“There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow…” so says Hamlet when he accepts his fate and admits that his life is guided by powers beyond his control, by the Christian God himself who watches over everything that happens on Earth, everything from the grand actions of Kings and Princes like Hamlet to the insignificant death of a single sparrow. Yes, indeed, Providence is in control of everything…if you believe in that sort of thing.

Apparently, the folks at the Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project do not. That’s what struck me on Friday morning at daybreak as I walked along the newly laid trails toward the beach and came upon a remarkable sight…thousands and thousands of mini-flags covering the barren hills and pathways that surrounded the newly restored lagoon. Red ones. Blue ones. Yellow flags, green flags…



How bizarre. What were they doing here? What were they marking if anything?

Flag 1


One Flag


Then I looked closer at the dense bank of blue flags nearest to me. Ah, I saw it. The narrow metal stake was inserted next to a tiny plant. Every single plant had its own marker flag as far as the eye could see!

The required effort was staggering. The care you’d have to take just to stick in one flag without stepping on the plant and flag next to it was dizzying. And how ironic it was that creating a “natural” wetland would require such artificial measures.

I then fantasized about the unimaginable details I’d have to keep track of if I were responsible for “creating” a whole forest. A single pine tree, for instance, would take up most of my feeble brain. Heck, to be responsible for the pine cones and the pine nuts within them, to remember to include symbiotic animals required for a healthy pine tree, the squirrels, the birds to roost there, oh yeah and the nests they build, and the straw to build those nests. I’d also have to remember to bring in the insects who burrow in nests and deposit their own eggs, and then I’d have to schedule the wind to blow the older pine needles to the forest floor to rot and provide fertilizer to feed the tree, and then I’d have to order rain to water it… Holy moly!

Okay, it’s ridiculous, I know.

And yet here at the Malibu Lagoon that’s what these little flags indicate. Active intelligence controlling a natural process.

I talked to a groundskeeper who assured me that each flag marked a ‘native’ plant that had been individually planted and would be cared for by a legion of volunteers and city employees until it reached maturity. The various colors distinguished various plants, and would later separate the plants from the errant weeds, which would inevitably appear as the hillsides matured and the lagoon environment attracted messy birds and other inconsiderate wildlife over time.

So, no Providence here. Instead, City Planners.

Alongside the lagoon, however, behind sturdy walls and draped in their own irony at the ocean’s edge, are ten and twenty million dollar Malibu Colony homes of movie stars, moguls, and other luminaries. How they made it here, their successes and accomplishments, whether family lineage or just plain old hard work, who can say? It seems likely, though, that there was some kind of Providence looking out for them.

Flag 2



One Response to The Hand Of Man

  1. Maxwell says:


    I can’t tell if you’re for the lagoon fix or against it. This was done to correct the
    last “improvement” that was done several years ago. Apparently, it had become
    a dead and polluted eco-system and this latest over-haul is an attempt to actually return it to a natural lagoon. As for providence having a hand in anything, I’ll leave that to the crystal-ball gazers. On another note, when are you leaving on
    your trip?

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