The Apple and the Tree

One of the reasons I like being back home is that I get to hang out with my father. Today we made some lunch and wandered around his neck of the woods; there’s a deeded coastal access trail very close to his house where you can go out onto the headlands or down onto a little beach. Since it was so beautiful today, it was awesome to be able to get out of the house, breathe some fresh air, and ramble with my father.

His garden is certainly flourishing; he’s got plants exploding all around the house, with lots of flowers which were wide open to drink in the sun today. We harvested some produce from the garden for lunch, and I ate some of his peas; I do have a fondness for peas fresh out of the pod. It’s interesting to see how much he’s shaped his garden, which was pretty minimal when he moved in. He used mostly rejected free plants which no nursery wanted, coaxing them into health. Despite his constant battle with the deer, he seems to be doing ok in the garden department; although the gophers ate all of his potatoes, apparently.

My father and I are similar in a lot of ways. We’re both surprisingly inflexible, for such liberal people, and we both really like set, dependable schedules. Stubbornness is also a trait that we both have, along with a certain amount of reverse class snobbery. We can also be surprisingly blunt, sometimes, and we often make social gaffes despite being otherwise pretty on it and observant. I noticed today that we both also get on reading kicks, where we track down every possible book on a subject and read about it until we’re exhausted. I think that my father is a bit more compassionate that I am, which is presumably something that comes with age, and I’m much more hotheaded and impatient than he is, something that I hope will settle down with age.

Wandering along the coastal access trail, we were talking about all sorts of things, as we usually do, but the inanity of owning land came up. It is kind of strange, isn’t it, to think of “owning” the Earth. “Leasing” would be a more accurate word, I think. He made the point that the commodification of land has really changed our society, perhaps not for the better. Even if we do see and recognize that, I doubt it’s going to change; we’ve gone too far to go back now.

For those of you who don’t know what deeded coastal access is, it’s pretty neat. Essentially, California recognizes that beaches are something which everyone should enjoy, and so the state has a law which ensures that trails to the beach stay open to the public, even if they are on private property. These trails are built into property titles, so when people buy land, they do so with the understanding that the public can walk on their property.

As you can imagine, rich people who buy oceanfront property resent this, and a lot of coastal access trails are actually illegally closed off. The trail that we used today is on a piece of land which was bought by some rich lawyers from the city a few years ago. Initially, they tried to close off the land with no tresspassing signs and a high fence; to their surprise, the community fought back. Thanks to the efforts of a few people, the trail is now open to the public, although it’s lined with aggressive “no trespassing; private property; stay on trail; we’re rich self righteous fucks who never actually come our vacation home” signage.

Despite that, there’s something deeply satisfying about using this trail, not only because it opens out onto a beautiful headland and the ocean today was blue and sparkling and perfect, but because my father and I got to thumb our noses at the idea of “owning” property, of controlling rights to it, of refusing to get to know your neighbors. The people who own this house learned to their cost that communities still mean something in some parts of the world.