Wednesday, February 13, 2008
A Valentine Indulgence (Calorie Free!)
Spring comes early to Northern California. Before any calendar approves, and while most of the country lies locked in frigidity, Spring here dares to show both preview and promise.
On my walk last night (blissfully extended, with a long, tangerine dusk, until well after 6:30 p.m.) I spied the first opened buds of a tulip tree. In three or four days its blossoms will envelop the tree and pose for pictures, yet in a few more days all that glory will blanket the ground. It must be dangerous for that much beauty to live long, but the tree is always brave enough to send an early Valentine.
Already, flowering pear branches swell with buds -- even on branches hacked from a fallen tree, victim of our last storm. A few short weeks and those trees will fill the neighborhood with clouds of pearly blossoms, looking more like misplaced snow-laden trees than the harbinger of Spring they are.
I have buds on the pink jasmine outside my office window, and the climbing pink rose next door has already bloomed, spying on me from atop the fence. Potted geraniums, too stupid to tell one season from another, have never stopped blooming, but the rest of my garden still hibernates, waiting for warmer, longer days. Neighbors more ambitious than I made room in their refrigerators last fall for tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and crocus bulbs, and already they're pushing their way out of the earth, searching for sun.
California's summer-brown hills begin their cycle now, with weeks of rain and a few days of sunshine coaxing them into a green so green they color the air. For the next two months, they too will pose for a million digital snapshots, with and without cows (say cheese), and the twisted oaks will sport just a rumor of the foliage to come.
Easter is so early this year that my 13 roses will have to go to plan B and bloom for my birthday instead. For now, their job is simply to raise their twiggy, blunted arms to the sky and drink in the rain, and to wait for the infusion of food they'll get on March 14th. (Scratch a Catholic, find a ritual. Feeding day is always March 14th, just as pruning day is January 24th. Favorite birthdays make it easy to remember annual customs.)
Even though we've had warm, sunny days for a week and the miracles have already begun, Punxsutawny Phil predicted six more weeks of winter, which is just about right, even for California. The western ridge of the Sierra, visible from my front yard, is rimmed with snow, and the snowpack this year has topped 140% of normal. I know we still have weeks of rain, wind and icy weather to face before the threat is over...but these few days of respite and prediction are wonderful.