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Canyon Crashing

I love my city.

I don’t love the housing prices. And we have our share of problems: our radical unsustainabilities, our hypocrisies, and it’s important not to dismiss these. We are victim & victimizer of all the cruelties of the 21st century; which are the same cruelties that have ever bird-dogged our species with a dash of algorithmic techno-speak. But this place is nice; it’s certainly enough of a city for me.

And it’s home.

But there’s a particular praise song I want to write, for the feral canyons that flow like capillaries through our post-car sprawl. Unlike a lot of southern California, San Diego is built of hills and plateau lots, snaked through with ravines, watersheds and valleys that we don’t build on. And thanks to this, our high value low density city is lined with rivulets of feral green where native ecologies meet imported plants and animals in a anarchic gnarl where the only rule is whatever survives survives.

I’m not talking about the parks, preserves, and scenic hikes (though they are lovely); I’m more talking about the random in between spaces where the paths sometimes blanch into suggestions of trails. Wonders and beauty and thriving ecosystems exist in these spaces; fed by runoff and benign neglect. Poverty lives here too, as the people our society has especially chewed up find spaces to lay their head.

I love hiking, exploring these canyons… these liminalities. There’s always still more to see, much many of which I can never truly find on a map. Wandering, surprised by which birds and plants and animals I meet, which of my kin can make homes here (too many to name, but I especially admire cooper’s hawk, anna’s hummingbird, mule deer, skunk, and a brazen noontime coyote who trotted along 20 yards ahead while I jogged till our paths diverged). I love finding the feral art in abandoned tunnels made for the simple joy of creativity and left for no one in particular. There’s always high wyrdness if you know where to look: like the witch’s garden that had grown in abundance (nightshade and hemlock and other old English plants that had taken over the hillside when I turn left left from the hidden staircase that may represent a certain light trespassing). In these spaces, I collect firewood for my bonfires, prickly pear, sage, lavender, nasturtium, and more. They’re places, especially now, to get away from people and the games of the (human parts of the) city to be by myself or with a companion.

In this season of sameness & dread, zemblanity punctuated by fresh cascades of fight or flight, it means so much to me to have something different, something living, something that can surprise me. It means so much to me to be able to go crashing about a canyon whenever my feet itch to explore.

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