The Mood of Mother Nature, Part I
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Like most Angelenos, I worry that Mother Nature doesn't actually love L.A. That despite the illusion of paradise, she would have preferred we build our megacity somewhere else. She always provides too little or too much water. And of course, she sends the occasional quake, as if she wanted to chase us away.
This year's shaping up to be the driest on record; we've already had a couple serious fires, and the climate seems so uncertain everywhere that the Urban Man thought he should go check in with Mother Nature.
You know, sort of gauge her mood.
I chose last Tuesday morning because it dawned with promising clouds and a chance of rain. And I chose Temescal Canyon because if you hike up a mile or so, you find that little waterfall with the bridge and the boulders. Mother Nature almost always provides a trickle of water there, even in deepest July. If you listen to a happy gurgle or an angry rush, you can get a pretty good idea of her disposition.
Yeah, I know—most people have normal jobs on Tuesday mornings. Still, when the Urban Man steps out into the slight cool mist, I find that others have come for the occasion. A buff actor. Three gossipy office workers on an early jog.
Together we lift our eyes and see that yes, the mountains are turning brown at what should be their greenest moment. We note the way the dry sticks of last year's growth loom above the fresh grass of spring. And then we plunge boldly into the canyon past eager stands of purple sage, black walnut, mugwort, poison oak and elderberry—each trying to get in a little spring before summer hits.
I like the vegetation in the mountains around L.A. because it reminds me of Angelenos themselves: competitive, opportunistic, quick to seize the slightest opportunity and drink the least hint of moisture. Plants here put down shallow roots. They don't over-commit to any particular canyon, and they switch their allegiance to the next ridge at the slightest wiff of trouble.
If they get burned in a wildfire, fine, they make a comeback next year.
So does the proper Angeleno adapt to the rapid floods and droughts of the entertainment business, the aerospace business, the high tech business, or the real estate business. Like the local ceanothus bush, the Urban Man knows that his home on this land is uncertain. He picks his own time to flower and he doesn't plan too far into the future.
In fact, this morning, as I head up to the trail, I'm thinking: gee, what with climate change and shifting economic realities, the whole world may have to learn to live like Angelenos. People everywhere will try not to over-commit to any particular job or lifestyle. I mean, if you put your roots down too far, you might not be able to move to higher ground. You could get caught in the next heat wave, ice age, or paradigm shift--you know, whatever's coming. In the new world, you run your pipes out to the Colorado, and by golly, if the Colorado dries up, you run them somewhere else.
At last I and the office workers and the actor reach the waterfall and I'm happy to see that despite our fears, we find a decent gurgle. In fact, just then a slight rain begins, knocking a little dust off the leaves of the local flora and spattering the trail.
It's not much of a sign and it lasts only a couple minutes. But the Urban Man can't help hoping that in spite of all we've done to her, it means mom still loves us, just a little.
Copyright © 2007 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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