June 16, 2008

A Celebration in Lavendar

I thought it fitting to do a tribute to the reason for mid-May to early June in Southern California. There are these incredible trees called Jacarandas planted everywhere, and they're pretty nondescript until May rolls around. And while many trees have flowering blooms popping from their branches, a Jacaranda will lose almost all its green leaves to make room for the purple magnificence that abounds.
I used to live in very cool apartment on El Molino (translation: The Molino) which is very near another street (Del Mar) that has these Jacarandas planted ALL along it on both sides. I loved driving to and from work every day, watching the green slowly disappear as the lavendar-colored blooms made themselves known with much pomp and circumstance.
And speaking of graduation songs, a little research taught me that these fabby purps thrive in sub-tropical climates, so they're hugely popular in India, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and some parts of Australia along with southern North America, Central America, and South America. In fact, there are so many blooming in Pretoria, South Africa, that its nickname is "The Purple City" because it appears blue or purple when standing on the neighboring hills. At the University of Pretoria, the tree itself is given the nickname "the exam tree" because they bloom right around the time of finals. If a bloom drops on your head while you're walking to take a final, BAM! you'll pass them all. Which means I'd much rather be walking outside on campus there than at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. If a jacaranda flower drops on your head there, sorry, you fail. (This superstition can be reversed if you catch another blossom before it hits the ground.)
Brisbane really upped its population of these trees during the '30s and '40s when new mothers, leaving the maternity ward after squeezing a watermelon out of their cherry, were given a jacaranda sapling to plant. Small compensation, folks. The mother was either dead or blind by the time the tree was big enough to merit any oohs and aahs, but I guess it's the thought that counts.
While I lived in that apartment on El Molino, I found out that the Daines only lived a block away. We had grand plans of making midnight runs to Famima for Cokes and Reese's and taking walks over to Del Mar to see all the jacarandas, but then Ted and I moved too soon. So when his parents were in town, I demanded Ted take the Del Mar route so they could see all the plumage. Here are the pictures I took whilst speeding along at the breakneck speed of 19 mph.

Here's one I took in L.A., on my way to work one morning (I had to put my mascara down to get my camera out).

I have another little story to tell, and I hope my friend Jana doesn't mind me using her name. When I was preparing the talk I gave on Mother's Day, I asked her for any ideas because she is artistic, well-read, insightful, in tune, incredible, and many other words that begin with "in-" (not including "inept"). While I didn't use anything she sent me for the actual talk (sorry!) she told me of a poem she wrote some years ago about her children growing up with the children of one of her best friends, Jeanne. In this poem, Jeanne's Garden, she likened all the children to different trees except for her daughter and the only daughter of Jeanne's. They were both Jacarandas - so fitting! Here's an excerpt:

Then smiling, together
Jeanne and I
Each planted Jacarandas.
Lovely flowering trees.

They like to dress in purple
And gracefully toss their blossoms
Throughout both our gardens.
So much in common,
Growing up so close.
They are almost identical, even to me.
Dancing, laughing
Sharing, teasing
Filtering light.
And they are natural nurturers.

I smiled when I read that because if there's anything that describes those two girls, it's a gaggle of giggles. Now I think of them every time I see one of those trees. I wonder what kind of tree I'd be. Jana? Any ideas? Something with a fat trunk and large...fruits?

So, Happy May and June! Enjoy the purple while you can, because soon it will look like this:

And who wants to clean up all that crap?


dana said...

gorgeous. I love those trees too. and i've thought the same thing many times....that's a lot of crap to clean up.

curg said...

go ahead & add that to the list of things i miss about southern california. good thing we've had a stretch of FOUR straight beautiful days in portland.

charrette said...

Oh my gosh I LOVE jacarandas. Especially on Del Mar in May! You are making me so homesick! And I'm so surprised you used that poem here. Thank you!

Now as to which tree you are -- (That part made me laugh out loud, emphasis on the LOUD!) Without doubt you are a coconut (emphasis on the NUT.)

Love you!

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