Harry Kreisler suggests in his introduction to Talking To Michael Pollan, CounterPunch, May 1-15, 2010, that Pollan writes "about places where the human and natural worlds intersect: agriculture, gardens, drugs and architecture."

Epiphany has been overworked of late, apercu anyone? This is why we read: for glimmers of discernment. And we never know when they'll strike. When they do (strike, that is) bells chime and fireworks flare. Never mind the drugs, my world is centered precisely on the human interaction with the natural world, gardens and architecture. The Wildland/Urban interface is one facet of this interaction; how we buffer our architecture from the wild or the urban (and the sub- and ex- versions of it) with gardens is another.

As Pollan points out, "traditionally in America, if you wanted to explore your relationship to nature, you'd go to the wilderness, you'd do the Thoreau thing, the Emerson thing, the Melville thing". Pollan did the garden thing, his first book was called Second Nature : A Gardener's Education, Atlantic Monthly, New York, 1991. Now I have the opportunity to do the Wildland/urban interface thing. (Of late Pollan has been exploring our relationship with food - and re-aligning the author with the activity - we could call it the Pollan thing).

Much of my exploration of chaparral has to do with developing an appreciation of it such that I do not need to hold it a distance - so that I can literally welcome it into my front (and back) yards. My relationship with the wild has to do with developing an aesthetic appreciation for the apparent wildland chaos such that it makes sense - and is not somehow lacking because it does not adhere precisely to our western precepts of beauty. Properly understood, Southern California wildland can become both a model and a foil for architecture - such that a chaparral building is fire adapted, is miserly with water and takes all of its energy needs from the sun and is aesthetically enhanced by its setting in the brush.

In the English village in which I grew up, and attended primary (grade) school there were the locals, the local grandees, (mostly farmers) and newcomers like my parents who had come to the country after being evacuated from London during the war or who wanted the country life but one where a main train-line to London ensured a reasonable commute to the 'big smoke'. I lived, as I grew to understand, both in a government mandated 'green belt' and a socially desirable 'stockbroker belt'.

The local parish school that sat next to the nineteenth century gothic revival church (once was not enough for the effete etiolations of that sand drip architecture?) conducted an annual wild flower competition. I won three years on the trot (a threepeat, as it would now be called). Scouring first our garden, then hedgerows and verges I would collect, often with my mother and father, a compendious selection of wildflowers with names like foxglove, ragged robin, bluebell, cowslip and jack-in-the-pulpit.

Lady So-and-so would adjudicate; wife to a local Squire this was perhaps, a part of her outreach to the great 'unwashed'. By and large, we were just that, certainly by American standards of hygiene, but to varying degrees. I am not sure if I stank, but there were several coteries of kids at the school who certainly did, with a deep medieval stink that permeated clothes and flesh and radiated from them in a miasmic cloud of rot. Opportunities to bathe were constrained by limited supplies of hot water, produced solely in our house and many others, by a back-boiler, a tank located behind the firebrick of a coal burning fire-place. We of course, lived in a modern house by the standards of the day - many of my classmate's only source of hot water was the kettle.

It was coal that contributed to the great London Smogs of the 1950's. My aunt who spent her entire working life in the City, died a decade ago from lung-cancer which was probably a result of breathing that noxious atmosphere.Those of less robust constitution succumbed in the streets leading the tabloids to screech, 'Killer Smog!'. It was to London's great book store of the time, Foyle's that I would sometimes repair with my book token - the prize awarded for the best collection (and the most named) wildflowers, and these visits to the City are marked in my memory by the blackness of it all - only in the last two or three decades has a vigorous program of cleaning resulted in the Portland stone of the great eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century facades glowing in the watery sunlight again.

All of this is prelude to the recollection of an amble down Bear Canyon last weekend (after a scramble up Bear Creek) as a peak wildflower experience. After the verdant monochrome of the creek, all mugwort, blackberry, poison oak and berried ceonothus overhanging and above, sycamore, big leaf maples, oak and california bay the parallel path just to the east featured great drifts of chalky blue Yerba Santa (Eriodyctilon crassifolium), Blue Larkspur (Delphinium parryi), Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus), Prickly Phlox (Leptodactylon californicum), Purple Clarkia (Clarkia purperea), mauve Perezia (Acourtia microcephala), creamy Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and the brilliant yellow of Buck Wheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum). With such a painterly palette underfoot and the vestiges of a path (maintained solely, I think, by my infrequent trampling) it is easy, as one human intersects with the natural world, to fall in love with the California wildland.

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