The signs are subtler here than on the East Coast; we’re still, after two and a half years here, learning to see. I never loved the snow except as a pretty picture outside my window, and the slush and bone-chill of a long Virginia February used to make me crazy. But oh how I loved that first glimpse of spring: the soft tips of crocuses pushing through soggy mulch, the yellow haze over a bare forsythia bush the day before it bursts into golden bloom. The return of robins. A feeling in the air, it was, that always quickened my pulse, gave me a soaring feeling. And then suddenly the grape hyacinths and daffodils would be blooming intermingled along my friend Sarah’s front steps, and my perennial bed would wake up, and the bluebirds would get busy cleaning house in the nesting box below our deck, right outside my office window where I’d be writing Martha and wishing I could push the deadline back and take a month off for spring.
It’s so different here. I don’t miss the frigid weather—haven’t worn my big red coat since we moved—but I do miss March, April, May, the gorgeous reawakening. San Diego is sharpening our senses, though. We do have seasons here, a blue one, a gray one, a gold one, a brown one, all of them bright with gorgeous bloom.
Last week we noticed the hillside along our route to piano lessons was covered, once more, with riotous orange and yellow wildflowers. I don’t know their names and last year I didn’t take note of how long they lasted. (We’re going to drive back with a camera, maybe this morning even, and pull into the Park-and-Ride parking lot to snap a few pictures so you, the Internet, can help us identify them.) Yesterday, just one week later, we saw that the grape soda lupine has joined them in bloom. That one I remember from last year. I told the girls, this year I’m going to pull over and sniff some to see if it really does smell like grape soda, and they said, Mom, you did that last year, don’t you remember?
The orange and lemon trees in our neighbors’ yards have been fruit-heavy for weeks. Yesterday I passed a table loaded with lemons in someone’s driveway, with a hopeful sign offering them five for a dollar. The orange poppies in our back yard are big clumps of feathery leaves, no buds yet. Nearby, I have an amaryllis whose shiny leaves had grown tall, promising a fat flower stalk not far behind, but Rilla and Wonderboy picked them all and turned them into leaf soup, spiced with sidewalk chalk.
There is a yard in town that looks weedchoked nine months of the year, and then for three months it’s a stunning tapestry of wildflowers. I saw the orange-and-yellow blooms there, too, yesterday. The sunflowers are tall in the schoolyard behind us. We’ve got a smaller crop coming up beneath our birdfeeder. Nobody but sparrows and house finches visit the feeder, and mourning doves picking fallen seeds out of the mulch below. Crows drop in to steal the peanuts we put out for the scrub jays. A phoebe perches on the back fence, bright-eyed, observant. I haven’t heard the noisy parrots in a while nor seen their green flutter above the neighbors’ treetops.
Our pole beans and peas are beginning to grope for their stakes; the grape tomatoes are green and Rilla is under strict orders to let them turn red this time before she picks them as presents for me. The lettuce is tender and ragged because the girls pinch bits of it all day long to nibble on. My Uncle Ray sent butterbean and White Acre pea seeds from Georgia and we are very excited about this.
I still need to find a milkweed source so we can lure some monarchs to the neighborhood. And it’s been too long since we visited the nature center; I wonder what spring is doing over there.