The Arroyo Trabuco is a thin line of wilderness that cuts through the crust of suburbia, as if someone took his fingernail and scored it across a photograph. This deep ravine, often dry, a collected sandy mix of bluffs and sycamores and golden grasses, sends the water, if it rains, toward San Juan Creek, which in turn pours all that it collects into the wide, sad Pacific, the convex blue eyeball of the Earth.
You would never know it was there if you kept your focus on the road; the bridges, dated chronologically as sprawl expands, are anachronistic, modern-day structures that staple one new city to another. And if you look over to the side, you are likely to see a discarded couch, or worse, a bright green manicured golf course.
I know it doesn't matter much to people, that some land owners and stockholders capitulated and left this run-off ditch somewhat wild (actually it is buffered by cosmetically altered manmade marshes and collection tanks, water purification systems and garbage holds, and will never be "real" again). But almost all the land the arroyo served is absent--not gone, but altered with a veneer of plywood, plaster, stucco and asphalt, paint, parking lots, man. This kills all else, it makes the natural channels irrelevant. Why keep a skinny ragged seam of acreage, its tufts of yesteryear sticking out like some embarrassing tear in a brand-new pair of polyester slacks, why remember it, why preserve this strand of obsolete earth? You know why, even as it makes you sad: the land remains to remind you of your crime. You did this by existing.