We’ve reached the end of March. Spring is just about over. Two months of green separated the brown of late autumn from the new yellow of April. Most flowers have bloomed: I expect the Mariposa lilies to make a show any day now before it is all over.
Spring usually peaks late in April, but we’ve had ninety degree days in February and March that signaled the blooms to drop their petals and get about the business of creating seeds. The poppies at the Native Seed Farm where I volunteer stopped their flash of orange two weeks ago. Lupines crowded the meadows for a few days, then disappeared into the rising grass which, in its turn, has begun to yellow.
We’ve heard stories of the heavy snows in the East. We envy the water that buries houses and that will flood the lowlands in a few weeks there because things are dry here. Legislators in Sacramento continue to put off rationing just in case these next few weeks bring rain. Everywhere mere anarchy reigns in an anti-government climate where people prefer to watch their doom unfolding while hoping for redemption. I don’t hear many people say that there is no such thing as global climate change these days; I am sure that those who say they don’t believe in it at very least dread that it might be true now.
Our best laid plans — the mighty dams and the magnificent aqueducts — have come to naught because they were designed for the catastrophic droughts of old cycles, not for these man-altered climates. I sometimes wonder: did we fight too many dams? Did we let bottled water companies drain too much of our aquifers? Did we fail to see the danger posed by green lawns and golf courses? My eyes watch the edge of the desert. Will it push across the San Gorgonio Pass and storm down the Cajon in the years to come? Will our drought last three more years or thirty five?
What will the land be like in a few years? What will be the new months of spring and what flowers will bloom and which will disappear?
I’ve been working on the Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s Native Seed Farm where they grow plants for rehabilitating the lands burned by the 2008 Santiago Fire. Our recent tasks have involved harvesting seeds from various species endemic to the local coastal sage scrub biome.
The same fire opened the land for use. The farm exists on a plot that once grew avocados. Encroaching flames torched the grove before they turned to the east and threatened my home.
Volunteers and paid staff perform most of the chores. Idle farm workers with wages paid by the Irvine Ranch join for a few months every spring. This keeps them on hand while cash crops grow and there is little to do elsewhere.
I took a break from Whiting Ranch to explore the season at nearby O’Neill Regional Park, specifically the Live Oak, the Hoffmann Homestead, and the Vista Trails, a lariat that I began at the corner of Meadow Ridge and Chisolm Trail in Mission Viejo. Summer is the season of death here in Orange County. Memorial Day weekend marks the final demise of the foxtail and wild oat grasses. Gone are the Golden Stars, the mustard, and other competitors for the sun of the open range. The country turns resplendent yellow except for dusky patches of sage, toyon, and chamise creating a pattern on the hills.
Vedanta Wilderness, O’Neill Regional Park, California
Few things can be more frustrating that to aim your eye through your camera’s viewfinder and discover that its battery has died just as a brilliant vista comes into view. This happened to me as I surmounted the hill near the Vista Point and looked down on the Live Oak Trail as it plunged down one slope and crawled up the long ridge that rises after the junction with the Coyote Trail. I sighed and contained a tantrum by remembering that I had my Samsung S5 in my pocket. It couldn’t compete with my Nikon, but it was better than nothing.
Sapphire Woollystar, taken May 18, 2014 in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park.
Alas the wildflowers are beginning to disappear.
Taken in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, May 7, 2014