Live Oak Canyon Road, Trabuco Canyon - Courtesy of Orangecounty.net
It was 1969. In the rugged, rolling foothills above Laguna Beach, a canyon snake twisted two lane blacktop slipped back and forth across the creek bed on bridges set perpendicular to the creek. I loved driving there, under the live oaks at night, in the spring, lit by a full moon. It was a road that seemed carefully constructed for British sports cars. Maintaining speed and RPM required constant, delicate, heel to toe braking and accelerating.
As I remember it, in mid-canyon one left turn led up Modjeska Canyon to the state park bird sanctuary. Another right turn later headed south to a quiet overlook, then down into Trabuco Canyon.
It was there, off on a southern facing slope, Bob the Bandit kept a home. It was stone, built in the twenties or thirties by some long-forgotten craftsman who made love to the land with his hands, tools and materials, wood and stone and cement. The tiny house looked as if it had grown slowly up out of the sweep of the sloping meadow.
The house was comfortable there, exactly where it belonged.
Bob had no electricity. He pumped his water by hand, heated and cooked with wood. Kerosene lamps danced in the dark. Baths happened once a week. If he wanted music, he ran a cord to a voltage inverter hooked to his ancient Toyota Land cruiser. Most of the time it was simply silent, deep profound silence that seeped into the soul, feeding an unnamed hunger.
Up in a box canyon behind Bob's house someone had turned the earth and planted a secret crop. So said Bob, and he said little else 'til September when the heavy seed heads drooped, thick with a fragrant resin. Then the crop disappeared.
Bob would lay in his winter stock of foodstuffs soon after those plants vanished. His smile grew wide, he whistled aimlessly and pretty young, longhaired ladies materialized from smoky, early autumn sunsets.
It was late Summer when Renee introduced me to Bob. We spent one long September week with him till the silence permeated every dusty pore and fold of gray matter in our combined heads. At night, the stars slipped low, dripping with diamond light, so low one could almost suckle their magic draughts. Then that fecund stillness slipped into our hearts, left a summer-dried seed, fertile and pulsing.
We woke one morning to deeper silence. Bob was gone. He left us a scribbled note asking that we close up the house and take the key taped to the wrinkled and wine stained note.
He would be back. That's what he wrote. He would come for the key. That's what he wrote.
Bob did not return.
Remember those long haried ladies? Oh beloved, one had been police science major at Cal State Fullerton. She had begged him to set up a drug deal. He refused. She did him, he did the deal and Renee and I were the last to see him at his home, there in the silence, there in the September sun in Trabuco Canyon.
I returned some fifteen years later with a young wife. I wanted to show her Bob's house on the knoll, in the meadow. I wanted her to know the silence. A busy four lane had replaced the twisting two lane. The turn off to south-facing knoll was crowned with ugly, soulless, mindless condominiums. And as to Lady Silence; she had long ago gathered up her Autumn skirts and departed, leaving no trace.
I have yet to find the likes of her, forty years later.
California died that Autumn. And sometimes, when the post-modern noise and the filth of the city withers my soul, I still grieve the passing of those sun dappled innocent days and star laced wicked nights. But most of all, I grieve Lady Silence and her soft, healing touch.