Tag Archives: los angeles arboretum

Two in the Bush

Feast or famine. Either way, a bellyache.

Mike has gone from being terrifyingly unemployed to working so much that, well, it’s terrifying. I’m not sure humans are designed to pull off eighty-hour weeks. Certainly not when they’re over forty. Don’t get me wrong, the money is great. But we miss him. And his haggard face, when we do get a glimpse of it, makes me wish there was a bit more balance in his employment life. Like if he had a “regular” office job, maybe. You know, a nine to five. Word on the street is those are easy. But he doesn’t. And he won’t. And that’s probably, for him, at least, a good thing.

For us? Well, life must go on, and four-year-olds–too young to understand such subtleties–must be bodily entertained. Even on Sundays.

Since MJ’s so immersed in the bird thing right now, I decided to bring her back to the Arboretum. It’s been over a year since we went there; I knew she’d remember nothing. And I was right. Even when I tried to prompt her memory, she knew zilch.

“There are peacocks?” I reminded her. “We got attacked by a goose?”

A stare as blank as the great outdoors. This was fantastic. It would be like a whole new experience for her. The beauty of a pre-schooler’s mind: It’s re-writable, like a floppy disk.

Speaking of distant memories.

Anyway. Back we went. And it was, indeed, like a brand new outing. We may as well have been arriving on Pluto. With plumed denizens. And an atmosphere, of course.

Greeted, as always, by a flock of raucous and gorgeous peacocks, my daughter looked mind-blown.

“Mama look!” she shrieked. “Do you see them?”

“Wow, Yes!” I cried. (Silently adding: “My little sieve.”)

“And look, ducks!”

“I don’t believe it!”

“And turtles!”

“You must be kidding!”

Seriously, her delight was totally infectious. Who cares that I’d seen–and seen, and seen!–all of this previously. The day was bright and temperate, the crowds thin, and the place absolutely bursting with wildlife. The pond especially was a veritable cornucopia of fauna. In addition to the mallards (“Whoa! Iridescence!”) we saw coots, hawks, scrub jays, turtles in scads, Canada geese, a double-crested cormorant, and several lizards. Large fish (trout? Coi? I have no idea. We haven’t hit the piscatory obsession yet) virtually threw themselves at us for pretzel crumbs. Sunlight leaped and glanced prettily off of leaves, water, even my daughter’s plastic sunglasses.

Later, wandering the rose garden, we found a wide stretch of soft grass and lay down. It was a sweet spot–not too sunburny, not too cool. Dizzying peacefulness. “It’s so quiet,” MJ said finally. “All I can hear are birds’ songs.”

We listened. It was true.

“I wish Daddy was here.” Her tone was half mournful, half matter-of-fact.

“Me, too,” I replied.

Another long silence.

“I’m going to tell him I saw eight plus eight plus one peacocks today.”

“You definitely should.”

She rolled over and sat up. A wide smile sprang onto her face. “And that one was a juvenile!”

“Yes, indeed.”

“My favorite kind!”

Mine, too. Mine, too, my fledgling girl.


Morning, Dove.

Mike is down with the flu today. After being up all night with it, that is.

I wanted to give him some peace and quiet, so decided to get MJ out of the house early. She didn’t have school today, so we opted to head for the Arboretum, a spot we’ve visited before, but not yet this spring. (Yes, in Los Angeles it is indeed springtime. February’s almost summer for us, really. Time for bikini shopping!) The Arboretum opens at nine, thus giving people like me–whose kids wake up at 6:15AM–a place to go to stretch their legs when everyone else is still stretching awake in bed.

One of the big highlights of the place is the peacocks, but today we didn’t see too many. (Our best sighting, in fact, was in the parking lot when we first arrived. With all the cars pulling in, I was incredibly grateful the thing was still alive. Peacock roadkill is not something I’m prepared to explain to Myra-Jean.) After that it was mostly geese–who bite, so you can’t get close–and a great deal of drying feces.

All of which was more than mitigated, of course, by the greenery. We walked the whole park this time, and were treated to a verdant display of foliage, succulents, cacti, and exotic trees. We strolled slowly, pointing at what we liked, scanning for birds, and dabbling in light conversation. I guess all conversation with a three-year-old is light. Although you’d be surprised…

Anyway. Whenever we thought to, we’d stop, fall still, and listen to the susurrus of long stems in wind, the far-off call of geese, the tenor of nesting doves. Then, after a moment of such aural attention, we’d resume walking.

Finally we got hungry and made our way to the rose garden–at this time of year denuded of blossoms, but still a decent place to sit. There we snacked on pear chunks and sliced white carrots while feeding cashews to a few lucky scrub jays. As delightful as the latter activity was, the nuts in question were salty; worried we might kill our feathered friends–or at least give them a stroke– I eventually cut them off.

After two hours we felt nearly ready to go. There was just one more stop to make–a favorite of MJ’s: the bamboo grove. There we left the road and pushed through the smooth, pole-like trunks, moving our limbs slowly through the dappled light and kicking at wormy roots underfoot. Grimacing, I scratched at the names carved roughly into some of the trunks. People are such assholes, I thought. Must everything be about them?

But MJ didn’t notice. She was tramping her way through the dried carpet of leaves, pushing green stalks behind her like ski poles. Everything in her visage screamed contentment. If such a thing can, in fact, be screamed.

“I love this place,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“I know,” I said. I reached over and pulled a dried leaf from her hair. “And I love you.”

After a few moments we returned to the path. MJ ran to her stroller, kneeled on the seat, then torqued her body around to a sitting position. “I’m ready to go home,” she declared.

So, eating cashews all the way, we did just that.


Feather Bet

My mom got into town yesterday — always a wonderful break in our routine. She’s an avid garden lover, so I decided to take her and MJ to the L.A. Arboretum for a couple of hours this morning. Good choice. Not only did we get to see a male peacock with his feathers fully fanned out — a breathtaking sight  — but everything else there was resplendent, as well. Apparently anything with flowers on it is in full bloom right now. And the weather couldn’t have been better. Finally, there was a lot less birdshit than last time. I don’t mean to be crude. But when you have a thousand large fowls on one hundred and twenty seven acres of land, you can be looking at a lot of slippery spots. Today it wasn’t so bad, though.

The guy kneeling behind the peacock was obsessed with photographing its rear. You never think about what it looks like from behind, do you? Well, apparently he does.

Me, I’m fine with just staring at the front. Honestly, it’s the most gorgeous yet impractical getup imaginable. How peacocks have survived the game of evolutionary roulette is anyone’s guess. Although one could say the same of any woman in stiletto heels, I suppose.

Anyway, there weren’t just peacocks. You had your ducks, your turtles, your red-tailed hawks, and your geese. The latter of which — unlike last time — refrained from trying to steal an almond-butter and jelly sandwich straight out of my daughter’s mucky little hands.

Best of all? The bamboo grove. A nice place to take pictures, a nice place to get lost. And a super nice place to look up, up, up.

One thing: MJ found a couple of feathers there — I think they’re duck — and insisted on bringing them home. Being of the urban, paranoid, and germaphobic ilk, I am convinced these plumes are covered with parasites, drug-resistant germs, and several strains of avian flu. Since the second she picked them up I have had to fight the impulse to yank them violently out of her hands, scream “dirty!” and throw them into the nearest incinerator. Right after I finish scouring her befouled hands with industrial-strength bleach.

Ahem. The more benevolent, nature-embracing part of me thinks I should lighten up and let her keep them. After all, I had a hawk feather when I was a kid. I loved it. I stroked my face with it constantly. I’m still here. Sort of.

My question to you is twofold: do feathers still carry the noxious germs they did when we were kids? If so, how do I disinfect them? My idea is to put them in the microwave and blast them for sixty seconds. It works on sponges. But it was also my idea to put a Chilewich Placemat in the washing machine, and we all remember how well that turned out…