Beautiful Contradictions

This is a blog entry I wrote back in early August — it expresses well my view of this place I call home.  After reading, I hope you’ll leave a comment!

Its been a while since i posted new photos.  I’ve been a little discouraged lately — spending too much time trying to edit images I’ve already taken, and frustrated by how much I still don’t know…
So this morning I left my computer behind, grabbed my camera, and headed out the door to this abandoned lot — backdropped by the freeway, and filled with wild sunflowers.
This lot fascinates me — it’s a place full of contradictions. It sits between the freeway and our still-mostly-new Gateway Town Center.  Someday it’s slated to be the expansion of that complex, housing more economic development.  In the meantime it’s “empty”, but overrun with lots of CA type vegetation, tons of “wild life”, (I saw more squirrels running around today then in all my years in Compton — I tried to ignore all the other sounds rustling around in the bush!), and a good amount of trash.
It’s a site marked by desolation and waste… but also full of beauty and potential.  It symbolizes somebody’s busted up dreams from the past,  but someone else’s hopes for the future.  It’s the glory of nature and the Divine backed up against the urban landscape.  A person will see it the way they choose to.
I’m especially drawn by the wildflowers. I’ve watched them for a year now.  Last summer they delighted me — as fall and winter came, they withered and faded. Spring brought them back in full force, more plentiful then before.. They have flourished in an unlikely place — birthed on top of concrete beside a freeway, but striving toward the sun. In spite of all the forces that would assume the contrary — they have been unconquerable. Where it’s least expected, they are thriving.
Shooting these photos today was so good for me — it reminded me that I don’t shoot pictures because I’m an amazing photographer or adept at Photoshop.  I take pictures because I love my city, and I want to show it off to the world.  It’s a place full of contradictions, marked by desolation and beauty, bordered against the freeways and backdropped by the Divine.  People will see it the way they choose to, but it will thrive in spite of all expectations to the contrary.
Tell me, how do YOU see Compton?

Hope you’ll share! Thanks.

16 Responses to “Beautiful Contradictions”

  1. arnoldo says:

    I love this part:
    It symbolizes somebody’s busted up dreams from the past, but someone else’s hopes for the future.
    Thanks for sharing and i see Compton as my future home.

  2. Roshaun says:

    First, I love your HEART for Compton! For the past year or so I have felt a deep desire to reach out to the people of Compton especially the children one I feel it is truly where God is calling me to be and two I remember being a kid in Compton. Although I grew up a short time in Compton it’s still the house, the neighborhood, and the community where hurts and pains that I remember to this day, started. I remember the Good times as well. And because of those times I so desire to be apart of the transformation taking place in this city… the children and the people of Compton deserve for the city that they love and call home to be a safe place where the love shines through . I’m choosing to look at Compton differently but I feel I must first come to spend more time there, to see the beauty of the city and to know the people who see the beauty in it and call it home….. Thank you for sharing the other side of Compton, the side that I remember loving as a child.

  3. deanna says:

    loved this. I love living in Compton because it is so easy to see God working here, and makes it easier for me to be aware of my need for Him.

  4. Bill White says:

    We’re talking these next couple of weeks about God’s vision to restore broken cities from Nehemiah. God gives Nehemiah a vision to see potential in the ‘vacant lot’ so to speak of Jerusalem… and God does incredible things for that city. I pray he would do the same for our city of Compton, and I believe he is in that process, and even using you.

  5. katy says:

    Wow– love the pictures, and the reminder of the incredible beauty we ignore and drive right by.

  6. penn says:

    amazing to see that amongst the rubble, there is rebirth… and amongst the debris, there is beauty…. God’s promises remain true yesterday, today and tomorrow… love how God is using your talents to show everyday examples of who He is..<3

  7. Larry Dove says:

    Tanya; your photos remind me that God does his best work in the desert. That even in the midst of the desert of brokenness and pain, there is always a flower that springs forth to remind us that we must focus on things which be not as though they were. The flower growing and flourishing in desert speaks of the fact that Compton’s better present/future is forthcoming and no force or person will prevent this from happening. A flower here, another there, several over there – God weaving His purpose into larger redeemed outcome. I am reminded of the old Negro song “we shall overcome” that was embraced during the most difficult days of the civil rights movement. And yet it is through adversity we discover and celebrate and appreciate the small things which lead to the greater outcome. Last, flowers that bloom in the desert tells me … “the best is yet to come”!

  8. Ashley says:

    I feel like its been forever since I’ve been in Compton and I do miss it. As I read this blog I had to fight back tears as I am at work in front of my of desk.
    ” It’s a site marked by desolation and waste… but also full of beauty and potential. It symbolizes somebody’s busted up dreams from the past, but someone else’s hopes for the future. It’s the glory of nature and the Divine backed up against the urban landscape”

    It is truly a beautiful contradiction that what so many people may see as a lost cause or a waste of space God sees and loves and calls beautiful, not only the wildflowers and the wild life but the people that live in this city.

    I am always amazed and thank God for the heart that He has given you and your family for the city of Compton.

  9. John Payne says:

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! This could not be more true. I have never lived in Compton, but the heartbeat of Compton lives within me. Everyother inner city hood like Southcentral as well. It is a constant reminder that there is hope! With God, all things can be made new again!!! I thank the Lord for blessing me with a renewed life & pupose. Also for allowing me to be a blessing to others, allowing me to serve this city, and get to sit front row of the 50yard line to watch another VICTORY for GODS Kingdom!!!

    For The King & His Kingdom

  10. Paty says:

    Tonya, these photos are beautiful – and so is your post. I love your heart and investment in the city. We love Compton because we know that God has planted so many of His wildflowers in all the mess. I can’t wait for the day when people from elsewhere see more beauty than mess. That day is coming – its His will. We’re just along for the ride – I’m blessed to be on it with you!

  11. Julianna Marten says:

    These photos are absolutely stunning…the title of this entry summarizes it perfectly…beauty amongst the rubble. I myself would love to frame one or two of these if I could ! I usually can’t read something written by either you or your husband without being moved emotionally in some way and am many times teary…you see Compton for more than just the buildings, issues, problems – you see the people and their beauty…

    It’s funny – you have visited me where I live…total suburbia, with the large, beautiful, perfect homes and where people drive their expensive cars and our children are perfectly dressed…our crime rate is low and community issues are small – I don’t even have to lock the doors of my home…and yet – if I am being honest – I don’t have the heart for my “Suburbia Town” like you do for Compton…but the truth is, the people are just as broken and purposeless without God as the people in Compton who don’t know God…the truth is we are ALL broken without GOD…the people where I live may look “perfect” on the outside, but they are likewise broken on the inside apart from Him…

    Thank you for the reminder that God sees us all for who we are (broken) and yet can make something beautiful out of all of us…man looks on the outside, but God looks in the heart…you see beauty in Compton because you know that God saw potential in all of us when we were lost ourselves…

  12. Nancy Pryor says:

    beautiful photos that illustrate visually the beauty found in the “contradictions” of life…there is beauty found in the ashes, casts off, brokenness of lives…man is like a flower, withers away and falls…but the beauty of God is found forever in the hard places…that’s where He shines the brightest…keep up the good work…love you T.

  13. Margaret Shore says:

    I loved the photos too and hoped you would post more. What’s the lot like now? Will there be another rebirth this spring? Please keep sharing your wonderful pictures.

  14. tonya says:

    Thanks, Margaret. I haven’t climbed around in the lot for a while, but from the outside it looks similar. I imagine after all this weather, it will be quite beautiful in the spring! :) I don’t know when the development will start, but with everything the way it is, I doubt anytime soon. So for now I will continue to enjoy the beauty!

  15. Michael Hill says:

    Tanya, the artist in you is what some of us have been waiting for in terms of expressing what most of us see each day. The comments I think speak for themselves. Sometimes perspective is all about how one looks at things. The glass being half full. My late mother taught me about that with the question when I was a young child growing up here. Now as an adult resident I still appreciate this city. I have seen horse drawn carriages, new parks thrive and today a golf cart trolley taking some birthday celebrants through my street. Some of the things many of us wished for over the years have come to pass. Now if only someone could persuade the hotel/casino to use some of their space for a showcase, open mic venue, concert venue and/or a venue for a cinema enterprise. They don’t do so hot as a s casino anyway, IMHO. Phase two of the Gateway Center development has been slowed a bit due to the economy but I have hopes that it will proceed sometime in the foreseeable future and therin lies opportunity as your photos suggest. Just a bit south of this location is our wetlands from the Compton Creek and I understand there’s lots of wildlife and such existing as it has for a few hundred years. The best is yet to come, though. Stay tuned and thanks for your wonderful blog and photography.

  16. tonya says:

    Mike, thanks so much for your encouragement. We have so much more to see, so much work that needs to be done — yet we have come a long way. Just this week I took pictures of the parking lot re-paving at Gateway. I’m not so happy with the photos so I may not put them up, but I took them because I was happy to see our top-notch facility being kept top-notch. A parking lot is a little thing, but little things add up! Yes, the best is definitely yet to come! :)

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