some days I felt as though I was picking up the pieces of each and every one of them. On others I felt as though I was safely balanced in the middle, nary a scratch on me. I hold on to the memories of those days. One of those days was captured by an old friend along the paths of Lake Temescal as we gathered to take a family photo for the upcoming holidays. It was a day that I think of often because the look captured between my two children warms my heart; it takes away the wobble and steadies my balance.
Lake Merritt tends to get most of the attention in our city; it’s described as a jewel and is strung with a necklace that we all love. Yet what about Lake Temescal? It is a spot you often hear about when a toxic algae takes over its water. To be honest I often forget about it as a place to visit when I need to keep the kids busy and take in some fresh air. As is often the case with me and historical curiosity, I was curious how the lake came to exist. The lake was created in 1868, when Anthony Chabot decided to dam Temescal Creek to turn a sag pond along the Hayward Fault into a drinking water source for the Contra Costa Water Company.
I have found irony in some of the tidbits I went on to learn; the lake became a symbol of many of our country’s great democratic traits that feel a bit threatened by our incoming administration. Lake Temescal was dug out by Chinese immigrants. Its beaches drew bohemian artists who turned its shores into campgrounds in the late 1800’s. The historic beach house which sits beside it was a project built by the Works Project Administration, the agency created by F.D.R’s New Deal which put unemployed people to work building infrastructure in communities throughout the country during the Great Depression.
I chose to return to the lake a few weeks after our family photos were taken to walk its shores. Beginning at the southern entrance off of Broadway Terrace, I followed the western shore trail, which is a dirt walkway right along the edge of the lake, cool and shaded. It is less than 1/2 a mile to the northern edge.
While I thought the bright green film across the surface was the blue-green algae that is brought on by drought conditions and climate change, it is actually duckweed. This smallest known flowering plant is native to California and not harmful to people or animals. In fact it’s a favorite snack for the lake’s aquatic bird population to feed on.
Along the eastern shore tucked beside the beach and swim area sits the Lake Temescal Beach House, built in 1940 by the WPA. The stone clad building is surrounded by gardens and a cascading waterfall on the southern side. The area underwent recent upgrades to restore the gardens, and the pathway along the eastern shore has been improved. As you wander past the waterfall you can take a leisurely walk of less than 1/2 a mile back to the lawn and playground at the southern entrance. It was at the small playground where bubbles brought smiles and the sweetness than can exist between my children was luckily captured.
So as I continue to wonder about the actual existence of life balance, I at least know that when I feel like I am going to fall I can look at the innocence, awe, and tenderness captured between the two beings that sometimes make me tumble, and know that all can, and will be, ok.
I look forward to the adventures of 2017. I can’t quite tell you what it will bring here on Oakland Momma, my hope is that I can continue to learn and share great things about this city, in both its past and present form. In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year!
I would like to thank local photographer Victoria Remler, an Oakland native and fellow classmate from Bishop O’ Dowd, who took time out of her busy weekend to make me and my family smile while she clicked away.
Please visit her website, www.victoriaremler.com, to see more examples of her fine art and portrait photography.
All photographs of my family and I are by Victoria Remler, do not use without permission.
All photographs of Lake Temescal and its environs are by Adrienne Schell, do not use without permission.