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Writer reawakens after Rip Van Winkle sleep

 

Last updated 1/11/2023 at 7:02pm



Tim O’Leary

Special to the Village News

Hello, again, dear reader. Until recently, I’d simply could not grasp the concept of being ‘Born again.’ Now I understand. A new day has dawned.

I finally have an inkling as to how Rip Van Winkle felt when he awoke from his deep sleep. I think I know how Lazarus felt when Christ summoned him from the tomb. I have a recollection of how I felt when I burst from my mother’s womb.

I felt that reawakening during the recent fete in which the Pechanga tribe and the city of Temecula marked the 10th anniversary of Pechanga Pu’eska Mountain Day. I now understand the meaning of those two words: ‘Born again.’

I will elaborate below. But first let me share a quote that was on a poster distributed at the event. They are words we all, especially women, should live by. The quote is attributed to Pechanga tribal leader April Bouchard and apparently extracted from the 1995: “Yaamay: An Anthology of Indigenous Women’s Voices of Southern California.”

“I AM like nothing they’ve seen and cannot be contained. I am untouchable here, not because I am fragile, but because I am FIERCE.”

I should first tell you about Pechanga Pu’eska Mountain Day. It is always key to cement the context before dipping a toe into the quicksand of thought and words.

Pu’eska Mountain is one of many sites in a vast region that are sacred to the Pechanga tribe. But it is holier than most, as tribal members say it is the home of their creation story. It has been likened to Bethlehem’s stable, Moses’ burning bush and Islam’s Holy of Holies.

Pu’eska Mountain is known to the Luiseno Indians – a grouping of sister Native American tribes that once claimed a huge empire – as “the Mountain that Weeps.”

Pu’eska Mountain is also the former site of the proposed Liberty Quarry, which many credible sources have accurately described as “Riverside County’s most contentious land use controversy.” I can confirm that moniker, as I served as a humble and objective witness to the drama as it unfolded from start to finish.

Liberty Quarry pitted a massive mining and construction company against a rag-tag coalition of environmental, civic and government groups and agencies. The battle unfolded over many years and dozens of public hearings that often lasted eight hours or more.

I wrote about nearly every one of those meetings which were held in Riverside, Temecula and Fallbrook.

The 310-acre quarry site was perched high above Temecula, Fallbrook, Rainbow, De Luz and Bonsall. It looked down upon the pristine, free-flowing Santa Margarita River, two state highways and one interstate highway.

The Pechanga tribe purchased the quarry site for $20.35 million in the 11th hour of the controversy. The purchase unfolded just as the project opponents had feared a twist of fate had caused the government’s wheels to grind them into dust.

The purchase of the site was announced at an impromptu gathering atop a parking garage located a stone’s throw from the Pechanga casino. I was honored to have been invited to that historic and enthusiastic afternoon party.

Now, if I may indulge you, kind reader, may I shift to my far-more-mundane saga? We picked up my story as I marked my 42nd year in this crazy, beautiful business of journalism.

In this chapter of my life and career, I had just finished a decade of caring for my beautiful, whip-smart wife who had sadly been afflicted by, and suffered deeply from, dementia. We have since moved my beloved wife to the Boston area, where she will be close to her extended, loving family.

Next we fast forward a few weeks, which is when I suffered a total health collapse that landed me in an Oceanside ICU for eight days and its medical/surgical floor for another two.

Those adventures finally led me to the Nov. 15 Pu’eska Mountain Day Celebration. Now I have the liberty to say I felt reborn there because I had the joy of crossing paths with dozens of friends and former colleagues, sources, critics and treasured companions whom I accompanied on this quixotic yet epic journey.

They welcomed me back like Lazarus, the man risen from the dead, or a victorious Roman warrior parading through the Senate grounds after a hard-fought battle against the barbarians who had dared to storm the gates of that iconic city.

Some of this cadre of chums welcomed my return with open arms.

“I’m glad you’re back,” whispered Mary Ann Edwards, a Temecula schools and civic leader who stepped down after serving more terms as a council member and mayor than anyone since that sprawling, fast-growing community coalesced into a city in 1989.

A few other leaders accepted my abject apologies for my many years of being an arrogant newspaper reporter.

“It’s all good, Tim,” said a forgiving Mark Macarro, a longtime Pechanga tribal chairman and spokesman who shook off my screeching tendencies many times many years ago.

It’s so good to be home, my dearest readers and friends. May we all live long and prosper. May we all revel in the spoken and written word.

 

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