I took my daughter to her first soccer practice of the season tonight. We were due at 5:30 and had to fight our way through traffic. I tried to take a shortcut but was stymied by labyrinthine roads leading to hulking mansions. We found our way back to the freeway and resolutely fought our way through.
When we got there, China veered off to the fields while Daisy and I headed up the steep fire road beckoning.
As always, Daisy found a ball within five minutes which I kicked and threw at intervals up the incline for her. We passed through a young eucalyptus grove full of gunmetal trunks shining dully in the late afternoon sun. A little further on, mature eucalyptus shed their barks in tatters that bustled around them like the fringe on a flapper’s dress. Young oak and madrone trees sported long, discarded ribbons of eucalyptus bark like tinsel on their gracious boughs.
We kicked on, I favoring my right ankle a little where the peroneal tendon is torn, or so I am told.
At the summit of one hill, Daisy found and immediately lay down in a muddy hole alongside a wide pipe.
The slant of the sun’s rays deepened, giving everything they touched a silvery sheen. Dried anise reached high for the sky, clusters of tiny grooved seeds ready to fly. Thistle groves were draped in downy blankets of shimmering white seeds wrapped round them like turtlenecks. Nearing the top of the hill, intriguing mounds were barely visible through the trees. I made my way there, sliding on eucalyptus tops carved in five-pointed stars, to find what appeared to be a kind of home-made dirt bike park.
Making our way back to the trail, Daisy leading the way, I felt blessed and at peace. Further on, I could see we were coming to some kind of end where the trail opened into a meadow that spilled over a cliff. The bay gleamed in the distance like a mirage through gathering fog.
There was some kind of bronze plaque there too, at the edge of the cliff. I wondered what it could be commemorating. As I drew closer, my brain reassembled the parts it had perceived, and I saw it was an overturned white couch, the cushions turned over nearby to protect them, the sun’s pink rays shining through the springs and stuffing of the bare seat and making it glow like bronze. It was a rather dear couch, a love seat, actually, made of white twill embossed with a jacquard pattern, with elegant little wood legs wrapped in tape.
I saw that you only had to tip the couch up and replace the cushions, and you’d have the most pristine spot for romance of maybe any I’ve ever seen. I noticed someone had written on one of the pillows in black sharpie, “Which fool brought this couch up here and left it?” Then, they’d drawn a pointillist image of one of the mighty electrical towers humming above us and written, “zzz!,” I guess to indicate what should happen to the villain who’d done so.
I was dismayed. It seemed obvious to me that the “fool” was actually quite a wise soul with a heart (and sense of humor to boot) as expansive as the view the loveseat was poised to take in. It made me happy. It gave me faith in the human spirit.
Returning down the hill, Daisy trotting steadily ahead, the rays of light now almost horizontal, I was speechless at the beauty all around me. Thistles purged their seeds in explosive tufts of cottony seeds, eruptions of stars, each with a little black seed at its center. Ochre monkey flower and hot pink younger thistles with achingly erect and tender stamen rocked in the breeze.
At one point, I passed an incongruous pile of construction garbage spit up like a hairball from some industrial giant.
At the end of our hike, I could see the soccer fields green as the fallow farms of Ireland. I saw my daughter’s long ponytail glimmering. On the way home, the pine trees were painted red with the sun’s dying light. Red bars of light were laid down in the fields and copses lining the highway.
Now, we’re home. I sit on the front stoop. The mountain is black, drained of color. The dog pants with her ball between her paws, striped with not so clean-smelling mud. The fog unfurls like a blanket, covering everything in its path. An airplane drones overhead, competing with the traffic on the highway rushing loud as a river.