Valley Voices

Linell Hoffmann: Open your eyes to what could be

What is going on in the United States these days? It seems like every time I read the news or a post on social media, someone somewhere is offended by something. It is disheartening to see the United States separating and dividing right before my eyes.

The gap became a ravine and rapidly grew into a chasm. I was going to use “gulf,” but knew that The Bee readers would call me on it because a gulf is a chasm surrounded by water. Ha! Thank you to online definitions for saving me from public humiliation. Sarcasm aside, my angst at the recent growing division of my country is keeping me up at night. I want to gather everyone together, make them hold hands, and re-enact the old Coke commercial by singing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing… .”

I began contemplating the cause of all of this bedlam and why it is that so many people are offended by so many things while I am offended by almost nothing. The answer is “perspective.” defines “perspective” as “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.” I don’t believe it is so much the way we see things but the way we choose to see things. My childhood friend, Rene Whatley, looked at her backyard and chose to see it as a fairy forest.

She and her fiancé, along with all of her sisters, embraced her perspective and built a beautiful fairy garden in her backyard. They spent hours crafting, painting, and placing tiny flowers, birds, mushrooms, lights, creatures and resplendent little fairies in her backyard to transform it into a magical adventure for her grandson, nieces and nephews. Her goal is to inspire children to put down their remote controls, iPhones, tablets, step away from the television, and play outside. It has been a tremendous success and it is truly amazing to watch these kids use their imagination in this magical little fairy forest.

When I visit the fairy forest, I am reminded of another magical garden right here in Fresno. Sicilian visionary and self-taught artist and builder Baldassare Forestiere looked at a piece of land and saw an underground garden. His perspective was a vision of something unique, extraordinary, and beautiful. This hand-built network of underground rooms, courtyards and passageways is reminiscent of the ancient catacombs. It has unique fruit-producing trees, shrubs and vines growing underground, some over 90 years old, amid the ancient Roman architecture of arches, vaults and stone-built walls ( Forestiere Underground Gardens is a Valley treasure, and if you haven’t been there, you should go.

Perspective is definitely in the eye of the beholder. My first experience with this was the Marble Man. My dad took us to meet the Marble Man when I was around 5 years old. The Marble Man was the elderly man who lived on the corner in my neighborhood. His seemingly normal house from the outside was a magical marble emporium on the inside. He had tables and lamps made out of marbles along with a generous sprinkling of marble art pieces displayed throughout his house.

In the very back of his yard was the marble showroom. The room he built contained barrels and barrels of marbles of all shapes, colors, and sizes. I loved visiting the Marble Man. He was a nice man with funny, inspirational and odd stories about marbles and life. When I went to visit the Marble Man for the last time, I was 14 years old. I asked him why he loved marbles. He held up a beautiful, brightly colored, intricately detailed marble. I looked at it and then I looked at him. He said, “Every marble is a masterpiece.”

I never saw the Marble Man again. I heard that he passed away, and I have always wondered what happened to all of those marbles. I hope someone deserving is the keeper of his little masterpieces.

My own “perspective” of people, places and things has changed over the years. I suppose it has to do with age but I prefer to attribute it to gaining enough wisdom over the years to choose to see things in a positive way as often as possible. Now, you may read my little story and your perspective may be that I am simple-minded, naive, or in harshest terms, a moron.

You are entitled to your perspective but my hope is that you will try to see things in a different way — as a magical fairy forest backyard, beautiful underground garden or a simple marble masterpiece.

Linell Hoffmann of Chowchilla is an account executive at Cumulus Media in Fresno. She can be reached on Facebook or by email at