For the first time I am revealing to friends that I am a maquisard. They are amazed.
During the German occupation of France in World War II, the maquisards, some of them very young, earned a reputation as implacable resistance fighters.
They took over whole areas of near-wilderness, sallying out to sabotage railroad lines or military equipment, then disappearing back into their natural fortress. They emerged undefeated to link up with the invading allies in 1944. I was 15 years old and these were stirring times.
They — or perhaps I should say we — take our name from the vegetation of south-eastern France, the maquis, evergreen scrub growing so thickly in places as to be almost impenetrable but, with few trees to impede the view, allowing lookouts to spot an enemy miles away. As it is also mountainous, with steep slopes and ravines, it is ideal terrain for guerrillas opposing formations of regular troops.
How did I come to be a maquisard? Why, simply by taking a daily hike there. A replica of south-eastern France is a few minutes from anywhere in La Cañada, up Angeles Crest Highway and into the national forest. Like its counterpart, the climate is dry and sunny, the vegetation stunted and tough, the mountains challenging. Views in the clear air are long and spectacular. And since no one lives there, it is also a version of the Garden of Eden, if admittedly a parched and rugged one.
Strictly speaking, I should call myself a “chaparralard,” but my friends would be much less impressed.
I recognize that many do not like hiking, but for them, our diverse city offers another legendary taste of France, when the world's fashion-setters strolled the majestic boulevards of Paris and coined a new word for an elegant rake. I don't think I have ever seen anyone strolling from, say, T.J. Maxx to McDonald's, but why not? Doesn't “Foothill boulevardier” have an engaging ring to it? It could even push up our property values.
REG GREEN, www.nicholasgreen.org, is the author of “The Nicholas Effect.”