Saturday, December 1, 2007

sowing seeds, giving thanks

Everything is still alive involves planting native california poppies Eschscholzia californica on any patch of exposed earth along my commuting route, which cuts from Highland Park, via South Pasadena, to San Marino. Along this route, the landscape shifts from the sun-baked concrete and graffittied York Boulevard, to the well watered private lawns of South Pasadena and San Marino.

The first European settlers in California vividly described seasonal fields of wildflower color-before the land was subdivided and overbuilt. Sowing native poppy seed was a popular beautification strategy during the first half of the last century. But in contemporary urban space, the patterns revealed by the bursts of orange will indicate something about the character of each of these different neighborhoods.

On Thanksgiving, a group of us prepared ground and sowed seeds for the poppies in several locations in Highland Park, and on one lot in South Pasadena. The poppies were blessed with a group of five women (Jennifer Murphy, Orchid Black, Ann Kaneko, Donna Conwell, and myself), lots of tools, and water. Thank you, friends!

One of the poems I read at the planting, was read by Jeffrey Chapman at a guided wildflower walk at the Arroyo, about a year ago:

In the next century or the one beyond that
they say,
are valleys, pastures.
We can meet there in peace
if we can make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together,
learn the flowers
go light

— Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island

As we worked, some people stopped by. One of the most common comments I get when tending the plots in Highland Park is some variation of: "In the past we planted lovely flowers here, but some kids just tore the plants out. There are some very destructive people in this neighborhood." On this day, however, one man expressed thanks that we were doing something to take care of the site. He offered us a box of latex gloves to protect against the black widows on the ground. A young woman asked us for advice about growing poppies. In South Pasadena, some curious neighbors invited us to plant on their very gorgeous property, under the roses and well-trimmed hedges.

It's been about ten days since the first seed planting. I've been tending the plots every two days.

Yesterday, as I heard rain drops falling before dawn, I immediately prepared for more seed sowing. It was pitch dark and cold. Wunderground predicted an entire day and evening worth of rain, followed by several days of cool cloudy weather. This is a stunning development for anyone planning for wildflowers after two years of drought. The December rains are on time! I seeded a couple choice areas at daybreak, and another plot in the dark, after work. There might not be another opportunity so perfect for wildflower seeds this winter!

Thank you sky!

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