Now and then from the windows of our city bus system, the eager curious passenger can catch swiftly fleeting flashes of waterfront. What a view! Mountains, water, tall trees, bridges and boats. It must be nice to stand right there and take it all in at ground level.
So today at the office I took a lunch expedition, forging a new route to some nearby waterfront. There were lush patches of beach roses in pink and white, feathery wild fennel just blooming with its gold compound flowers, wild blue rosemary and lavender, California gold poppies, and right here some sweetpeas and skyline.
Trouble was, this charming scene was a thicket on broken unstable concrete, all of 12 inches away from speeding cars on a service road to the interstate. There was no time for a proper camera angle, so it was nice that the picture caught anything at all before I scrambled out of there.
It was like reading Heidi, where our heroine is exiled to the Sesemann household in Frankfurt. Yearning for a view of her beloved Alps, and being too small to see out the windows, she sets out from the house determined to keep marching along until she gets to some scenery. But she finds that life on the city streets is not the sweetness and light that she expected.
That was like the waterfront today. There was none. It’s all cranes and jackhammers tearing the hillside apart. Cars scream past in acceleration lanes every which way. There’s no sidewalk or traffic lights. There were only crumbling rusted steps leading up and down and around through weeds with blowing trash and graffiti. At one time, this waterfront with its breathtaking mountain view must have been paradise. In the 1930s, it held a lot of tiny wooden family homes and little gardens. Those are all plowed under now. Maybe when all the construction has gouged out the shoreline they will build a park with a bicycle trail? But today it’s all stanchions and underpasses to a huge bridge with deafening noise, and people underneath trying their best to get some sleep without some tourist traipsing through. One of them called out to ask very politely whether he could buy a cigarette. I called back a heartfelt apology, explaining that I don’t smoke.
“That’s all right, Miss,” he assured me. “Actually, you don’t look like a smoker. You look like a… I think a gardener. That right?”
“Right you are,” I waved. Gardening with a camera for the time being.
It took a while to beat around the bushes to pick out the most likely looking old stone staircases, and bushwhack under and over and around and back to the main avenue far up the hill. It was a good lesson on where not to walk again. Good workout, too, even for the hippocampus — to get a little lost for a while and figure out the best way back.
And, there’s a view of sweetpeas to remember it by.