Fallen angels

Many summers ago this desert of fallen angels suffered an intense heat stroke lasting longer than the days counted on a heat-swollen hand.  Fingers fat with humidity, air conditioner insufficient to cool the apartment and heat too intense to surrender to sleep, I wandered from my residence to the opposite side of town, seeking relief in the night air- on foot.   I set out in search of coolness. My body longed for a sustained reprieve from the suffocating grip of a heat that swelled the brain to oblivion, that bled thirst dry of creativity.

The nighttime pilgrimage to relief still stands out strong in memory.  The city adopts a different identity when the temperature topples time, when productivity is slowed to an inconceivable slither.  My steps struck heavy upon bloated sidewalk, but they led me blindlessly to streets I had never seen before.  Less than two miles away from my residence, I happened upon roads and residences that were unfamiliar.  My eyes stopped still on Waverly Drive, where a tall rose-colored wall led to a gated opening of some sort of enclave.  Gold letters hung on the wall: “Immaculate Heart Retreat House” …sisterhood and priests…something something.   It seemed out of place.  It was a hidden fortress behind the chaos of the urban metropolis and yet it was in my own backyard.  What went on there?  It was dark and my head was foggy from the heat, but as an urban explorer, I knew I had just discovered some kind of sleeping beauty.

Fast forward four and a half years.  I am now living five minutes from the retreat house. Now it really is my backyard. This week I wandered up there-this time with intention- free from the heat, freshened by the crisp January air and inspired by a clear blue winter sky.  The gates were open.  Walking up the asphalt drive I stopped at a gazebo to admire the snow on the San Gabriel mountains.  The slightly elevated viewpoint put the white angel dust perfectly within eye line. 

The impressions of scattered seashells freckled the concrete flooring of the gazebo.  A silent gardener tended to an overgrown tree.  In the immediate distance, I saw the hills of Los Feliz that back up to Griffith Park.  I continued on in my walking clothes towards the buildings.  The curved turret on the side of the first building begot images of Europe; the tall ship studded coat of arms on the side of the building bore striking resemblance to similar ones I’ve seen in Portugal.  A few steps led up to an outdoor foyer where a grated metal medieval door hung above exposing its pointed feet. The sunlight reached into this little entryway to perfectly illuminate an elegant, over-sized key in the door.

What was behind the door?  Did the key really work? My camera battery died as my courage to continue on waned.  I felt a bit like I was trespassing on the property of someone else’s house and at any moment a nun in habit would come out to scold me. I knew that I would venture out again to explore the grounds in greater depth, perhaps even knocking at the mighty wooden door which housed the golden key.  I strolled off the property, recalling The Convent of Christ and the Order of The Knights Templar, in Tomar, Portugal.  This building here was much more modest and simpler in style, but the architecture allowed me to travel back to the old world on a weekday morning, without even leaving my own backyard.

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~ by maureenmoore on January 23, 2011.

3 Responses to “Fallen angels”

  1. I’ve had the pleasure to walk some of the retreat grounds also; the site is just as beautifully described above!

  2. Before reading this today, I had to say that I’d never been to the retreat grounds. Well, now I have–your pen brought me there and provided an incomparable visit!

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