PV Headshot Jean Shriver.JPG

Jean Shriver

Another week has rolled around and we’re still stuck at home. Not too much to say on that topic for now. But when I caught sight of a dark blue sky thorough my window, I ventured outside. There’s plenty going on out there.

We’ve had a banner spring, a mixture of sun and rain that’s unusual for California, and it has produced unusual results. 

For instance, two years ago I planted 30 Japanese iris bulbs around our garden bed, and when they didn’t come up that year or the next, I thought I’d done a poor job of planting. No big surprise. But, lo and behold, they just popped up—thirty slender stems topped with purple and yellow blossoms waving brightly in the warm wind. Cheered up the garden bed and cheered me up, too.

I spotted some other unexpected visitors in that same bed—three large and shiny-leaved acanthus plants. What a surprise!

When we bought this house in 1983 those acanthus plants were a part of the very overgrown and miscellaneous garden.

We dug them out, tidied up the beds, built an arbor and hired a garden expert to replant the whole thing. From time to time, an acanthus would make a timid attempt to raise its head, but we always whacked it down again. So you can imagine my surprise to see those healthy and overgrown plants, preening themselves while trying to squeeze out their more legitimate neighbors.

If you don’t recognize the name, acanthus, you might recognize its leaves as the ones adorning the Corinthian columns of Greece. In those days the acanthus leaf was used in both Greek and Roman designs and went on to be part of the decor of medieval churches. Through the years the leaf has been a symbol of eternity.

To my great surprise, this ancient and aristocratic plant is also known as Bears Breeches. Not sure why. Sounds like something you’d find in a Southern swamp. But judging by its persistence in our garden over the past 37 years, I understand why it’s a symbol of eternity. 

The roses are responding to this ideal weather with a burst of bloom. White and red, orange and yellow, they lift up their faces and perfume the air around them. The smells mix with the heady scent of mowed grass as a yellow and black oriole flies above my head.

Guess the rabbits are happy, too. They seem to have eaten all the small sweet pea plants my daughter-in-law put in. Lizards scoot across the path where I am walking. But I’ve got nothing against these silent and slithery creatures. They are part of the whole ecosystem that has peacocks screeching and owls flying silently in the dark. Not to mention the occasional rattlesnake.

The flora and fauna are a reminder that while humans around the world are struggling with a virulent virus, the natural world offers us a glimpse into something immune, something that will still be flourishing when we’ve conquered COVID-19 and gone back to our usual occupations.

If you’re feeling down, wait for a sunny day, then step outside and look around. The trees and the grass will welcome you and lift your heart.


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