The Canyon is standing on a ridge of the San Gabriel Mountain. A part of the Angeles Crest, one of the most unstable ranges in North America. The canyon below and to the east, fills and erodes according to regular cycles of fire, wind, rain, slide, quake, blooming flowers: this is the golden state, all part of the slow, yet sometimes violent, erotic dance with the Pacific Ocean.
The place is a narrow strip of ridge between the steep canyon wall and the suburbia spreading its streets winding up to the trailhead. It supports a grove of Live Oaks. Alternatively, the Live Oaks may be said to be supporting the ridge.
A Space in Between
A strip of shade is a midline, a boundary between the unconditional world and the conditional — that which just is and that which we humans impose upon it in order to live in a civil fashion. That the unconditional ultimately embraces all that might ever be construed as conditional is the single most striking feature of this place, this particular midline, on the western ridge in the shade of Live Oaks.
This place may be said to express a certain progress, a condition that is orderly, predictable according to probabilities of desire, manifested in each generation as practical change. Alternatively, things fall apart. The Angeles Crest is unstable. It is madly in love with the Pacific. It wants more.
PART ONE: EVE - Mythological Times
Eve is an evocation of purity. The magnificent Virgin that was at one points all of our mothers. She is a mother of all of us. She is our story and our common origin. Eve cannot be questioned. Perfection is Eve and Eve is Perfection. She is the original purity; she has this surreal aura of perfection surrounding every aspect of her. She is a pure sacrifice. She is an offering from god and to the god. Yet she is desirable. She is fully a woman. She is a mother goddess from before the time when being a mother existed. She is a fantasy.
Offering is both the present made by the human to the gods, and the offering of Nature, the gift from the gods to the humans. Nature that is either the ancient gods who where revered in natural places like streams, waterfalls, rocks, or the modern and civilized version, in shrines and temples safely labeled as God’s house.
Everyone and everything has a story. What you think as fact is in fact a tale that has been agreed upon. All our memories found what we call reality. Mythology is not supposed to be right. It is supposed to enlighten who we are and how we behave, where do you come from and where we are going. Without it the world would not make sense. Without an origin there would not be a world. In the beginning was Desire. And born in the Desire was Love.
Eve is the promise of a future that will forever expand out of a pure origin. It is a promise that this world of possible will turn into a place of your own. It is the beginning of an endless descent – as everyone and everything come from Eve.
PART TWO: LILITH
As children turn into adult, games become serious. Dreaming becomes not a food satisfying enough to the young human. Will and desire suddenly confronts the world. Mythology vanishes. Fantasies becomes reality, the desire becomes experience. And Innocence is lost. These are historical times. Somewhere there, fantasies are broken, as our peers, this alter ego, do not behave as in our dreams. Lilith the peer does not reflect our self-projected picture of a mighty golden god, but that of a limited and puzzled human being. Lilith brings us to meet our condition of human, adversity arises and leaves us unarmed and harmed.
Lilith is the unspeakable story of men. She has been erased from the books. She is the story through which children become men, the story of our Fathers before they even became fathers. Where she passes, she leaves her one of a lifetime mark. Lilith is attraction. Her gravity pulls everything that comes around like a black hole. Because she is dangerous, she is the other woman. The one you can’t talk about; Lilith is the woman we should not have met. Yet she is in the path of every human. She is the destiny of humanity. She is the other side of feminine, the one that will give your initiation to the other side of life. What you were never told because it can’t be taught. Lilith is pure experience. She is to be found inside of every woman. Yet Lilith hurts. Un-ruled, violent yet as necessary as Life itself. She is the true story of humanity on earth, the one that transforms your innocence into experience. She will hurt. Yet there is no other choice. She is the ambivalent experience of being alive.
Mangle, tangle, bangle, fangle, jangle, rangle, spangle, wangle
Life is never stable. Like the crest dancing above the San Andrea Fault, waiting its turn to move, our lives are all in the waiting for that big accident that will remind us that nothing is forever. An accident? Or was this written in your future since forever? In every life some encounters had to happen. Some encounter had to happen for every life to be possible. Tomorrow is not another today. You’d better get ready for the big bang.
From atop the Angeles Crest the boulders arrived one day, and one day will depart, heading down to the Pacific. Long ago the boulders were all that was flung about the place by rain, wind, and earthquakes. The boulders from up on the crest traveled down into the canyon. Slowly, patiently rushing to the ocean.
The landscape suddenly started turning away from the unconditional nature and towards organization in the early 20th century. At that time human hands rearranged the boulders, slightly, making room for human life, those hands made a house, a boundary wall, borders for paths, planting trees that would, one day, shade reading tables, meeting places, shrines.
What looks like a boulder on the side of your path has been placed here to organize that bare ridge into a garden. It was chosen to use only what was available in nature, but composed for the enjoyments of humans. The difference is subtle. Intention. Purpose. Rising consciousness.
Grass would grow with great difficulty under these trees. The trees would suck up the water needed to grow the grass; too much water for oak trees makes them susceptible to fungus and rot. So the place is dry, the heavy vegetation of the giant oaks and ferns is filled with rocks. The convenient paths crossing through are hesitant and sometimes overtaken by the plants. They almost feel out of place, excusing from their presence intruding the Unconditional life of Nature. Too much have one or the other and life vanishes. No life exists in the full light, the places of sun and deserts. No life exists in the shadow of the far side of the moon, places of forever ice and rocks. Every life is negotiation between light and darkness. Both allow the other to simply exist. Every life is negotiation between light and darkness. You need both to be able to see. Such is photography, the representation of life: a negotiation of light and shade.
PART THREE – DANIEL
Things Fall Apart
Elsewhere—under the raised deck, which lately supported the many dancing feet and a several wedding parties; tucked between the stone wall and the back of the garage; or at the ends of remote pathways—debris is not so neatly stacked. It is half sunk in the fallen oak leaves like so much compost. Things fall apart. Handcarts, I imagine, deliver the unwanted (or rather the not-presently-required) goods to their new angle of repose; as well as holding human history here, this crosspatch of objects—step ladder, filing cabinet, window, fence posts, folding in on each other, hold the earth in their own beneficent way.
However, this all is an illusion. For centuries this place was a bare land, a desert such as you can find some easily anywhere in southern California. The huge trees that allowed the fresh and shadowed space to grow its own vegetation were planted by the hands and will of those who first decided to build on the cliff. They escaping the early yet already hypocrite civility of the upper class that had already established its residency on the heights surrounding Los Angeles to the north. These two worlds never understood each other.
The canyon was redrawn to carry water to the nearby developing community. Trail were hand carved out of the mountain by underpaid Japanese workmen in terrible condition. The stream was redirected several times.
Myriad practical ideas crisscross paths in this place—vines of electrical wires slung in the branches through the decades echo the array of ‘lawn’ furniture. Furniture that is not built in—the stone benches in the circle, the redwood benches on the octagonal raised deck—feature various kinds of wheels. They meet other wheels oddly flung about the place between the canyon and the road— all speeding away from the first wheel, that quintessential benchmark of civilization. Operable cars and trucks are parked any which way around inoperable relics, discretely covered with only the wheels showing; a wounded motorbike leans against a shed, several skeletons of bicycles piled up against it.
A stone circle was built to seal the union of the founders of the house. When engaged, they lacked the money for a ring. When they married they promised for something better. When they got the money they decided to dedicate that ring to their love of the mountain.
The ridge between the stone circle and the little stone house shows a little slope, inviting you softly to come closer and closer, answering some fleeting need, the desire to feel as if one has just arrived, is cresting the wave of the present? The terrace over the ridge is constantly on the edge of falling in the canyon. The terrace feels nice in the morning, facing east, it shows the rising sun over the crest of mount Wilson. The place is kept sheltered by the oak trees that shelter the stone house and the stone circle as well as hold down the soil with their beneficent roots. Because this is apparently a lenient place that is largely overhang over the cliff. It is only when you come to the side that you can see the stones hanging over thin air.
Discarded End of Times
There are wheelbarrows for transporting dirt, plants, and debris. Plenty of trees have fallen in their time; the woodpile is shoulder high and creates a three feet thick wall running ten yards of maze. At one end the neat stack of wood morphs into a neat stack of discarded chairs, tables, office equipment and household appliances, altogether maintaining the shape and height of the woodpile and running several yards more. Every period of manufactured goods meets and discuss the passing of time.
There many end of times seemingly meet the timeless stones, bones of the earth, witnesses of so many rains, so many storms, and so many sunny days without a story written.