“In the bushes…”

As marijuana use becomes legal in more states, I recall that teens used to go smoke pot in the bushes. In fact, if you said “there’s kids in the bushes” you didn’t have to be more specific; it meant they were smoking pot.

I realize there are some specific areas where illicit things still happen “in the bushes.” I recall that Aquatic Park between Berkeley, Emeryville and the I-80 has a lot of sex in the bushes. It made Aquatic Park a little creepy for walking the dogs. But I am glad to know people are still in the bushes for some reason or other.

My concern is that, as we ease into a more liberal and accepting urban society, without scorn for small transgressions, without penalty for small crimes, the bushes will no longer see a lot of use.

The bushes were, sometimes literally, the margin. They were the veil around the edges of accepted social norms.

We can celebrate the move toward acceptance, but does this mean everyone will just crowd up in the well-trod and open center? What’s the fun in that?

Yes, some bushes are thorny, have scratchy little branches, or some other uninviting aspect. I am thinking of types of Yew and Holly in particular, but some Scrub Oak in their dusty environs are annoying is several ways.

Yet consider the Australian types with their inviting open branch structure, such as the Broadleaf Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia), sometimes called Tea Tree. These Myrtaceae plants offer inviting structure but not enough screening, yet when combined with other Australoid types like Melaleuca hypericifolia (red bottlebrush), privacy can be enhanced.

While bushes can be trimmed and shaped, there is something particular to the nature of a bush that has been used for secret activities, with interior spaces excavated without tools, unwelcome growth pruned with bare hands, and a bed of leaves or bare earth made more habitable with use, or perhaps by the repeated application of a coat or blanket thrown down.

It would be remiss not to discuss homelessness.