Catalina Island—I found my heart in Avalon
Dusk over Avalon. Photo by Vivienne Lux.
This past Saturday was the annual Catalina Island Conservancy Ball and a signed, numbered, canvas reproduction of "Melody of a Muse" was auctioned off to benefit the Conservancy. I didn't attend the Ball this year, but I was definitely in the zone of nostalgia. If you haven't been to Catalina, it's like going to a quaint town in the Mediterranean, in a different time period. My take is that the style of the town is a blend of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and Spanish Colonial. The ocean waters have a pristine clarity which makes the bright orange Garibaldi fish really pop out of the turquoise sea. These fish are some of the first things you'll notice as your boat approaches the island to dock, aside from the dolphins you may encounter on your trip over from the mainland.
I first visited Avalon (the main city on the island) in the 90’s while living in Los Angeles. A group of friends invited me to join them for the weekend. I didn't know what to expect since I didn't even realize there was an island off the coast (there are several, which make up the Channel Islands), and figured it'd be a "normal" island experience, how different could it be, as it’s only an hour across the sea from Long Beach. This was different. As we docked, and got off the ship, I led the group into town to our destination, and pointed out some of the attractions along the way. They asked me how many times I had to been to the island and I replied, "This is my first time." I was as bewildered as they were as to why I knew my way around. The moment I stepped off the boat, I felt like a sense of "home," a place I had been before and knew very well. I have no idea why. This was before the internet was a click away to explore destinations, or to get satellite maps, so this really was my very first experience with the island and town. Plus, I was young and wasn't really the type to research my destination before hand at that point in life.
The mode of transportation around the small town is by golf cart. We rented a golf cart, which I got to drive, then proceeded to take my friends on a tour of town, zipping up and down the streets pointing out historic locations. How did I know this?
I've been to the island many times since that first visit, and I'm always the official taxi driver and tour guide. When I get some alone time, I visit a lot of the "off the beaten path" areas, because those spots speak to something deep inside of me. I still can't explain the feeling. In the times that I visit, I only spend a couple of nights, so it's definitely not like I've had the time to explore every nook and cranny to gather the knowledge I seem to have. All I can say is that it's inherent.
The first time I attended the Conservancy Ball, I had "memories" of being in that same ballroom listening to jazz bands, dancing the night away. It was kind of overwhelming. At one point, I had to step outside to get some air on the balcony that surrounds the building. A couple of my friends came out, and one ask if I was OK, another replied to them, "she's fine, just let her do her thing, this is her place." It was at that moment I realized how others saw how I resonated with the town, and the land. There is something so special about the land, I can't put into into words. It's a magic in the air, and an energy that comes through my feet as soon as I set foot onto the island.
Avalon has since been an inspiration in a lot of my work. It's my "happy place." I know that a lot of people have a deep passion for Catalina, and I love that. It's not like it's got some great club scene, or amazing shopping. There are only a handful of stores, and no magnificent resorts, but for the people who gravitate towards it the way I do, there's a camaraderie...maybe we spent past lives there?
I was proud to have a piece of my artwork auctioned off at the Ball. I felt like a piece of me was there, even though my physical body was not. I also feel that whoever now owns that piece will always associate it, and me, with Avalon. I, myself, bought a piece of artwork at the auction the first year I attended the Ball and it’s one of my favorite possessions, and every time I see it, I'm reminded of Avalon. My hope is that "Melody of a Muse" can bring the same smile and warm inner glow to it's new owner each time they catch a glance.