Gilding the Lily

Photo Fiction


Brett Paufler

Page 3

Waterfall with Hazardous Conditions Sign

So, the place looks like it might be a pretty nice place for a picnic -- level lawn, plenty of shade, and a pleasant little waterfall that provides a bit of scenery and ambiance.  But then, the facilities are pretty minimal, it's no tourist destination, and the only occupants of the park were three other people (one of which was obviously homeless, the other two were harder to tell).

Sign: Hazardous Conditions Do Not Go Beyond This Point

And then, there's this sign.  I mean, the park was pretty small.  And now, it turns out, half the park is off limits -- more or less the good half.

Rocks -- Look to be Forming a Staircase to Me

And it obviously wasn't always the case (to my eyes, at least) that this part of the park was off limits, as this rock formation looks like the ideal 'staircase' to go up and explore the upper stream bed.

Off Limits Area Dominated by a Tree

Anyhow, I couldn't go up there, so I took this picture.  And probably about here, right here, is were I decided I'd try to make some kind of fictional story based on my outing (perhaps I'd use the pictures, or rather, of course I'd use the pictures).  And maybe I'd be able to salvage the afternoon and get a 'project' out of it yet.  So, in other words, this is where the 'story' starts in earnest (so be prepared for lots of divergence from reality here on out).

Close Up of Tree

These off limit places are usually there for the 'protection' of both the attraction and the visitors.  So, like, in other words, the terrain is fragile, lots of folks walking over it would strip it of vegetation, and so, keeping everyone out is a good idea from a preservational standpoint.  And then, it's hazardous.  The ground may look even and level, but it's not -- there's plenty of ways to break a leg or twist one's ankle hidden in the scrub.  And add in the dangers of flash floods, riptides, eddies, and other weird watery currents (primarily after a rain when the water is a little higher) and it's easy to imagine that there have been a few (or more than a few) deaths in close proximity to the waterfall.  I mean, come on, doesn't it sound like fun (and really-really dangerous) to slide over the falls during peak water conditions on a surf board or something.  And I'm sure more than one kid has lost their life that way.  Back in Walnut Creek, CA, I hear tell two kids died in the city lined canals (what used to be the creek there) as they took a rubber raft down the sloughs... until it flipped and they hit their heads on the concrete bottom or something.  Anyhow, same thing has probably happened here at one time or another.  But it's just a theory.  I'm just playing the odds.  Certainly, I'm not going to search through city records to find anything out.

But at the time (in the moment), what caught my eye was the tree.  Clearly (in story) it was the tree that had been cordoned off.

In Off Limits Area an Unconnected Steel Pipe

Or, we have this unconnected pipe.  So, maybe there's some hazardous chemical leak or something and that's why there's an 'Off Limits' sign posted.

Litter on Ground: TrustEx Condom Wrapper

Or maybe the trouble is more human in nature.  Have I mentioned the three (possibly) homeless folks.  I wanted to turn them into Fates (Guardians of the Falls or something for the story), but I don't know enough Hawaiian History to pull that sort of thing off.  Still, my mind was (and usually is) working towards the supernatural... and then, there's always sex.  Off limits, full of graffiti, condom wrapper on the ground, it seemed likely this place had known it's fair share of illicit parties, so maybe human sacrifice or satanic ritual.

Base of Off Limits Sign, Condom Wrapper, & Small Plant

And here we have the condom wrapper, the danger sign, and a small plant all positioned next to one another.  The plant is evil in some way, clearly.  I've suffered from more than my share of Poison Ivy over the years and I can say with due authority that some plants are evil.  They say none of the ones in Hawaii are.  But then, why all the signs?  The need for Guardians?  And all the rest?

More Litter: A Playing Card

So, sex and trees and maybe human sacrifice, but that's not much to go on.  So, I was now actively looking for clues -- items in the Real that would give clarify and Focus to my story.  A playing card was what I found next.

A Trail of Playing Cards in the Turf

A whole bunch of them that formed a sort of trail... a trail that lead to a dead end.  But it was enough to get me off and running.  I was looking for a story.  And this story (if there is one) is the story of that search for a story.  That's why it's called Gilding the Lily.  I was trying to gild (turn into gold, if you will) my trip to Lili'uokalani Botanical Garden (from which comes the Lily).  And with that sort of methodology, you can bet there are going to be a lot of dead ends and false starts on the way.  Hopefully, your mind will fill in the blanks and take it all further than I do here... or maybe you'll just enjoy following along in my footsteps as I recreate them here.  Or if you like your metaphors a little more brazen, like playing cards thrown to the wind, we shall flip each over in turn and see where they lead -- some will be good and some we shall simply discard.

As I think back on my walk, I often visualize two detectives talking back and forth as they work on the case.  There have been a few murders (deaths, whatever, but call it murder for now) down by the tree and they're trying to piece it all together.

And the one says something like, "Playing cards, I wonder what they mean."

And the other (the cynical one) replies, "They're cards.  It means someone was playing cards -- probably poker -- and they lost, so they threw the lot into the air.  Come on, we got a case to solve.  Let's check out the bridge," because cynical or not, he knows Trolls live under bridges and they're a blood thirsty lot them Trolls.

Highlight of Pedestrial Bridge

Only compared to where I was standing the area under the bridge looked amazingly clean and debri free.  So (perhaps for that reason), I dropped the Troll idea pretty quickly.  (And in fact, the cards never lead anywhere either -- just a momentary metaphor, another dead end -- as is suitable for a murder mystery, I would say).

Dead Mosquito (full of blood) on My Hand

Though, in retrospect, being bitten by a mosquito might have been where that whole 'bloodthirsty' thing originated.  It certainly was about there and then (whilst being bitten by a mosquito) that I decided this park was a hole.  In fact that word ('Hole') came to be how I referred to the park in my mind: Lili'uokalani Botanical Garden = 'HOLE'.  Of course, that's pretty harsh and comparing it to the neighborhood parks of my youth, the Lili'uokalani Botanical Garden would come out on top by a long shot -- what we would have done for a waterfall...

Man in Uniform Going Down Access Ramp towards Stream

So, this is a shot from the other side of the bridge, looking back over the upper lawn to where a security guard (or something) is walking down an access ramp.  Never did see him walk out.  Add his presence to the graffiti, three homeless folks, the condom, and all the rest, and the place was feeling a bit unfriendly.

And here, I'll omit the pictures of the homeless and or patrons of the park.  I take a lot of pictures when I'm walking (as I may have mentioned).  And one of the reasons is to study them later.  I use a camera with a 12x zoom optical zoom and then add the digital enlarge on the computer, and I figure they're as good as binoculars -- enough so, that I could tell you one of the homeless guys was carrying around a spray bottle of 'Resolve' for one reason or another and the other two looked well enough dressed (clean, presentable) that although they sported shopping bags and backpacks, they looked more like a couple that had stopped in the park for a rest or a picnic of their way home.  So, like everywhere else, a mix of the good and the bad.  But all I really knew at this point (before I studied the pictures in greater detail with that digital zoom) was that things felt 'uncomfortable' and/or 'ominous' to me and that I wasn't really getting anywhere on integrating the 'homeless' folks as either Trolls or Gods of Old into the story.

And at this point, I was hoping something good popped into my head soon or I was going to have to blame those murders (and I was pretty sure there was some sort of murder at this point) on that one lonesome tree.

The Next Exciting Installment of Gilding The Lily

(((Note: while the pictures are real (as real as pictures can get) all the text should be treated as fiction -- or at least, unreliable.  Nothing has been fact checked.  Things change.  And the truth sometimes only serves to get in the way of a good story.  Thus, taken as a whole, the web pages that comprise this story should be viewed as a record of one man's flight of fancy as he takes a walk on a long sunny afternoon.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  And most certainly, no disrespect to any individual (living or dead) is intended.)))

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© 2013 Brett Paufler