Seasons of the San Gabriel

July 1998


The Color of Yellow
The time is July 1998, the summer after the media hype of the "El Niño" event, or the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) if you want to be proper. These mountains must have had more than forty inches of rain.

The place is the Angeles Crest Highway beginning at the powerline crossing at Gould Mesa. The chaparral is more beautiful than I have ever seen it before.

Yellow is everywhere, yellow-golden Spanish broom, yellow-cream monkeyflower, yellow-ochre monkeyflower, yellow-red deerweed growing higher than my knee, taller than I've ever seen it before. It makes a statement instead of being stepped upon. Yellow-clear of mustard, yellow-light of chamise blossoms, yellow-ecru of yucca bloom, passed now, but a snow of yellowed petals at the prickly base.

The whole mountainside in between the yellow is filled in with the shiny growth of new green leaves: cupped oak leaves, floppy maple leaves, smooth sumac leaves, leathery ceanothus leaves, bristly chamise leaves. No more, the dried, dessicated, twisted stalks of the sturdy chaparral plants. They are invisible now.

The road climbs higher. Less yellow plants, more tall trees, but still the golden-yellow Spanish broom lines the pavement. The sun brings out its fragrance. A warm sweet, sultry aroma envelops me. I breathe it in quicker and quicker, deeper and deeper. Is this what Provence smells like, I wonder? Higher up, the broom gets smaller and smaller and farther apart.

The yellow rises high to the tree tops, to the "candles", the pollen producing parts, of the pines. So filled with pollen are they, that the rocks below are capped in yellow. When a bird moves around inside the branches, a cloud of yellow dust explodes from the tree top giving away the bird's position.

A golden day in the Golden State.


© Jane Strong, January 2002
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