I am a lawbreaker, I admit it. Every day I break the law — 6.04.080 OMC, to be precise. That’s the ordinance by which this sign is posted in Mosswood Park:
Toby and I, we sail right past it.
Mosswood Park is a magical place where time apparently ceases to exist. That sounds poetic but I mean it literally. All time seems to happen there all at once, which is another way of saying that it doesn’t happen at all.
It’s January — and just into the park we are walking on a golden pathway of gingko leaves. We are under the branches of the largest gingko I have ever seen. Maybe it’s because of its size and its age that it is not bound by the usual laws of the seasons. Most places in the world, gingkos turn yellow in November. In Japan, where seasons always proceed in orderly fashion, these little fan-shaped leaves all turn yellow overnight, every tree, every leaf. Then, a couple of weeks later, over another night, the gingkos drop their leaves. They all drop them. They drop every one of them.
Even in the San Francisco Bay Area, where nobody does anything in concert with anyone else, most gingkos are yellow by December, and lose nearly all their leaves by the New Year. But this grand tree in Mosswood Park? — only now, in the middle of January, has it turned yellow. and it has dropped about half its leaves, to turn the pathway gold.
Toby and I follow the path in toward a small stand of redwoods that circle a tiny amphitheater; then the path turns us around, and back another way toward the edge of the park.
On this side of the park, two tulip trees are finishing their blooming, and the path is scattered with velvet, magenta petals. The branches stand out bare and stark against the sky, a few blossoms still clinging — a brush painting, or a woodcut.
It’s January, deep as winter gets in California. One side of the park, autumn has finally arrived. Other side, spring is moving on.
If I am here another year, I will understand this one side flowering, one side dropping leaves, as signs of January. But now, this first winter back in California, Toby and I walk in a place outside the laws of time.