Benbow’s home. Arden Benbow’s house located in Topanga Canyon, a rustic community in the Santa Monica Mountains west of Los Angeles. Arden’s large, run-down house sits on a half-acre lot. Its lawn is worn down from constant use by her resident children and dogs. Behind the house is a small barn in which three hundred rabbits live when they are not in their tunnels. Behind the barn is scrubby land marked by meandering paths and evergreen trees—a play area in which children’s imaginations can expand.
Even with a busy metropolitan freeway only a few minutes’ drive from the house, the whole spread is a world away emotionally from both the area’s suburbia of “ticky tacky” houses and the faux estates of the newly rich. Its ramshackle condition shows and symbolizes Arden’s lifestyle. As a poet and lesbian, and in other ways, she does not fit society’s image of an ideal mother.
The house and surrounding area are where Arden can feel most herself. In her scale of values, it is an excellent place for children to grow up. Others feel differently. When Arden’s ex-husband challenges her for custody of their six children, he cites the barnful of rabbits as proof of her instability. A social worker sent to observe the children is won over by the lively and welcoming atmosphere and the children’s obvious well-being and gives Arden a glowing recommendation as a parent.
Ruby’s Campground and Trailer Park
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