Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Champagne to Cider

I'm at Los Encinos State Historic Park today, sitting under a lovely little orange tree, bursting with fruit, contemplating the pond before me.  While it would be easy to be distracted by the man-made artifices - the chain link fence around the pond and the  mechanical fountains spraying in its center - my intention is to connect within the depths.  The pond, it is said is fed by a spring, a "remarkably fine spring," Ben Truman wrote in Semi Tropical California in 1876, providing water  that  is "very palatable and as soft as water can be."   He claimed that horses and cattle came from miles around to "drink from this spring, which compared to other water, to the quadruped, is like champagne to cider, with man."

There are no horses or cattle here today but a bevy of friendly ducks that float by placidly, the geese honking loudly.  They seem quite content to be here, though I'm not sure if they are reveling in the quality of the water or the steady supply of food proffered by visitors willing to put a quarter in the birdseed vending machine.

There is some disturbance now as a flock of pigeons swoop in, lured in from the telephone poles just outside the park, by the crank of the coin mechanism of the seed dispenser.  The duck pond crew is not so immune from the disturbance of city dwellers as I had imagined.  Even now, the sound of a table saw and the chug-chug of a generator from a neighboring construction site pierce the would-be tranquility of this park.  

The food gobbled up, the pigeons retreat to their pole. The ducks show no sign of resentment for the intrusion as they return to their graceful water ballet.  Neither the sounds of the city nor the invasion of a few outsiders is any reason to stop doing what they do: swimming,  diving for fishes, bathing in the spray of the fountains, and resting, bill tucked under a wing. 

Such is the opportunity for each of us, I suppose, to appreciate what is immediately before us, enjoying the peace and grace of this moment, letting go of resentment for intrusions, tuning out not only the sounds of the city but also the busy-ness of the world.  There's nothing any of these ducks can do to stop the noisy sawing or the pigeons swooping in to steal their bounty, and it would be fruitless for any of them to try.  May we learn from their examples.  

When I first arrived here, I was annoyed by the sounds of the saw and the generator, and yet, I too, am helpless to make them stop.  And so it is my challenge and opportunity to tune in more deeply with the stillness of the sweet orange tree in whose shade I rest, the beauty - and comedy - of the downy ducks, as they turn butt-up to fish, and the deep serenity of this spring-fed pond whose waters are so delectable as to be champagne for quadrupeds and (perhaps) bipeds alike.  

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