Saturday, March 28, 2015

LA and Walk #1 Michelle at the Headwaters

It was tough to get started on my LA River Walk with Me walks. I had to admit I had left LA and had returned to Minnesota. But let's go back and start at the first walk.

I had flown into LA the day before and as I was using my vacation time to do my art project. I let me do a few vacation type things. One being going to a dance class led by Kara Masters. She had run a open improv class in culver City when I lived in LA and for 2 hours I was able to let down my dance hair and not care what anyone thought of my moves. I was lucky enough to be in town when she subbed for a woman in the place I used to take her class. I ubered from K-town over to her class and had a moving experience. As she had dj-ed in a few songs about holding hands and about rivers for this project.

My friend, Michelle picked me up from class and away we drove to the Headwaters. We stopped in Topanga for lunch as I was starving. After a huge egg salad sandwich with avocado. We were off to the Headwaters of the LA River.

The Headwaters are right behind Canoga (pronounced in a way that mystifies me- CAH-Hung-Ah) Park High School. I am from Minnesota. The Mississippi is a icon of freedom and adventure. Wild abandon. Death. Power. The LA River starts as two concrete waterways converge. With a slim layer of water and algae slim to call it it's beginning. I hear there is a water reclamation above one of it's streams and that is why there isn't much water.

I performed a short personal ceremony at the Headwaters. I was coming to the river and I was asking it to wash away the shame, hurt, and trials I had faced the past year. Rivers are powerful channels of spiritual...spiritual ritual. So I let it go into the river. Picked some sage and poured some water into the river.

Michelle and I then started our Walk with Me walk. Michelle is a social practice artist, an arts educator, and was my surrogate mother when I lived in LA (and still now.) Only difference is she is always telling me to smooch the boys unlike my own mother. :P We started on the newly laid path down the river. And it abruptly ended less than a half mile down. We made our way to the other side of the river and walked under the river past trucks taking their break in the only shade in the valley...under the bridge of the river.

Michelle became agitated upset slowly but throughout the whole walk. Why was this park here? Why wasn't the money being spent on a park that was more accessible to the kids of the Valley? Michelle had lived in the Valley when here own child was a baby and she just couldn't understand why so much money was going into the river walk. She felt guilty for feeling this way. She had imagined a walk where we would be in NATURE and it would be RELAXING and instead we had spent our half hour talking about access and who DECIDES what money is spent on WHAT.

Michelle also doesn't like to hold hands but well she is one of my dearest friends and I wasn't letting her out of that part. It felt so natural to hold Michelle's hand. And like no time had past since the time I saw her three months ago. Here we were in this well groomed park walking as we looked out at a bed frame and other random trash that lived on the sidewalk right outside the park.

All this angst about choice and public projects had been rumbling around in Michelle and while she had wished for a nature retreat of a walk. This walk resolved her desire to think more about public access and the communities it affects. In her writing she put it perfectly, "You wake up as you are confronted by cars zooming by, who asked anyone else to com out and play? Even if they did they would have no where to go." This path didn't connect to any larger path. It was 15 minutes of walking to no where. As I took one last pic of the signs that showed it's name. We watched high school students avoid entering the park. And we wondered if a fenced in path wasn't a prime place for a gang to hold court. Or why else would the kids avoid this path? With it's lovely plants and the budding evidences of nature, birds and crickets etc.

It was a startling start to have all of this come up right away. It was also lovely to hold a friend's hand and be in the hot Valley sun.

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