The Levy

November 10, 2009
By Anonymous

The neighborhood was quiet as I stepped across the sidewalk and onto the last remaining patch of field before the edge of the levy. Not more than twenty years ago these grasses must have extended far beyond our rows of houses, their ancient roots delving into the ground long before any vineyards began to pattern the hillsides. Where houses now stand, one could have lay in the grass as the morning breeze compelled the blades to dance about and the grey October sky sent clouds floating softly by. Now it was confined to this small expanse of land, bordered on one side by cement, and on the other, the levy.

This great wall of dirt was built to protect the inhabitants of the neighborhood from the wild threat of nature, separating us from the private life of the river below. As I climbed the earthen steps carved into the steep hillside, I was lifted higher and higher above the neighborhood until finally I reached the top. I walked a while on the levy’s edge, the sleeping houses on one side, and the noisy talk of birds already starting the day’s chores on the other. In the distance the sound of traffic rushed by, for though the neighborhood was quiet, it was not so far off from civilization.

At the edge of the ridge I came to a hill that took me down to the trail below. To the left the trail went on, winding around the bend, but to the right, the path crumbled to dust where only a few years ago the water had dislodged sheets of asphalt and hurled them towards the tiny sheds of Riverside, where tourists find pleasure in swimming through the chlorinated waters of the pool while looking at the river down below. They must have encroached a little too far towards the river’s edge to anger the water to commit such destruction.

I chose the path to the left, for that way was longer. As I walked, I passed morning joggers and dog-walkers, who offered neighborly smiles and quiet pleasantries, and while I did not reject theses signs of politeness, I wished to escape farther away from the neighborhood and the houses that bordered the edge of the trail. I stepped off the path and into the trees until I came to the edge of the cliff that overlooked the water. Choosing a seat, I carefully sat down in the dirt, my feet dangling freely above the river. The grasses underneath me were already matted to the ground and I wondered who had sat there before me and created this chair. What had they seen as they looked across the water at the opposing cliff? While the edge was inhabited by the same species of trees as my side, past theses elderly neighbors of the river, I could see the glittering outline of a chain link fence. On either side this river had been overtaken by the growing city around it, and yet in the midst of it all, this tiny strip of old had managed to stay a part of the new.

Sitting there, overlooking the water, I was reminded of the last time I had stopped at the edge of a river to escape the hectic pace of my life. How simple everything had seemed, and how fast the time had flew, sitting at Happy Isles in the great Yosemite Valley, listening to the quiet chatter of the river, and lost in the pages of a book. Though the valley is now riddled with manmade structures, and the humming of RV generators fill the campgrounds at night, the brilliance of the stars, the profundity of the mountains, and the towering magnificence of the trees, are a constant reminder of just how small our place on this earth really is. While the cabins of Curry Village were devastated by a rockslide, never to reopen, new life has already begun to bud amongst the charred remains of once proud trees. Nothing formed by human hands, will last forever, but nature, in its ability to renew itself, will long outlast any modern engineering marvel. Though my surroundings were not as magnificent as the towering redwoods of Yosemite Valley, I still felt the simple pleasure of being in nature. However, satisfied with my stay I abandoned my perch, leaving my thoughts to linger with those of my predecessor.

Weaving through the tangled branches of the trees, I emerged from the greenery and set out once again on my original path. As I wandered down the trail, I passed house after house, elevated high above the ground, on the perch of the levy. The trees and berry bushes to my right waved gently in the breeze as I passed, and beneath the shadows, the rustling of unseen creatures could be observed. I trekked up and down the tiny mountains of the trail, and over a small footbridge, moving farther and farther away from my home with every step. As the morning wore on, the clouds parted and gave way to the afternoon sun. On either side of the trail, the trees reached out across the path to touch in the middle, and as I walked through this tunnel the beams of sunlight broke through the ceiling, speckling the ground with light.

I soon left the sphere of private residences, and entered into territory occupied by apartments. These buildings were guarded by tall metal fences, and “Private Property” signs warned the passersby of the dangers that accompanied entering the land. These buildings had been built on prime pieces of real-estate with the balconies of the back rooms looking out into the small woods, and immediate access to the trail. But why live next to nature when you can live in it? Why separate one’s self from the birds and the trees with a chain link fence? While I do appreciate the comforts of the indoors, the best nights of sleep I’ve ever had have been under the stars and not in a bed. When I came to a small clearing in the woods off the side of the path, I took the opportunity to steal away once again into the cover of the trees, tripping down the hill into the small valley below.

Here, underneath the canopy of leaves, the ground was carpeted with a vine who had established the glen as its home. I followed one of its twisting arms along the ground until it reached the foot of a large rusted, metal structure, at which point it sprung from the floor, enveloping the contraption in a blanket of green. This clearing, evidently, had once been used for parties, and this giant rusted, structure had once served as a barbeque. The area had also been fitted with lighting, and these lamps too had fallen into disrepair. Though taller than me, the poles and barbeque failed to surpass the greatness of their surroundings. They now stood in ruin, engrossed in the vine, with the trees towering above. These structures of man had become useless, abandon among the trees, and nature had reclaimed its rightful place.

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