The corner of Los Angeles where I live in is a muscular one, rippling with cars and businesses. This is a common enough observation for most city-dwellers, nothing to see here, really.
I can take a walk and come across a handful of trees, or a garden the size of a thimble trying to jump onto the changing of seasons as one would jump onto a carousel already in motion. Sometimes a spring-time bird dares me to come closer, cocking its head in a petite threat. Sometimes in the morning I will see a veil of spider webs embroidered with crystals of dew…and I often wonder if I would be able to see my microscopic image in those minute prisms.
But these are stray images – out of place, like a homeless animal.
If I had the whim to regale myself in the concentrated greenery of a park, I would need to widen the vistas of my walk. My neighborhood does not possess those shrouded acreages, soft with unpaved roads and the secluded air rich with the scent of earth. In these shadowy climates, the sun is given only brief visitation rights, waiting outside for admission.
But I do have a park, and it is a little over a mile away.
It has a unique location, an organic layer that floats above slow currents of antediluvian tar. Its progress is made even more laborious by the detached bones and fossilized bodies that block its circulation. There are even places where the tar erupts through the living crust in black, oily lakes streaked with tarnished rainbows.
The park itself is sparse and manicured, its scattered trees frail with small leaves breathing through arid veins. The grass is pounded flat by dogs and children on field-trips: both off the leash. On the outskirts of the park there are flimsy bowers with blossoms the color of summer heat, flowering in thirsty pastels. They are grown from the seeds of their primordial ancestors. Seismic eons ago their elders blanketed the streets, the sidewalks, my neighborhood in unimagined numbers, billowing like earth-bound clouds.
All trees in the park are isolated, growing independent and impartial. I sometimes come away with the impression that I could shatter them into twigs with my bare hands. However, there is one section of the park – small, barely the smallest fraction of an acre. Enclosed within this space is a diminutive grove of trees; only a handful, but they stand close to each other like the Three Graces, with their arms around each other’s waists.
The air in this copse is dense and verdant, smelling sweetly of freshly turned soil. The ground is crisp with leaves; the darkness is from another season, a perpetually lurking sunset. It is a view to see breathe in as well as to see.
The last time I looked into this comforting landscape, I realized that I was not alone. The leaves were restless and crackling with undecided, frenetic movements. I peered closer and saw that the inhabitant was a squirrel. Something important had been misplaced – something edible, clearly, judging from the hectic, chaotic movements most often associated with the loss of a harvest.
Only once did it stop – to stare directly at me, as if daring me to invade its sanctum sanctorum.
But I respected its audacity, and stayed where I was. I was content to play the role of spectator although I knew, as I’m sure my squirrel acquaintance did, that this would be the closest to the forest I coveted that I would ever get.