A Tree on Occidental

When I was younger, I assumed that I would end up living in the country somewhere. Even in my most suburban fantasies, my family roamed free in an impossibly large yard. More like a forest really. I still haven't given up plans to build a ridiculous tree house for my kids. We just have to find a house with a tree.

That's the challenge. In reality, I live in a city. I have always lived in cities. They have their own geometric beauty and their own densely packed adventures. I live in Los Angeles today. I love how beautiful my neighborhood is. I love how much there is to do. It's no ewok village though. In fact, I read an article recently that condemned L.A. for its inhospitability to nature. It used the L.A. River as its example. The "river" is a manmade aqueduct meant to channel water through the city. More often than not though, the river is a trickle of brown water snaking its way past garbage. I notice it now whenever I drive by. And the smog. But I've been noticing other things too.

My yard, for example, is prickly, yellow, dry, and ugly. The heat kills everything. What a desolate place it seems to be. When I move our pots and plants though, the dirt churns with bugs, slugs, and plump white sprouts. When summer ends, the dead grass turns green. It grows up through the asphalt! I see snow capped mountains from my porch. Walking around the block, I find half a dozen different crazy seed pods to draw. When my son comes with me, his little finger points in all directions. He yells what he sees "Flower!" in our neighbors' garden. "Gwass! Squrrel. Cat. Dog! Trees!" Trees tower over the apartment buildings. They shade the sidewalks. Leaves cover the street when the sweeper comes late. Pinecones fall on my car. I don't feel removed from nature. When I pay attention, I feel cradled by it, surrounded by it, completely outnumbered by it. I rest assured that, as soon as mankind lets its guard down, we'll all be living in the country again.

© 2011 rama hughes