Paradise

From the arroyo side behind my sister’s house, I climbed a ladder to cull the tops of the boxwood hedges that were out of reach from her yard. Two different worlds pushed against the bent, old backyard fence. On the one side, the backyard, lush with rose bushes, foreign plants like vining jasmine, an empress tree from China, and peaches, begonias, grass and grass and scrub grass and clover and grass… The dog rules the yard, pushing a soccer ball into the corners of everything, pushing out of the corners. This is a paradise. The neighbor has palm trees that shade the yard, as tall as clocktowers. On the Arroyo side, there’s burrs, stinging weeds, hard-edged sunflowers and more burrs. The mosquitoes thrive. The biting flies and ants clamber all over me. I’m climbing up to get to the boxwoods from the other side of the fence.

From the arroyo, on the step-ladder, I can see the whole neighborhood, green behind their fences with grass, trees, beautiful decks and patio furniture. On my side, the arroyo side, there’s graffiti along a fence. A wild animal painted it in the night, marking the line between what is and is not.

Weeds are sneaking into the fence line. On second look, it isn’t grass. It’s green, but it isn’t grass. It’s only weeds that look like grass, and some of them are getting bigger. Some of them are climbing up the sides of the house, and pushing through the slats of the fence and biting into the ground. They’re sneaking in. They’re taking what they can from the brown patches.

If we left this house alone for fourteen years, if this neighborhood walked out and down into the dry creek, and down to where the water pools into a small pond wrapped in brown, tall grass and dragonflies and small toads and snakes and the long, lingering, cautious look from the coyotes that live out there…

All paradises push. I’m ripping the weeds up. I’m pulling away invasive ivies. I’m back there, clipping the boxwoods.

These mountains we make that line the street valleys, these mountains we light up with Christmas lights, street lights, and headlights, rolling over the ground like slow magma, push back.

We flew home on an airplane. The ground is always leveled along the airports. The ground is kept clear and close-cropped. So much ground leveled into a desert around the palacial terminals. I leaned back and imagined riding a canoe down the arroyo, down to the river, down to the ocean, out to sea.

I imagine heaven is a place where the suburban sprawl is immense. All paradises must push. New people coming in from all over, and there’s got to be more room.

There’s new houses coming up. There’s always new houses coming up. There’s new stripmalls all over.

Paradise is a push.

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