Posted by: cantmisssd | February 17, 2010

Desert Garden

On the east side of Park Boulevard as it threads past the Prado, the Desert Garden clings to the canyon rim over Florida Street. From the edge, San Diego opens wide to the east and south, with mountains looming and little evidence of the downtown lurking just around the bend. Balboa Park helpfully offers a pdf pictoral map so that you can plan your visit in advance and be sure not to miss anything. And for your added convenience, we’re in the heart of the peak blooming period, so now is the time to act.

There’s a certain obviousness to a cactus garden, which ultimately is, at worst, a mixed blessing. Come on a warm and sunny weekend, and you’ll be surrounded by people who need a few pictures of the cactus garden to memorialize their time in the desert southwest (San Diego is still desert remember). But if you can ignore it, not be bothered by it, or find yourself a slice of non-peak time to visit, it’s the stuff that feeds the soul.

The Desert Garden anchors the east side of the bridge that spans Park Blvd., and in a series of switchbacks, a clean trail works down into the valley flanked along the way by a wide variety of cactus. It’s a steep enough to make you work, but not so much that you won’t make it. Meanwhile, the diversity, nooks, crannies, vistas and- when you’re lucky- all the magic that good mornings are supposed to bring all find a spot along the rim.

My attempts to understand the appeal of tagging inevitably come off as a cliche of pretension, but it does seem as though an art form that grew out of the impermanence of cyclical poverty and violence has found fresh life in mainstream youth culture in the wake of the ever-present threat of terrorism. When life seeming so uncertain, survival seeming so random, and the traditional metrics for living a good life suddenly and violently turning trivial, the impetus to leave some proof that I WAS HERE is understandable. That said, catciffiti baffles me. It seems counter to the notion of desperately acknowledging and validating life. But what do I know? I like a desert garden.

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