Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rim of the Canyon (and Disaster)

Photo: Meadow, Carpenteria Bluffs, July 1, 2008.
COPYRIGHT 2008 by Ross Care
Some entries ago I mentioned that many people think of California as having no seasons. As I also noted, it’s my theory that we have all four seasons, they just happen all at once, depending on the region, the microclimate, and the elevation.

Mature readers may remember the classic Ralph Rainger song, “June in Jaunary.”

Right now in southern California it’s October in July.

The lush greenness of the spring (i.e., January to May) has given way to a kind of golden fusion of summer and autumn. The grasses and hillsides are now a lambent gold, dazzling, glimmering (and combustible, as you may well know from news of the persistent fires around Big Sur and the recent one just happening today in Goleta, north of Santa Barbara).

Leaves and shrubs that have not completely dried out are turning autumnal reds and oranges in the canyons.

At any rate, now there’s gold along long the 101 freeway both to the north and south, an almost poignantly beautiful phase before the landscape’s inevitable demise into the dull (and dangerous) earthen aridity of the winter months.

I took a walk in Ventura’s Arroyo Verde this evening and, as often happens Out Here, I thought of how close, perilously close, any urban development is to a rugged, near-wilderness environment, particularly populated areas in or adjacent to the many canyons along the coast.

(Last year it was truly surreal to drive from Pasadena to Hollywood, traffic moving business as usual on the freeway as Griffith Park blazed, sending mountains of smoke into the otherwise clear blue sky).

Part of Ventura’s Arroyo Verde Park is of course kept verde (green), unnaturally so, by consistent irrigation. (Not to worry, we in California – and Las Vegas - are assuredly certain that the water supply will never ever run out).

Entering the Arroyo from Foothill Road the space between the hills is green as Kensington Gardens. Nobody seems to mind or even notice the incongruity of such a lushly expansive and landscaped lawn set between the unkempt wilds of the canyon walls.

But we feel we are entitled to everything here, even a village green, no matter how expensive or none-green politically.
This is not even to mention the incongruous, unnatural green expanses of golf courses of Palm Springs, and the surreally verdant Forest Lawns of Glendale, Burbank, et al).

It’s sort of the same thing when you drive across Coldwater Canyon in LA and descend over the Hollywood hills into Beverly Hills. The homes and profusely irrigated lawns look like something out of a particularly affluent (and sometimes kitschy) New England town (or a 1940s David O. Selznick movie which is tasteful in comparison!)

However, behind the pleasant, one might say complacent facade is the wild, somehow threatening aridity of dried brush and bare earth of the canyon walls, sometimes seemingly only a few feet behind this idealized vision of suburbia and The American Dream.

A vivid illustration of this California suburban/wilderness effect can be seen in one of my favorite science fiction films, the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) when Miles and Becky flee out of the comfortable tree-lined streets of their small town into the wild canyons just beyond, and where Becky finally falls asleep and victim to her pod persona.

BTW didn’t that film, set in classic era ‘50s California, turn out to be one of the most prophetic ever made?????

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