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The Sacred Planet: Disneyland

There is a 60 plus acre, undeveloped coastal chaparral near where I live in Aptos. It’s a great place to go for a run or a walk. A handful of narrow deer trails allow you to explore pretty much the whole area. It's also a good place to see a number of indigenous plants growing in their native habitat. California poppies, yellow sticky monkey-flower (Mimulus arantiacus), purple Lupine and tufts of Purple Needlegrass (Nassella puchra) grow along the edges of the trails as if by design. Coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis), Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica) and Coastal live oaks thrive in healthy, dense thickets and graceful drifts, like islands in a sea of wild, unruly grasses, providing shelter for the local wildlife.

Most of the meadow, a mixture of native and naturalized grasses have browned and gone to seed by the end of July. In the late afternoon when the sun is at just the right angle all the various seed heads catch the solar rays and sparkle and glisten, like thousands of tiny exotic lights spreading across the fields, quite a beautiful sight.

A few years back I had gone to a large vineyard in Napa to see about a job overseeing their ornamental gardens. The vineyard manager stressed that there were large numbers of visitors each year and they wanted the grounds to be immaculate with colorful flowers in constant bloom. There were to be no dead blossoms, brown leaves or imperfect plants. "We want the grounds to look like Disneyland. . ."

I’ve seen the use of the word ‘Disneyland’ both with a positive and a negative connotation. In either case it conjures up images of an idealist world, Bambi frolicking on a picture-perfect, emerald green lawn surrounded by technicolor flowers with dazzling butterflies fluttering about. Needless to say the use of this word is also a tribute to Mr. Disney's vision and his worldwide recognition. Ironically, Walt had been quoted as saying, “I don't like formal gardens. I like wild nature. It's just the wilderness instinct in me, I guess.”

There was a time when the coastal meadow in Aptos was owned by a developer who had plans to build a large urban center with condos on the site. Locals citizens stepped forward, joined forces and successfully blocked the project. The State Parks System now owns the land and they do a good job keeping it wild and natural, in a manner I’m sure Walt Disney would have approved.

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