Easily, the charm of California, for me, stems from its flora.
Wherever we go—from county to city—beautiful and colorful flowers make huge, spectacular gardens. They are all over, as far as the eye can see.
They creep on roadsides and hills, climb up walls, embrace fences, look up toward the sun, dance with the wind, shoot out of bushes, hang from trees, bow to the ground, simply stand tall like sentries or sit like princesses on their thrones.
In truth, there are many things to appreciate in sunny, scenic California, but those that first get my attention (and adulation) are its flora. Maybe because when we visited last year, there was a drought and the flowers could not bloom. This time around, I turn into an inveterate photographer at every turn.
When I get back home to the Philippines, I will try, although I may not succeed, to capture their splendor on canvas. My fascination with flowers made me try out painting some 10 years ago, which is one of the things I immerse myself in—next to writing.
After tours of art museums and research on flower paintings, I can’t think of any artist, not even Georgia O’Keeffe, who has ever captured the fullness of grace in these jaw-dropping blossoms.
In all the five missions we have visited so far (San Luis Obispo, San Juan Bautista, San Luis Rey, San Miguel Gabriel, and San Diego Tolosa), I take to the flowers, while Tony contemplates the relics. There is a garden and a courtyard in every mission where one can meditate and reflect on how God created such magical magnificence.
I’ve read that the early friars from Spain who brought Christianity to California hauled in flower seeds and seedlings of every kind and planted them as directional signs to the structures they built for the natives, or American Indians. So did the early migrants, who strewed them around dwelling places, when they came for the gold rush.
Whether they were aware of it or not, they brought in joyful wonders, making people like me gush with gratitude three centuries later.