Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Observing L.A.

TWO SATURDAYS ago, I had just one short afternoon with my best friend visiting from Michigan. Time was limited, her flight was early the next morning. Where would be the best place to take her? It was overwhelming to think of the options. After much deliberation, I decided on Griffith Observatory.

There's something about it that draws me in and pulls me back again. From the structure's hilltop perch, the view is all-encompassing. We can see for miles and miles, and sometimes if the sky's clear, even the ocean's glimmer. I'm not sure why, but viewing the city from above makes it easier to understand. I can wrap my mind around Los Angeles when my eyes can capture it collectively with one glance. It's very freeing to be above a city that can sometimes feel imprisoning.

The sunlight settles in the air, creating pixels of dust as it lowers in the west. The structure's white, massive, stone walls stand solitary among tall evergreen trees. It is a building in a forest, but it is a forest in a city. In L.A., there's always layers upon layers. It can be hard to tell what really is.

We wander around the place. I am always surprised to find so many people here, at almost any hour. Exploring, learning, seeing. We follow others inside the building and learn about the science of the universe. Here, on this hilltop above the city of stars, we learn about comets, planets, and galaxies far, far away. The Tesla coil electrifies wonder around an awestruck crowd. A timeline of the Earth's existence is patterned out in galactic jewelry; diamond-studded star earrings, crescent moon pins, and sun-shaped broaches line the wall, symbolizing the evolution of our home planet.

We leave at dusk. Back outside, a line forms behind a telescope as people wait to see the moon magnified. We all find a fascination with seeing the bigger picture of our world, much like how I love seeing Los Angeles from up above. Maybe viewing our surroundings from a distance makes us feel like we belong among them. Once we are removed, the city feels more accessible. Everything seems to be within arm's length.

I return, again, to the observatory. Most people go to Hollywood to search for the stars, but the best place to find them is at Griffith Observatory.

-- Jennifer Pellarito
photo credits: top two: Jennifer Pellarito, bottom: ehpien via Flickr. 


  1. I really like how you told your own personal story.

  2. I really like the last line in this piece.
    I remember going to the Griffith Observatory as a kid countless of times, and have been meaning to make my way back now that I am older.

    I think it is amazing how there is a place like the Griffith Observatory in a city like Los Angeles that has so much light pollution we can only see a handful of stars. I would expect to see a place like this in a place that has a much better view of the night sky.

    It is definitely a treat to have the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles!