California in Springtime

Mark and I are driving from Pasadena to San Francisco when spring first shows herself in runs of orange poppies up the dry foothills beside the freeway.  Mile after mile, they add splashes of color to the tan slopes dotted with chaparral.

As we descend from cobalt blue lakes and deep green pine forests, I realize that I’d never thought about how almond tress look in the spring.  Now I know and let me tell you:  rows of almond trees in spring bloom are spectacular. Now that I’ve seen almond blossoms, I wonder what they smell like.

Our route leads us through rolling California hills on our way to Gilroy, “The Garlic Capital of the World.”  Rounding one bend and then another, the hills are chartreuse with spring grass.  Yellow mustard and blue wildflowers join the poppies and grasses.  California Oak with their classically spreading limbs dot the slopes on each side.  Gorgeous.  Conversation drifts into silence as we absorb creation’s beauty.

As we reach the pass, roiling storm clouds mix with the blue sky, but we move through them and descend into fruit orchards in bloom:  white blossoming trees perpendicular to the road with the ever-present orange, yellow and blue of wildflowers running beside us.

We head north again towards San Francisco, surrounded by the pink and purple of plum trees joining peach trees in blossom.  The trip flies by in beauty.

And then…we climb the steep hill towards our children’s home and hit a wall of solid fog.  It seems we’re going to fall off the earth.  No accidents, no injuries, and eventually an exquisite view out back window of their home into grey fog, fine mist, and narrow tree branches that contrast with the city’s vertical lines stretching across the San Francisco hills.  No poppies or peach blooms in sight, but beautiful, nonetheless.

On the way home, everything is in reverse:  fog, fruit trees, poppies and wildflowers, blue lakes and pine trees, chaparral trees.  This time, however, we are racing ahead of a massive winter storm.  We reach home before the deluge hits and awaken in the morning to snow-covered mountains beyond our front door.  Springtime in California includes a little of everything!

The best part of all this spring beauty, however, is the smile on my granddaughter’s face as she looks up from my arms and laughs.  It’s as if Creation’s spring beauty has created the perfect bowl into which nestles the most beautiful sight and sound of all.

Whatever the purpose of life is, savoring moments of such beauty is central to its meaning.  Look around and say “thank you.”

1 thought on “California in Springtime

  1. Frances Baum Nicholson

    Oh, I love driving that route at this time of year. It looks just like “Arroyo School” paintings, and gives the lie to the idea that those color choices were made up. By the way, the blue flowers are usually lupin.

    The California Poppy, state flower though it might be, was in serious danger 40 years ago or so. At that point some enterprising preservationists raised money and got permission to sow the seeds of all three plants – poppy, wild mustard and lupin – along the state’s highways. We are the inheritors of that brilliant idea. You were as moved as I have always been.

    Thanks for that rich image to take into my everyday tasks.


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