Golden Temples arise from the early morning darkness of L.A.
One man’s thoughtful drive on the 134 freeway
[Nyerges is the author of 10 books, including Enter the Forest and Urban Wilderness. He has taught outdoor classes since 1974. Contact him via School of Self-Reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.com]
It’s a crisp cold morning with a clear sky. The chaparral hills to my north are still dark and mysterious. The sun is rising to my back and I am struck by the pastel beauty of the urban landscape sprawled to the south. From my perspective, traveling west on the 134 freeway, I see the dark rich hills rising out of the Eagle Rock valley and the countless homes sprawl-packed into the lowlands. Each home glistens with an orange light, and the overall effect is like a handful of sparkling, scattered jewels.
The clarity of the air is diminished only by a low haze. As I gaze southward at the rising towers of downtown Los Angeles, they appear golden. It is the rising sun’s special light casting its orange-golden hue on the mammoth buildings of downtown as well as the towering modernscape of downtown Glendale.
But in this semi-surreal early morning drive, my eyes “see” something akin to golden Maya temples rising from the denseness of the dark jungles. The east face of Griffith Park is a golden facade, another temple, a natural splendor for the eyes.
My eyes see a unique beauty in this telling light of the early morning, a beauty that is both profound and ephemeral. In this drive-by snapshot view as I travel westward, Los Angeles strikes me as a place that’s likable, beautiful, full of vast potential, and countless conflicts.
I’ve lived here my whole life, and recall the persistent desire in early years to get out of Los Angeles, and escape its ever-cramped and polluted streets. I did live on a farm for awhile. It was beautiful and peaceful. Too peaceful. I came back to this City of Angels in search of my destiny. Here in this land where I was born, I have always felt a sense of home-ness.
The clarity of the morning air impresses me. I do a quick turn and can see the towers of Mount Wilson seemingly so close in the clear sky that there’s the impression of being about to reach out and touch it.
Everywhere there is the urban lowland sprawl with the golden temples to commerce rising out of the pastel semi-darkness. I begin to wonder -- again my mind somehow slips into a comparative analogy. I am not seeing Los Angeles -- I am seeing the once grand cities of Uxmal and Chichen Itza rising out of the Mexican jungles. The skyscrapers here are our version of the temples. In our case, our temples in this age of rampant commercialism are where we worship our dollar gods and gods of productivity. I marvel at the subtle compelling beauty of these temples to our modern commercial gods, but at the same time I realize we’ve completely lost an essential spiritual component in our culture.
I look away from these golden towering monuments of man, and I smile upon the also-golden hills of Griffith Park, a natural church rising out of the muck of materiality. My mind is seeing analogy, and so when I spot that observatory building at the top, I’m thinking of the old observatories of Uxmal and other ancient cities, where people took their time to study the heavens and to rise up out of our tight little world and see the magnificence of which we’re only a part.
I breathe a deep sigh and I inhale. I’m not depressed -- after all, I’m alive.
I know that you cannot change the world. You can only change yourself. Sometimes, even that is hard enough.
I’ve reached the exit from the freeway and I drive south on city streets to my day in the urban jungle to meet my people challenges. You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself, little by little by little.
Somehow, I allowed my inner consciousness to inwardly capture that beauty of the L.A. landscape and I found it deeply inspiring. I ponder how to improve my character, here, today, in this chaotic swirl of people.
When my life was peaceful on the farm, my challenges were simple, and few were the external prods to push me beyond my self-imposed limits. But it is different here. And it is for this reason, and in this context, that I can now truly say that I love L.A.