Lilac and Lupine

April lives up to her promises of watering May’s flowers. A day of swimming-suit warmth followed by Arctic-strength blasts of cold air as the coastal mountains see heavy dark cloud masses dump their bilge into the redwood watersheds. The other day I took a drive from inland Highway 101 at Greenfield, west on Highway G16 through the long valley that leads to Carmel on the coast at Highway 1, a stretch of well-preserved nature. I just wanted to see what spring time really looks like this year. I can get some hint of the season when in town or the city, but I wanted to go see whether the California oaks are budding, and whether the purple lupine have begun fanning out across the meadows to the east of Big Sur, rather than reading about the spectacle on a website or travel magazine.

Knowing and experiencing are so far apart from each other. Knowledge speaks to the intellect, but experience speaks to the heart and soul. My intellect is routinely inundated with facts and figures to the point that I sometimes feel duped into thinking that is all there is in life. That is when I know I must go for a long drive or hike to get away from what is too familiar, so that my intellect can turn off for awhile and my interior being can open and breathe.

I try to get out to some remote part of California at least once each spring, before any heat builds enough to begin killing all the wild flowers. In the Salinas Valley the yellow mustard has already launched into full bloom and will be with us for awhile. I understand that the mustard was introduced into California’s valleys by Junipero Serra when he came building missions in the 1700s. He either sprinkled seed along the way as he traversed north from Loreto, Baja, Mexico, so he could return by the same route the following year, or the sheep and cattle he brought along had mustard seed in their furry coats. However he managed to spread the seed, it remains with us hundreds of years later. When I see this intensely bright yellow, I think of a string of padres trudging north through a country full of placid indigenous people, and wish I could have been along on the expedition to see what a California without European influence might have felt like.

Seasonal change is one of the natural wonders I look forward to that makes me feel more alive. If life on earth was always stuck in one season, I think I might feel less passionate about living. The changes I see spark emotion and feeling. Periods of flowering make me reflect on how the planet is designed to display beautiful surprises. One morning recently when I stepped outside before dawn I could smell wild lilac emanating from the riparian woods along the creek below my house. I get up early and start my day with such rigorous and downright boring regularity that my senses were completely caught off guard by this uncommon fragrance. Words cannot easily describe a smell, but may hint at what stirs one within. The other of my five senses provide delightful surprises to me continuously, but when I smell something strong and sweet occurring in nature, the experience seems out of the ordinary. April may be one my favorite months. I would rather not wait, however, for a favorite season to arrive, but rather be surprised and amazed at the splendor of each.

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