Thursday, April 3, 2014

Rain and Wildflowers

     It's been so long since we have have any decent amount of rain here on the Central Coast of California. The last week it has been raining off and on, which has been such a gift. The hillsides around the county are getting green again. I am hoping that it brings out the wild flowers, in mass, this year. Even the mustard seed plant, that grows profusely in this area, (that some consider a weed) would be a welcome sight. It covers the hills and valleys and surrounds the back roads I prefer to drive. Legend has it that the mustard seed was sewn along the path the priests traveled (most believe they walked most of the time) as they set up the missions that expanded the Catholic Church up and down the Coast of California (following the trail that is called El Camino Real). I don't care how it got here. It is pretty to look at when it blooms.
     In my teenage years I lived in Bakersfield, California. It is located in the Central Valley of California. When the seasons behaved themselves, we would have spectacular displays of poppies (California's state flower, orange in color) and lupin, a low growing plant that produces stalks of purple flowers. Mixed into these would be the mustard seed plants, a bright yellow in color.
     Just as New England is famous for their fall leaves, the Central Valley is famous for the wildflower displays. Every spring it was well worth the time to take a Saturday or Sunday drive and go out into the foothills surrounding Bakersfield, encompassing small towns like Shafter and Delano, Taft, Buttonwillow and out to the rolling hills around Lake Isabella, to look at the wildflowers. Miles and miles of hills blanketed in purple, orange and yellow blooms. Sometimes they were mixed but more often the flowers claimed their territory a color at a time. Sweeping hummocks of purple, valleys of orange and flat mesas of yellow. It truly is one of the best features of that section of the state.
     And it is a big thing. I don't know if they still do this, but when I was living there in the mid '70's, the newspapers would track the wildflowers' emergence, day by day, and post when it was optimum viewing day. Both locals and visitors were kept up to date as the wildflower season progressed. And then, it seemed, just as quickly as it came, the season would be gone. And the beforehand beautiful hills and valleys would be back to their velvety browns and tans and taupe colors. Lovely too, but not as sight- seeing-worthy.
     We don't get as many wildflowers here on the Central Coast. People visit us to see our beaches and tour our wineries. But the mustard seed plants always take me back to those years in Bakersfield and the fantastic display we would all wait and hope for every year.

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