Visual-Story: Angeles Crest

Hybridizing: Creative Writing, Photography
Artists: Nancy Kyes, Clement Durand

Angeles Crest, Short Story and Photography.

The place, on a western ridge of a mountain, is 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, flower: this is the golden state, all part of the slow, erotic dance with the Pacific Ocean.

Currently the place is a narrow strip of ridge between the steep canyon wall and the paved suburban road winding to the trailhead; it supports a grove of Live Oaks. Alternatively, the Live Oaks may be said to be supporting the ridge.


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 the Pacific. It wants more.

Astro turf covers the ridge between the stone circle and the little stone house, answering some fleeting need, the desire to feel as if one has just arrived, is cresting the wave of the present? The Astro turf is sheltered by the oak trees who shelter the stone house and the stone circle as well as hold down the soil with their beneficent roots.

Real 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 maybe the Astro Turf is a practical choice.

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 bicycles piled up against it.

There are wheelbarrows for transporting dirt, plants, and debris. Plenty of trees have fallen in their time; the woodpile is waist high and creates a three feet thick wall running maybe ten yards. At one end the neat stack of wood morphs into a neat stack of discarded chairs, tables, office equipment, and household appliances, maintaining the shape and height of the woodpile and running several yards more.

Mangle, tangle, bangle, fangle, jangle, rangle, spangle, wangle.


Elsewhere—under the raised deck, which lately supported the dancing feet of a wedding party; 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.

Handcarts, too, move the boulders, though not always.

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. Early in the 20th c CE, human hands rearranged them, slightly, making room for a house, making a house, a boundary wall, borders for paths trees would shade one day, meeting places, shrines.