Since we could probably recite the script for the Sea World show, “Pets Rule!” verbatim and tell you the exact role of every animal, my husband and I decided to skip that attraction on a recent visit to San Diego. Especially since we had no small children (in fact no children of any age!) in tow.
Instead we did something we knew our children wouldn’t envy, something that causes them to roll their eyes and wonder how they got stuck with such weird and boring parents. We visited the Marston House Museum and Gardens. Built in 1905, the 8500 square foot home is surrounded by five acres of beautiful gardens. Designed by famous architects, the house is quite stunning with creative built-ins and preserved cherry wood cabinetry.
I happen to love touring old homes, my husband tolerates it, and my kids…well like I said…
So I thought it was wonderful. But there was more than just seeing a lovely old estate. The original owner, George Marston, wasn’t just a successful merchant. He wasn’t just a philanthropist. He was a visionary.
He established the San Diego library system, the San Diego Presidio Park and Balboa Park. “Big deal” you may think. “Many philanthropists of his time did the same.” Which is true. And, as a side point, no less praiseworthy. We wouldn’t have many of our libraries, museums and universities if not for the generosity of men like Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon, John Rockefeller and J.P Morgan. It’s appropriate to be grateful (and as an avid reader and regular library patron, I sure am!).
But, it’s still more. What really stuns me was Marston’s vision. San Diego nowadays, like Los Angeles, is a developed and populous city with a refreshing ocean breeze, lush parks and old, majestic trees.
But it wasn’t like that in 1905. While the ocean was still there (!), the rest of the city was completely barren. And dry. There was not a tree in sight. Nor water to nourish them.
To be able to look at arid, barren desert and see homes and gardens and parks requires vision and imagination. It requires dreams. And it requires patience.
If we want to accomplish anything of real importance, we have to learn patience and accept failure.
Not only did Marston have to imagine how his home would look surrounded by gardens when he began his endeavor, he had to figure out how to irrigate the land and he had to wait (very) patiently for his labors to come to fruition.
I think that’s one of the marks of a successful visionary – and, in fact, a successful human being.
We all have dreams. We all have goals. We all want to see them realized. But many of us are like Tracy Turnblad in the musical, “Hairspray” who, upon her release from prison, plans to “have some breakfast, then change the world.”
We don’t have the patience. We aren’t prepared to wait for the plants to take root. We can’t handle the dry spells. We’re devastated when some flowers don’t survive, when some saplings are toppled by winds and storms, when we have to dust ourselves off and start over again.
But if we want to accomplish anything of real importance, we have to learn patience. We have to be able to accept failure. And we need to keep trying, keep pushing forward, keeping that vision always in front of us.
We’ve succeeded as a people because we haven’t let go o our belief in the Messiah, of our confidence in better days to come. And we haven’t stopped working towards that goal.
And we will succeed as individuals if we internalize the same qualities – hope, faith, determination, vision – and patience.
It turned out to be more than just a pretty face; the Marston house was a lesson in personal growth (I should have forced my kids to come!).