I don’t even notice the cypresses a few gardens over from the one where I’m working, although they’re of a height and girth that in Kansas we’d have to either put a plaque in front of, or dance naked under in the moonlight, depending on who’s planning the event. Then a vocal crow swoops overhead, disappearing high up into their green canopy, and I notice the other giants roundabout, here in the dense city; a Monterey pine and an Atlas cedar and a Norfolk pine as well as other cypresses. For a moment all these contiguous, fenced-off, orderly or disorderly gardens seem as one, a haven and a habitat for this black wizard. Those tourists on the street corner of Belvedere getting the Hippie tour, staring at the building where Rudolph Nureyev got busted, have no idea. They only know they have come to visit a vortex. But where have all the hippies gone?
We locals don’t see them either. San Franciscans face the street, maybe because our gardens are usually too cold to inhabit. If it weren’t so, these trees might not exist. Maybe the reason there seem to be more in the Haight-Ashbury than other neighborhoods is because the Haight for decades had a very mobile population. To tend a garden you have to feel a certain amount of rootedness. In the Marina the Italian guy trying to grow apricots would make sure the pine in the next lot doesn’t block his sun.
The Haight has what Lawrence called “nodality,” what Geoff Dyer writes about in the latest New Yorker: “…the accumulated effect of all these comings and goings lingers and seeps down into the foundations, and weirdly, by falling into ruin the place lays bare its primal circuitry.”
The Haight has not fallen into ruin. Au contraire. The purple commune walls have been claimed by color consultants. People hire gardeners like me who go so far as to suggest that yes, they drop the cute little Christmas tree into the green bin. But the primal circuitry is still here, channeled in some fashion into these trees keeping it in cool storage.
Apropos nodality: coincidentally (?) I happened across this by Rolf Potts on the 40th anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s poem, Wichita Vortex Sutra. “But beyond the political generalizations, Ginsberg saw Kansas as the mystic center of America, celebrated by Whitman in Leaves of Grass (‘chants going forth from the center, from Kansas, and thence equidistant/ shooting in pulses of fire ceaseless to vivify all’.) The poet saw Wichita, the ultimate destination of his road-trip poem, as the symbolic heart of this transcendental American vortex.”
I am a lineman for the county, searching in the sun for another overload.