This morning I woke up early and started my day as usual. In the kitchen I prepared coffee, carried it upstairs and sat at my desk to check email. Then, I stepped out my front door in Court 10 and joined the concrete footpath leading to West Green. It was my first walk in several weeks, and as I strode into golden sunlight filtering through the olive trees, I felt bathed in a familiar tranquility. With each return to these walking paths, I wonder why I don’t do it more often. Yet here they are when I come back to them.
In the mornings this wood-plank bench sits in the shade. I stopped and rested for a moment while gazing up at hilly Baldwin Vista neighborhood. A white house is perched on the distant hilltop next to a pine tree that sticks above the hill line. This view is framed by two incense cedars in the Green, with the rose garden spread out in front. It’s fall now, and the roses are in flower again (when I walked past them, I could smell their scent in the air). I feel grateful for this bench. It offers a place to rest and enjoy this scene, as birdsong meanders toward me across the flat open grass.
When I set out, I decided to take a short walk. I was thinking about the tasks I had to achieve today. But with each step along the winding path, those tasks lost their urgency. As I imagined what I’d say to a colleague, the sound of a thousand leaves clapping in the wind distracted me. As I planned my days’ schedule, I saw a black phoebe close by me turn its quick head one way and the other before launching into the blue air. By the time I reached the bench, I had decided my day could wait, I would walk the full loop.
When I reached the end of Main Green, I passed through another sycamore-lined alleyway to the East Green. I have a tender spot for East Green because it was the first time I encountered the Village Green. I still remember sitting down on the grass to savor this special place, with such grand trees and the impressive vanishing trick it performs daily: to enfold one in the middle of Los Angeles with not a car nor street in sight.
Sometimes, after passing this halfway point (when I want to delay the inevitable ending) I duck down a side path to extend my walk. I usually discover something new – a plant, a bird, a quirky back patio – that I put in my memory pocket.
Because I walk the Green regularly, I see it change year-round. I see trees, like the saucer magnolia, puff into leaf and flower, then go slowly bald. I watch plain green plants, such as the abundant agapanthus, shoot out like slow organic fireworks, new stems of intricate shape and color. I hear birdsong rise and fall as migrating birds arrive and journey on. At this time of year there is so much change as the Green sheds its golden-brown canopy of leaves onto the grassy floor. For much of my life I lived oblivious to this wondrous flow of nature. Yet when I walk the Green and pay close attention, it is everywhere.
By the time I arrived back at my doorstep, about thirty minutes later, I was awake for a second time; awake to all the forms of life around me; awake to my body moving in space; awake to knowing that my thoughts are just one part of my experience. I began my day with a little more space in it.
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