Today I returned to my childhood stomping grounds, The Hollywood Reservoir. Following the GPS from my current home, I entered the lake from a brand new route at the bridge crossing. Upon approaching the bridge overlooking the lake, a brilliant mirror of blue and green reflected above and below. Trios and families of ducks merrily paddled after an outpouring of fresh water that elevated the lake.
A feeling of purified nostalgia flooded my heart - vivid memories of my Dad, brother, and I riding our mountain bikes, racing, feeding ducks, and looking for deer. Other memories arose such as continuously sprinting up and down the hill conditioning for soccer during hot summer days and pensively thinking during high emotional turbulence. The lake was my joy, innocence, outlet, stability, training ground, connection to nature, and sanctuary.
After days of rain, the skies cleared today. Beaming sun rays shone down upon the verdant hills and crisp, clear water. My heart was filled and skin warm. Shining with radiance after catching up with one of my dearest friends from college, the warm fulfilling energy continued. With every person that passed, I beamed with a hello. I was curious to see the memories that would flood in while circling the lake.
I exited the bridge and began.
Recently Eric and I talked about the salmon’s journey and how it leaves its home but ultimately comes back. The journey back is one of knowing and intuition. Today I felt like that salmon. I knew priority was coming back to the lake. I started to chuckle at myself for running around the world in search of beauty, and just before my eyes it was here less than a few miles from my current residence. In different snapshots I saw scenes from places like Bali, Tahiti, the Caribbean, Mammoth, Scotland and so on. It was all here. I was amazed. As a child, I saw the lake in one way, and now through a completely different lens. The former was one of familiarity, adventure, exploration, play, and escape and the latter one of beauty, majesty, appreciation, restoration, and fulfillment - same place, different view.
Upon passing various walkers, I saw an old neighbor and caught pieces of conversations: “I haven’t been to Bali,” “we just got back from the Caribbean,” “walking downhill hurts my knees more than going up.” As I was thinking of my Scottish adventures, a large man with a thick red beard and kilt walked by. As I remembered many days snowboarding in Mammoth, I looked up and saw a man with a Mammoth shirt running by, knowing that whoever crossed my path and whatever words I heard and saw were significant. I observed the array of flora and fauna - deer, moss, eucalyptus, pine, cacti, bottle brush, succulents. I thought of my Grandma and how we would walk and practice naming flowers ~ her sweet essence filled the air. I remembered how my Dad, brother, and I found it auspicious to sight deer and how once we saw a big snake. There were tales of mountain lions, but we never spotted one. The lake is where we rescued our dog Henry (AKA “Henri Matisse”). It was a place where I pretended I was in Wuthering Heights. All of the memories continued flooding in.
Upon approaching the west gate, a sign read “closed.” A tree had fallen and blocked the path. I normally don’t like returning on the same path from which I came (prefer to make circles when hiking). However, in walking back from the other direction, I noticed so many differences in the plants, homes, vistas, and light. I knew I’d have to come back to make the full circle soon but accepted that this was the path back. I spotted a tick and thought of lyme disease. I saw the same deer on the way back and people’s smiling faces. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation for my childhood and neighborhood. In my eyes, everyone was talented - an amazing artist, mother, father, and so on.
I then began to contemplate the stark contrast between this lush highland, and what lies below, Hollywood - the walk of fame, gaudy shops, swarms of tourists, cluttered streets. The memories of frequenting nightclubs in my late teens and twenties returned in snippets of flashbacks. My friends would always push me toward the door first because I was the one who got us in whether we were underage, didn’t want to pay, or weren’t on the list. I thought of past lovers, crazy places and adventures we’d end up in. I then remembered that as a senior in high school, I only applied to east coast schools because I wanted to get as far away from this land of chaos, materialism, gaudiness, superficiality, tension, problems, and shame. These feelings arose not only from the urban elements of the city but also from family tension and issues. I wanted to escape and get the #$%^ out - as far away as possible.
Landing in Baltimore for college, I ended up returning home for the summers sometimes frequenting the lake. Since it was mostly summer when I saw it, there was a point when the water was dry, hills brown, graffiti fresh, and litter prominent. This once beautiful place of intrigue and adventure seemed barren, depressing, and regressed. Innocence was lost. Eventually our home was sold. I received a message from a childhood friend, “did you see your old house was on some flipping house show on MTV?” I watched a few seconds of the show but couldn’t bare to see the rest.
Today, after a decade plus, I was at the lake and felt an inpouring of renewal, regeneration, awe, beauty, and appreciation. Memories which were once sad, longing, depressing, and regretful were washed away with fresh air, sunlight, sprigs of new grass, majestic deer, clear reflection, smiling humans, strong pine trees, and baby pine cones.
Upon returning to my starting place on the bridge, I looked over the lake once more reflecting on all the places I had been, laughing at some and appreciating others, realizing the importance of perspective. The lake was not as reflective as it had been when I first started my walk, for the wind had picked up and ripples danced across the surface.
Wisdom from the lake said, “in stillness, reflection is clearest.”
And that was my journey home.