Written by Annie Laskey, Events Director, Pasadena Senior Center
Ah, Southern California winter! Birds singing, flowers blooming, and glorious red and gold sunsets to end the day! The recent rains (which, thank goodness, didn’t trigger wide-spread mud flows) brought a delightful sparkle and freshness to the air. What a joy to breathe deep and forget about all the chaos for a while.
My daily walks around the neighborhood show increasing beauty – flowering trees, luxuriant lawns, and blooming gardens. Lately, I’ve been particularly entranced by camellias. Sure, our house has big camellia bushes; but our somewhat boring bushes have always had tons of green glossy leaves, bunches of buds, but never very many flowers. I’ve always envied the exotic camellias in the groves at the Huntington and at Descanso Gardens.
In the last few weeks, I’ve started noticing how many – and how many different kinds – of camellias there are in my little corner of West Los Angeles. It seems that every yard has its own variety, no two alike; a wonderful array of colors, shapes, and sizes. Some are tall trees, some are short bushes. Some, like ours, are out of control. Although I will say in defense of our camellia bushes, they are a great attractor of little birds, and the charming chatter of finches, bushtits, and hummingbirds keeps up all day long.
The other day, as I was admiring a neighbor’s camellia tree with wide white blossoms the size of saucers, than another one with fluffy pink flowers, I wondered why I had never noticed all the camellias before. My first thought was that this must be a particularly good year for these flowers. Our weather these past weeks – by turns cold, hot, freezing, rainy, and moderate- must have created perfect blooming conditions! Then it occurred to me: I had no reference point. How would I know if it was a good year for camellias? This time last year, I was commuting daily to Pasadena, not working from home. Most of the walking I did in my neighborhood was at night. Evening strolls are wonderful for moonlight and quiet, but not ideal for admiring flowers. It was a little startling to remind myself that daily sunlit walks in my neighborhood haven’t always been a part of my routine!
In the next few weeks, the camellia blooms will droop and fade, and a whole different set of blossoming trees and flowers will capture my attention. Wow! Nature changing with the seasons! Of course, I know that those of you who are gardeners, or who have lived where the seasons are more pronounced, will find my discovery of the fact that camellias bloom in the neighborhood in January, pretty silly. But don’t we all have things right in front of us that we don’t take the time to notice or to wonder about?
The months ahead are going to continue to be complicated, confusing, and isolating. But while we anxiously seek and plan for what-comes-next, don’t forget to notice the here-and-now. Enjoy the mundane and explore the remarkable. It might be right in your own backyard.