…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Friday, April 14, 2006

who you callin’ a six?

Wildflower season has come to Southern California! Botanical types are giving this year’s expected wildflower turnout only a 6 on a scale of 1–10, this because our rainy season delivered too little too late. But while last year’s crop—after a rainy season so relentless that the ceiling in our home office buckled and collapsed—more thoroughly painted the landscape in broad strokes of orange, yellow, and purple, the arrival of the class of ’06 is no less spectacular. Like any other native vegetation, poppy fields rise up amid spring showers, blooming as magically—and damn near as quickly—as a tin of Jiffy Pop. Seriously, does this scene strike you as a 6 out of 10?

A mountainside blanketed in wildflowers is one of a handful of sights—others being coastal Northern California and wine country—that puts me in a frame of mind to understand why people once thought my home state paradise.

My mother, having grown up in Iowa, came to California in 1958 with her family to visit her eldest brother, who had moved west only the year before and had been writing home ever since to exclaim, “You have to come see this place!” The story goes that after a two-week vacation they returned to Iowa long enough only to sell their farm and livestock, then moved to California en masse. Their acclimation was a bit Joad-esque in that my grandfather had lost his livelihood in the bargain and spent the rest of his days at a miserable factory job. And then there were all those sailors my mom and her sister picked up at the Pike, an amusement park near the Port of Long Beach. But such were the trade-offs for our temperate climate and dramatic landscapes—the beaches, mountains, and desert competing so fervently for one’s favor it’s difficult to see a downside.

But this entry isn’t about downsides. It’s very much about upsides, and the California poppy is living proof that land, left to its own devices, produces beauty beyond our most virtuosic attempts to improve upon it. I would scrap my plans for bricking in the cursed strip and instead liberally sprinkle wildflower seeds all about if I thought the delicate blooms would stand a chance against the trample of work boots as men cut across our property to get from their parked trucks to the high-density apartment buildings that flank the nearby boulevard. Wouldn’t it be grand, though, to turn our eyesore into a little slice of heaven?

’Course, though merchants are happy to sell wildflower seeds, I’m not so sure the show-offy little devils thrive in domestic situations. I almost never see them occupying orderly rows and beds—the kinds of defined spaces where marigolds and pansies muster in accordance with gardeners’ orders. I like to think that poppies and their untamed kin resist order, choosing to live chaotically and free, thumbing their stamens at the indignity of planters, serving as no man’s “lawn border.” There’s a reason, they remind us, that “pansy” is another word for wuss.


Blogger sporksforall said...

While I foten miss the piney woods of my native state, there are few things more spectacular than the wildflows of my adopted one. And say whatever else you want about your family, the "moving from Iowa" story is a great story. Pop pop poppy hello.

8:02 PM  
Blogger Slangred said...

Poppies for President! Let's help them take over the White House! In the off-season, we'd just have to deal with dirt, which is way better than what we have to deal with now.

11:22 AM  
Blogger treecup said...

I love california poppies. Much better than standard poppies with their ovaries or whatever they are all hanging out. But where was that photo of the multi-colored valley taken? I want to go there!

8:13 AM  
Anonymous g_lou said...

I second the request for more info on the flower locations! Beautiful... Speaking of photos, I squinted with all my might, but could not figure out what the words on your t-shirt say (in your profile pic). Please share :)

12:10 PM  
Blogger scout said...

I must confess that the mountainside shot was the only one not taken during this wildflower season, and it wasn't labeled as to location. My best guess is the Angeles Crest Highway, as I've seen a lot of painterly mountain scenes passing through there myself.

The shirt is one of my many "Life Is Good" shirts.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Nice pics but I know a photoshop saturated pic here and there when I see it. Mwahahhahahaha.

4:52 PM  
Blogger bryduck said...

Gee, last time I looked, the poppy fields were brown/green with splotches of bluish/purple and yellow. I think this is all a scam.

1:33 PM  

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