Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sacred Park

The park is on a small corner lot.  If the streets had been laid out in a grid system, the park would be square, but the roads wind like serpents through the oak covered hills and the park is more of a wide triangle or a misshapen square.  A hybrid of sculpture and nature, landscape and native grasses, the designers decided to keep some of the original oaks and many of them line the edges of the park. Entrance is gained by the side which faces the street. 
A swooping black tar road hosts the occasional SUV or Mercedes- all of them gleaming and clean, freshly buffed and waxed.  Their sound is rushed and jarring next to the park where there is a muted activity. There are sounds there, the place is not silent, but the hum of bees and flies are completely overwhelmed by engines and wheels and a two-ton car speeding forty miles around a curve.  On its face the park is empty, but just a tiny bit of time and attention reveal the relentless activity- the wind and rustle of branches, nectar gathering, the click and pops of insects and endless bird calls that come in sporadic intervals.
From the street the park is reached by a path made of dirt and miniscule gravel just bigger than grains of sand. Down the tree lined path is a green and chrome water fountain with three spigots, one for adults, one for children, and one at ground level for animals.
Several steps more and the shaded canopy of young planted trees recedes. Here is the heart of the park, a series of concentric circles around a single sacred oak in the center. The entire space is designed around this oak, perhaps seventy five years old.  It grows from a raised bed about fifteen feet wide and three feet off the ground which is supported by a stone retaining wall made of dark, smooth rocks the size of human skulls. The bed provides ample space for the mature tree roots to extend into the soil and towards the water table.  The oak has a wide bushy canopy and its small spiked leaves are green and bright, its thick trunk is a pale whitish gray with many darkened scars. 
The main trunk branches into several smaller limbs before forming the thinner jagged boughs which sprout its shade makers. Planted around the tree are long green stalks of iris which rustle in the slightly cool breeze and several dozen rosemary shrubs, both upright and cascading low-growing varieties that act as groundcover. They also provide an endless release of perfume.  The plants are in full bloom and there are small, bright blue flowers all over the long, pungent needle-covered fingers.  Bees busy themselves, flying from flower to flower in glutinous indulgence.
Surrounding the circular raised bed is a recessed wider circle of slate stone which forms the smooth pedestrian walkway.  From the edge of the raised bed to the exposed earth at the edges, the circular walkway is about seven feet wide.  The large pieces of slate are laid in a non-symmetrical pattern, looking like a mosaic all made from the same pinkish hue of stone.  The man-made floor is littered only by a bit of dust and a few fallen oak leaves and it is warm from the strong morning sun.
At the perimeter, where slate stone and earth meet, are the benches.  There are five of them equally spaced around the central oak tree.  All of them face the interior, an open invitation to ponder the beauty of the sacred. The benches are worn and weathered, their luster gone except for the bronze plaques which are screwed onto the back. Between each bench is a single, yellowing gingko biloba tree.  They are young, perhaps only 15 years old.  Their trunks are still thin and their leaves hang downward, getting ready for the upcoming fall when they will turn a brilliant yellow and drop.
Behind the benches are the lavender bushes, their flowers are grayish purple and crusty from late summer heat, yet still give off a mildly sweet and cool smell which trumps the scent of wetness and mulch where the sun has not yet warmed the hill on the west end of the park.  There the earth is still moist from the morning dew and the small rosemary shrubs hold onto glistening droplets of water in their flower faces.
There is the sporadic click of an insect in the underbrush. Lawnmowers grind in the distance, some sounding louder than others and taking on the high pitched whine of flies. Several songbirds hidden in tree branches call back and forth in shrill voices- ahhh ahhh ahhhh.  Three crows fly by overhead, headed from the northwest towards the southeast. They are several hundred feet away, they glide like black angels. A white plane cruises from north to south, looking even smaller than the birds.
Filling in the outer edges are larger trees, some of them oaks.  The earth is a mixture of mulch and crispy tan oak leaves and fallen rosemary needles.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

House By The Waves

The light outside the cottage is warm and golden. The sky is blue with just a few patches of white fluffy clouds.
Magenta bougainvillea and dark purple morning glory vines wrap around the single room cottage like a pair of breathing arms.
There is a narrow walking path on the periphery of the home which climbs ever so gently up a subtle slope in the landscape. The path is augmented by five weathered wooden steps as it climbs.
A black cat, its coat warmed by the bright heat, sits licking its left paw on the second step.
The main space is wide an ample, though its space is taken up mostly by furniture. Upon a large area rug of muted red and orange hues are two couches facing each other and separated by a long wooden coffee table.
The aesthetic is warm and country-like.  Soft throw blankets are folded and draped over the back of each sofa. The kitchen is separated from the main room by just a four foot high wall which can be used as a tabletop. The kitchen space is dim, though the honey colored wood of the cabinets glows faintly with colorful warmth. 
The house is well used and the mismatched contents are rustic and well worn.  Everything inside is meant to be touched and used and laid upon.
Two brunette women stand beside the coffee table, both of them looking at the pair of double wide glass doors along the side of the living room.
The west side of the cottage meets the ocean. Large waves break and explode onto the strong doors, leaving streaks of white foam dripping down the sides. There are brief intervals between waves, a mixture of blue and opalescent green presents itself before vanishing into bursts of frothy saltwater.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I am standing on a cold cement sidewalk in the massive shadow of a freeway overpass.  It is daylight and the sky is blue, but from where I stand, the wind has a biting chill.  There are multiple cement ramps high overhead, roads in the sky held up by thick round columns that delve deep into the earth.  Not a bit of sunlight makes it past the four overpasses that from my vantage point, seem to be stacked upon each other.  
The sidewalk reverberates with the thousands of cars driving overhead, coming into me through the sole of my shoes and then up through my legs, venturing further within. The sound of the combined motors, all swooshing and speeding so high above is like a mechanized river, sometimes fading in and out with strength, but never ceasing. 
On the street in front of me, shadowed too by the freeway overpasses above, is a white car.  It is the kind of vehicle used for commercial purposes.  The kind with tools and extra seats for capable men and a spot for a water cooler in the back.  It is a new, still shiny, clean and white, baring none of the scratches of a well-worn vehicle. 
There are a dozen police milling around the vehicle.  Some have climbed into it, pulling open the screwed in seats.  Others look through the dozens of compartments along the sides, pulling out tools, inspecting them, holding up greasy bottles to the light. 
Inside the car I can see a brown skinned man crouched in the compartment below where a seat cushion would have hidden him. The vinyl seat is still in a police officer’s hand as he shouts orders. The man is wearing jeans and a white t-shirt.  He remains in the fetal position he had been in as the shelter is revealed, stunned, blinking at the new source of light.  Several Latin men are already on the sidewalk, laying flat against the ground, their arms handcuffed behind their backs.
The cops' voices are loud and harsh.  The motors of the half dozen police cars are still running, their lights are on, the bright colors of their screaming sirens diffuse into the day. The smell of car exhaust is strong, unchanging despite the steady breeze.
People in business suits walk by the scene undisturbed.  Most give only a passing glance to the white commercial vehicle and its occupants. Women in gray dresses and lipstick, men carrying briefcases and sacks of takeout from nearby restaurants.  Barely a glance at the scene. A breeze blows past me, sending chills over my sandaled feet. The chill rises, finding my chest. 
The police men are pale and distant, uncaring in this bust spawned only by human need.  Their bodies are big and covered in muscle, covered once again by thin blue fabric.  Their guns are black, somehow glistening even in the shade of the multiple freeways overhead. 
My white skirt blows in the wind, tempting my calves with a delicate touch.  I am cold, standing in the shade of a thousand moving cars.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Yellow Hills

The six lane highway is sandwiched between two hillsides whose peaks angle away from each other, creating the illusion that I am driving through a long bowl with only two sides.  The earth angles smoothly upwards, symmetrically but in opposite directions towards the peaks one hundred feet high.  The hills seem perfectly aligned, cut from the earth for this long highway that takes no turns or deviations.  It is a straight line to the mountains, hidden now by angry clouds.  And though man has tried for symmetry, nature has taken over once again, bringing chaos into the optimistic order of carefully designed things. 

The hills are blooming brightly with wild mustard plants that reach five feet in the air.  They wave in the wind, bending easily on their thin stalks. The yellow blossoms are like an electric lamp blaring loudly into the midday sky.  They cover the hills in a dense world of vibrating yellow, painting a nearly perfect blanket of uniform color, a pattern changing with each new breathy gust.  Moving not in unison, but in a myriad of shapes and directions that change continuously, rapidly, leaving not a moment for reflection.

Ahead is a gray sky. It is dark and verging towards black, just one step from madness. Huge puffs of water filled clouds hang overhead, threatening with their very color.  Towards the right, to the horizon in the east, the clouds are bubbly and pale gray. I can see one small patch of blue fighting through a thick blanket, another color adding to the living palette.

On the right side of the highway, at the base of the hillside, are the plastic orange cones and metal road signs of imminent construction, though not a soul in a hardhat walks beyond the temporary cement barricade that separates the road from the construction zone. Piles of stacked lumber lay waiting, sitting beside metal bound packets of rebar and thin poles, themselves wrapped in sheets of thick plastic wrapping.  Small peaks of sand and dirt wait for use below blue plastic tarps, the edges flapping just slightly in the wind

I stare out though the slightly dirty windshield. The contrasting colors of the world losing no brilliance despite the thin gauze of accumulated dust and orange splattered innards of unfortunate bugs.  I avoid turning my head, but through peripheral vision I see the red, black and white of passing cars beside the windows. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rebirth Station

The small brightly lit room is just off a highly trafficked street, but it is late night and the cars are no longer passing by with their screeching tires and rumbling engines.  The pedestrians have all long gone home and the street is almost eerily quiet. 
The room used to be a store front of some kind, but those days are long gone and now it stands almost devoid of personality.  The walls are white and bare- the overhead lighting is blunt in its effectiveness, just bare bulbs screwed into the ceiling.  It is basic at its more stark- like a prison cell.  There are bars over the front plate glass window, which in theory protects the inhabitants from any wandering predators outside.  The window is blocked from the street not just by metal bars but also by a large single piece of white painted particle board. The room is rectangular, efficient in its size. 
Half a dozen people fill the room, all of them sitting in cheap cushioned chairs that are decades old.  There is a heavy set young woman sitting on a chair towards the back left corner,  she has a crocheted multicolored blanket across her knees.  Her skin is pale and her hair is dark and stringy- she looks sixteen or seventeen and very small.  She looks lost in the expanse of the room, lost even though I can see her and she can see me. 
Five feet away from her is a man in his 20s, he has a scraggly blond beard and a tiny pot belly covered by a blue tank top with orange edging.  Next to him, his 2 year old son sits happily on a chair.  Almost all the eyes in the room are on the boy, a somewhat happy and clueless child who does not seem to mind being in the white vacuum of the space.
There is a young woman with dark hair closer to the door.  Her arms are on her knees as she leans over, looking into my eyes. Her face is desolate, her eyes dull and without any expression, like she has seen a thousand horrible acts and closed herself off to all of them, resigned to her fate now.
In front of me, the only thing on the wall, is a cardboard cutout of a TV set.  It is designed to look like an old fashioned analog TV with two knobs that were once used to change channels.  It looks like something left over from an art class, perhaps a project critical of the media. The screen area is grayed out and the entire thing is two dimensional.
It is silent in the room.  I can’t even hear the buzzing of the lights.

Monday, June 11, 2012

IRS Office

The room is windowless and gray.  There are gray fabric paneled cubicle walls, gray carpeting, and a low ceiling.
The center of the large square room is lined with eight rows of chairs.  The chairs are padded and covered with a patchwork fabric design in deep purple hues.  Each seat is latched to the chair beside it by a metal hook along its edge, creating straight rows of eight. 
Along the periphery of the room are cubicles separated by thick gray fabric covered walls. Each separated desk faces the center of the room, though there are walls designed like sliding doors which can be opened or closed. 
There are three cubicles that are open, the rest are blocked by the portable walls.  There is one woman behind each visible desk, each with varying pale skin tones, but with the same portly figure and plump cheeks. 
The desks are gray and long and uniform.  There is a computer with a raised glowing screen and a wired telephone.  Each different desk is decorated with the snapshots of loved ones and tiny figurines and mugs full of pencils. 
Behind the perimeter of desks is another narrow perimeter of walking space which allows movement from desk to desk or easy reference to the several bookcases full of thick tax code books and reference material.
Beside the front door is a black man sitting behind the oversized receptionist desk.  A rope barrier starts at the door and leads towards the reception desk, forcing anyone who might enter the double glass doors to head in one direction.  As patrons enter he hands each one a paper number and motions for them to watch the glowing screen with red numerals. 
Mounted to one of the walls is a large flat screen tv, it faces the rows of chairs and is tuned to a news station.  Close-captioned subtitles move across the bottom of the screen and there are no speakers. Half a dozen people sit scattered among the chairs, each holding a number and staring straight ahead into the glowing monitor. 
Mumbled voices and the muted tap of the women typing on their keyboards is the only sound.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rural Road

The car is parked along the dirt shoulder of a faded asphalt two-lane highway. Cut through a narrow valley, the road is surrounded by trees that rise up into squat hills that eventually form jagged mountains.
We sit sandwiched between a forest comprised mostly of evergreens, though they are interspersed with deciduous trees that have started to turn with the approach of winter.
A spectacle of red, orange and yellow are beautifully mixed with the constant green of the pines. The canopy of foliage is so thick that on the ground the light between the tree trunks is almost black even though there is still a bit of daylight left.  The yellow of the changing leaves matches the dotted lines dividing the highway.
The forest surrounding us is thick, unpunctuated by any houses or roads, though I can smell the unmistakable scent of burning logs in a fireplace somewhere in the distance, the scent of memories wafts in even though the windows of the car are closed tight.
There are no street lamps or the bright double headlights of an approaching car in the coming twilight.  Just stillness all around. The sky is a constantly fading blue without a single cloud and the first glimmering star of the night is straight ahead and billions of miles away. The frosty air of deep fall seeps in through the glass windows and I keep my hands buried in the pockets of my fur-lined corduroy jacket.
The faded light of the day outside has covered the interior of the car in a shadow of dim light. The three people in the back seat are blurred shadows without distinct shapes and their silence is heavy. 
Beside me in the passenger seat is a woman with short blond hair and a chiseled chin that looks like stone, she could easily be mistaken for a petite man given the angles of her face.
A few birds silhouetted in black fly over the highway and towards the mountain peak to the left of the car. They are too far away to hear their cries. 
A key ring with seven copper keys is hanging from the ignition.  The orange engine light is bright on the dashboard, as is the car’s temperature level, which is marked at “H.”
I can feel the cold of the air outside through my thin black jeans. There is a ticking sound that comes from the engine in intervals. The road ahead moves up a gently rising hill and then peaks, making what lays ahead a complete mystery.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rocky Sea

The building has the aesthetic of 70s style architecture with flat rooftops and minimal flair, a structure that does not hide its boxiness, but rather flaunts it. It is an apartment building with about 60 individual units organized into three structures of 30 apartments each. The three distinct box-shaped areas are pushed together like cluster squares; from above, they look like a disjointed letter T.  Each building has three stories. Along the edge of each level is a hallway-balcony in front of the doors that lead to each unit, a style popular in motels across the United States. The hallway/balcony is about four feet wide and has a three foot tall black iron fence which delineates the edge. 
The building is constructed and decorated with differing shades and types of wood.  The front doors of each unit are a deep cherry wood which are trimmed along the edges with a paler blond wood with a glossy veneer. The walls of the building which face the balcony are lined with alternating planks of wood, each with a unique wood grain and color.  Each is shined to perfection.
I am standing on the balcony of the third story and look down from what seems like a great distance. Earth is not below, rather, I see a ragged reef of huge gray and white boulders with waves that lap against their sides. 
The assemblage of rocks stretches into the distance and fades into the horizon. The ocean water is a mixture of different colors, in places looking dark blue, in others spotted with turquoise. White surf spreads along the edges of the boulders. From where I stand, it looks like sea and stone, dry land is a memory.  Some of the giant rocks are in a haphazard circle and have created small, protected swimming holes delineated from the larger sea.  I can see three people in one of the swimming holes. From where I stand, their bodies are small as dust.
I hold on to the balcony railing, afraid I will somehow fall off and into the water.  My knuckles are pale and my hands dig into the blunt edges of the metal bars.  It seems like the entire complex is tipping, like at any moment my feet might come off the ground and only my grip can protect me from flipping out and crashing into the rocky water below.