If Pure Gold Were Liquid …

The State Flower of California

The quote is from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden:

And mixed with these were splashes of California poppies. These too are of a burning color—not orange, not gold, but if pure gold were liquid and could raise a cream, that golden cream might be like the color of poppies.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my favorite flowers are tulips and California poppies.

Some people say that it is illegal to pick a California poppy. The truth is actually a little more complicated. According to the CBS News site for San Francisco:

Now here is the interesting part: as a native Californian, I grew up believing it is illegal to PICK a California Poppy. As that turns out, it’s not entirely true! You can pick, bend, eat or smoke a Poppy as long it is not on state property. However, if a Poppy or any other flower is on School, Park, a median or even outside a courthouse, DO NOT pick or hurt the flower. Harming the flower or plant life could be considered a misdemeanor offense, and you can be fined up to $1000 and as many as six months in jail. That’s real Flower Power!

I wouldn’t pick a California poppy for different reasons: They are so beautiful that they should be left alone so that they can continue to bring joy to passers-by.

When the Desert Blooms

A hill at the California Poppy Preserve in Los Angeles’s Antelope Valley in Spring 2003.
The California Poppy Preserve in the Antelope Valley Spring 2003

In a post I wrote a few days ago, I remember saying that tulips and California poppies are my favorite flowers. This rainy season has been unusually good, with the result that the wildflower bloom this month is utterly spectacular.

That was also the case in March 2003, when Martine and I visited the California Poppy Preserve with its gentle hillsides blooming with millions of orange flowers.

On Monday, my friend Bill Korn and I hope to visit the Carrizo Plain National Monument in rural Santa Barbara County, where there is another spectacular set of blooms. We had hoped to do it in previous years, but so long as I was racing to prepare tax returns in time for the April 15 deadline, that was a virtual impossibility. For the last twenty-odd years of my accounting career, I typically worked seven days a week in March and the beginning of April.

Close-Up of California Poppies 2010

Never having been to the Carrizo Plain, all I know about it is that it is in a remote area and does not even have paved roads throughout. Several of the roads in the park are currently closed due to mud. Its best known physical feature is that the San Andreas earthquake fault runs right through the middle of it.

Eschscholzia californica

Macro Image of a California Poppy

Macro Image of a California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

We got an extra day off from work today, so Martine and I drove to Descanso Gardens in La Cañada-Flintridge, perched in the hills above Glendale. We have always associated the gardens with peace of mind, and today was no exception. Martine and I usually split off for a couple of hours and meet at the front gate just before closing time. While she wanders to her favorite sites, I look to get lost on the lesser known trails and perhaps do a bit of meditation.

The plethora of California poppies—the official state flower—kept distracting me. I took a number of close-ups, including the picture above, There is something so simple and yet so splendid about these blossoms that they kept interrupting my meditations. One never knows when one will run into a clump of these.

If it weren’t for tax season, I would have made a point of visiting the Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve about fifteen miles west of Lancaster. Some 1,745 acres are full of California poppies and other native wildflowers, and there is a small visitor center maintained by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. (Of course, with the state’s current budgetary problems, I don’t even know if the park is still being funded.)