“When will winter ever end?” I don’t bother to inform her that winter no more ends than spring has a beginning, and that the earth knows neither death nor rest…How many times have I benefited from this universal persistence and eagerness? Colette Flowers and Fruit
People in the eastern part of the country tend to think that Southern California is the land of no seasons and perpetual sunshine. Those of us who live here can produce rubber rain boots and hefty heating bills as proof otherwise.
This is my twenty-sixth spring in our little house on 45th Street in City Heights. Every February I start sniffing the air like a winter crazed creature until one day I can smell….It! “It” is an almost imperceptible whiff of a delicate green freshness rising from the moist cold earth and carried on the wind. I can hear Colette’s words– “To sing of spring would never do for me; I must go to meet it when it first strikes out through the long shadows, feeling its way…”
By mid- February the immense jasmine vine outside my window is filled with slender claret colored buds. It will burst into a cloud of fragrant shooting stars within a few weeks if the weather is warm. Spring, like all of the other seasons, is unpinned from calendar reckoning.
The pink bells tree (tabebuia) that I planted years ago at the gate is now a full grown tree. It drops all of its leaves in late winter only to clothe itself in delicate pink trumpet flowers at the same time as the jasmine is in full bloom. The leaves will come later and shade the yard and sidewalk, but at this moment the pink remnants of spring’s ticker-tape parade litter the pathways.
What my ebullient spring garden lacks is wisteria. Earlier this week My Beloved and I spent a warm, sunny afternoon wisteria hunting. Earlier that morning my niece had sent me a picture of her snow filled bird bath and yard, thanks to a late winter snow storm in Philadelphia. I sent her my condolences and set forth.
Catching wisteria in full bloom is tricky. Timing is everything. We left City Heights and headed to our first stop, the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. The colonnade adjacent to the koi pond wasn’t as resplendent with wisteria as it has been in years past, but the dangling lavender racemes perfumed the air beneath the bamboo latticed roof.
There is another colonnade further along the path and it is set against a backdrop of pine trees. The wisteria was filled with honey bees, but the ambient noise made it difficult to hear them. A portion of the view here is fractured by the sinuous trunks of the wisteria, giving the vista the quality of Tiffany stained glass.
The Wisteria Mother lode We left the Japanese Friendship Garden, passing the blossoming cherry trees. I realized, with a touch of tristesse, that I would not see them in flower again until next spring. Our next stop would be an alley in the 1900 block of Mission Avenue, in University Heights. We had scoped out the spot a week prior and knew that it was not quite the peak season.
Our timing was perfect this trip. The wisteria has climbed up into the tall trees on the corner and spread along the long alley wall. The trees, the whole expanse of wall, were dripping sweet lavender icing. I ducked under it and looked up into wisteria without end. It was one of those transcendent moments–unforced, consciousness altering and fleeting. It was difficult leaving beauty’s ultra-fringe.
We had one more stop- the alley behind the Ken Video on Adams Avenue in Kensington. In years past, this alley wall has also been a show stopper. Only the skeleton of the wisteria was apparent and so we added it to our check back list which also includes the portico outside of the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. To my great sorrow, I missed the Wisteria Garden Party and Fundraiser in Ocean Beach last week.
Wisteria leaves will soon add green rococo blasts to the flowers before overtaking them completely. It all happens so quickly. My compadre would frequently say to me “Vivimos en gloria”–we live in glory. Another spring, complete with wisteria. Vivimos en gloria indeed.
Photos by Rich Kacmar