This may be a holdover from my drinking years, but I have always been a big fan of, if you’re tired, simply lAying down on the ground, wherever you are, to think or read or take a short nap.
This works well if you’re in, say, Exeter, New Hampshire, where I spent the better part of two weeks last summer throwing myself down beneath the nearest spreading chestnut tree or elm or oak with a flagon of iced coffee and a book.
L.A. poses a bit more of a challenge but over the years I have spent my share of time on patches of grass here, too. During my short but intensely hateful career as a lawyer, for example, I’d argue a motion at the downtown Superior Courthouse, then hit the park between Grand and Hill, find a spot on the lawn, kick off my heinous high heels, lie down amidst the throngs of passersby and my (ex-) fellow winos, and stare miserably up at the sky thinking “About suffering they were never wrong, the Old Masters”…
During a visit to L.A. earlier this year (on a break from my cross-country journey), I had jet lag, and I had an hour-long gap between the time my friend had dropped me off at the corner of Ohio and Sepulveda in West L.A. and another person was picking me up. Across the street was a “park,” one side of which ran parallel to the 405 freeway and a portion of which had been staked out by what looked to be a rather sizeable community of homeless people. But I was tired! So I rolled my Swiss Army suitcase over, nodded to the brown-baggers, and found my own very nice spot in the sun where I stretched out, used my purse for a pillow, and enjoyed a much-needed snooze.
And just recently I hiked to the top of Bronson Canyon on a Sunday afternoon, hoping for some peace and quiet, only to find the place instead crawling with people, horses, and dogs. This wouldn’t do at all, and I soon spied an opening to the trail on the right where People probably peed and which was probably some huge gay cruising place at night. But no-one was in there now, so I thought I’d just sally forth and lie down on the pebbles, sharp stems, etc. and enjoy a little time with the birds.
Which I did and it was lovely.
I could still hear people going by but I simply tuned that out in favor of the insects and voles or whatever other small animal-type things were in there with me. At one point I heard a sudden, loud, and obnoxious electronic BLAPPP followed by an interlude of indecipherable loudspeaker static. Figures, I ruminated, even up here you can’t have a moment of silence, and went back to sleep.
I began to hear more squawking, bothersome static, though, and I’m not sure how much time elapsed but after awhile I was given to realize that the noise was being made by a person and that the person might be addressing me!
So I sat bolt upright to see a cop in full uniform with a bullhorn in his hand and a white and blue 4-wheel drive ranger vehicle behind him who, no doubt having been alerted by some ambulatory passerby, had apparently been standing there for several minutes thinking I was injured, OD’ed or dead.
“Didn’t you hear me, Sir?” he called through his bullhorn. I let this pass and yelled back, “I did, but I thought the sound was coming from behind me,” which was vaguely true, then cupped my hands around my mouth and added, “I’m so sorry, I’m fine, I was just having a little nature moment for myself!”
I don’t know if he could hear me but he was very nice and we gave each other a smile and a tip-my-hat-to-you wave, and I lay back down for a minute thinking how not all cops are racist thugs, and not all priests are pedophiles, and of how grateful I was that for 23 years, if I’d been recumbent in public, it was more or less because I’d been lost in wonder and not because I was drunk. After a few minutes, I got up, dusted myself off, walked back out, and re-joined the trail, refreshed.
And all the way back, through the wild mustard and sage and pearly everlasting, and a fresh batch of hikers huffing their way up, I thought about the poor folks who never think to lie down, wherever they are—and of how much they miss.