If you happened to drive through the Veterans Administration grounds south of Wilshire on a recent evening, you may have seen me in the dark and thought I was a street person. I’m not.

I’ve been carrying buckets of water to a stand of trees south of the VA Hospital that are dead and dying. I noticed them one day when I was riding the No. 4 Blue Bus. I called the VA, and learned the irrigation pipe is broken and no funds were authorized to repair it. Vets coming for medical care are welcomed with an area of dried-up, barren landscaping.

A few calls and e-mails to community organizations produced no response, but I have two buckets, and until it starts raining, I am carrying water three blocks from a faucet to the needy trees. Already the area is starting to be fragrant again, and some trees that were half-dead have put out new greenery at the tips of their branches, but what surprised me is how the new strength I’m developing across my upper back is mitigating the effects of long work days at my computer. Instead of rushing home to walk a treadmill and lift weights, I am getting the same physical results and also keeping more than 80 trees alive.

For those of us who are too sedentary, there are all kinds of opportunities for physical conditioning in between Friends of Ballona Wetlands creek clean-ups and Habitat for Humanity house builds. In addition to shelter dogs that need walking and soccer teams that need coaching, if you look out the car window and see dying trees, or a stretch of curb where plastic trash is piling up on its way to the ocean, or a street sign falling down, I say, “Go for it.”


Phyllis Elliott

Santa Monica

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