The voices of spring


Spring has sprung.  It is upon us in a scent that grows deeper, dizzying, improbable.

It is too heady, too provocative to be diminished.  Seeping through open windows, under doors, as you slip out of a doorway or slide out of a car.  There it is — a scent that dominates the air, your bed clothes. It’s so dense, you can taste it.  The food for the gods, Ambrosia rising, within and without.

Walking along a tree-lined street — as the moon begins to rise — one stops for a moment to take a deep breath. The scents of orange and honey are suddenly everywhere — sweet and floral, as if they were showers, or the breeze of an April day.  As if we hear the songs of the seraphim or a remembered voice, softly speaking words of strength into an ear.

Look around: one moment, it is a tree of rather innocuous, dark green leaves, then  it becomes covered with clusters of small creamy blossoms, in a transformation as sudden as first love.

The flowers release their strongest fragrance at night, moving alone and separate from the sun-lit scents of winter blooming jasmines, in calculated seduction, with  its nocturnal redolence.

In the valley, the fruit trees have sprouted blossoms of pink and white.  The coastal hills have turned, as they do this time of the year, to a peculiar and almost too vivid shade of green. Even late storms come along right on cue, to wash away any premature fretting and drought.

Suddenly, the most gorgeous and startling flora has sprung — from the sedate camellia, the brazen hibiscus, flaming bougainvilleas; frothing in every corner, sultry jasmines and the outrageous birds of paradise, all vivid and glorious.

How frequently we take them for granted, the palms that sweep the sky, that sky so bright and high.  And as the scent of the flowers of spring surround  us in surrender, our heads fall back, our shoulders loosen.  Let those hands rise from our side, as we stand beneath the heaven and receive, just for a moment, the breath of angels.

It is so easy to take things, especially beautiful things, for granted.  It is easy to point out what’s wrong with where we live — the traffic, the noise and the scandals, the meltdown mortgages and failing power grids.  It is so easy to see only the concrete and billboards of Southern California and the crowd and the sprawl. It is easy to let our lives become overwhelmed with things to do. And to that list, add our parents, our children.  People who are always in pursuit of a deeper purpose in life that assures us  not everyone wants something for another and that there are lots of gifts left in life.

An imaginer by trade, weaver of tales; of people and street corners, of dreams and nightmares of hope, and in spring…well, flowers.

Yes, flowers.  There are always flowers.  Roses, lilacs, daffodils, petunia, gladiolas.  They bloom easily in the sun-lit gardens of Southern California.  But we have also seen them against fences and curbs, singly or in bunches.

I wrote about flowers on the beach once, at the foot of a cliff, where two very young girls threw themselves to their death.

I wrote about flowers at a curb, where nine families (each of which lost loved ones) decimated by a car accident, were erased as quickly as sketches on a drawing pad.  They were on their way to a pilgrimage!

Further south, many moons ago, remember the tale of Santana High — an  ordinary school in an ordinary town on an ordinary day, rocketed to the front page by an ordinary boy with and ordinary gun.

Mounds of flowers mark the school and dab at the corners of our conscience like a Monet painting — full of blended colors of sadness, subtle hues and grim news.

We look, gasp in horror and turn away,  Yet the images of the stricken faces of the young, super imposed over the images of flowers will endure, long after the weeping chills of winter has truly vanished. It will endure for a thousand years to come, as they ponder us.

But today, we stop and breathe. Because there it is, that scent of hope, love and lust.

Inevitable, inexorable spring. The land’s perpetual gift of sudden grace!

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