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Chasing Down the Muse: Same Laguna, just less space

“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.”

—Elizabeth Foley


I had been eager in my anticipation of this evening. Ever since the news that old friends were visiting Southern California and would be stopping here in Laguna, my ebullience mounted. I spent hours agonizing over the perfect place to have dinner — some place that was especially “Laguna Beach” but where we could hear each other on a busy Saturday night.


I need not have worried. We could have been sitting in the intersection of Broadway and Coast Highway and would not have noticed the cars going by. Hank and Barb walked in the restaurant; we hugged long and hard, and did not stop to notice much of anything but each other for the ensuing three plus hours.

Some friendships are just special. The years that pass in between don’t seem to dim anything about the relationship. That is really exceptional, I think, and to be treasured. Of course, I was full of questions, especially ones that pertained to how they now saw Laguna after so many years.

All of our time together in the intervening years had been spent in Dallas, where they have lived for so long. So often we had spoken of spending some time again here in Laguna, but busy lives had kept us from this far too long.

Barbara and I had met in the old laundromat in Boat Canyon. Our first-born children — born a week apart as it turned out — were not even walking yet. I thought they would be good playmates, and I liked Barb instantly. The next day I walked with daughter Kendall up across the highway to their house and knocked on the door.


“Kendall and I need some friends,” I said.

Barb’s ready smile sealed the deal.

That was the beginning of an enduring friendship. When Barb’s husband, Hank, finished with his stint as a lawyer in the Marine Corps stationed at the El Toro Marine base, they moved on. A brief stay in the Los Angeles area was followed by time in Alabama. They finally settled in Dallas, where Hank became a law professor at Southern Methodist University.

Now all of our children are grown with families of their own. At dinner, after catching up on each other’s lives, this was where we ended with passing around phones filled with pictures of grandchildren. It was wonderful making these connections anew.

And what did they think of Laguna today?

Barb’s comment was interesting. It’s the same Laguna …just less space between, she said. In many ways, I guess I would have to agree. In hometown and friends, we are pretty fortunate.

As we walked along the shoreline in the direction of their hotel, the cool night air caressed us and I found my mind wandering to when I might see them again. We shall see. Whenever it is, I am sure we will pick up right where we left off. That is the nature of this kind of friendship.

As I write this the next day, I am in complete accord with the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson on friendship: “I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new. It is true. I am blessed with great friends, near and far, new and old.”


CHERRIL DOTY is an artist and manager of the Sawdust Studio Art Classes in Laguna Beach. She can be reached at or by phone at (714) 745-9973.