The flowers of West Oakland are as varied as its people. Trees grow here that would be more at home on tropical isles as next to concrete sidewalks. Vines cover fences that might be more comfortable climbing up cliffs beside rivers in the jungles of South America, and roses are everywhere. Cascades of roses, waterfalls of roses, roses escaping fences and roses gracing ordinarily barren lots. Roses that have grown for centuries on the coast of England or on the dry dusty plains of Spain are happily blooming here.
I am grateful for their unexpected beauty, their delicate aroma. My neighbors have a red red rose that blooms even on the darkest days of winter. That rose always makes me smile, but the ancient pink rose blooming less frequently but ecstatically next to the wrought iron fence of the church opens my heart. Next month when skies are darker and days shorter, its leaves will be fewer but its hips bright red, food for the small birds nesting under the eaves of the belltower.
Walking further down the block, the bright yellow of Scotch Broom sparks against the hedges of lavender and sage. Scotch broom may be classified as a noxious weed in California, but few can deny its cheerful beauty. It blankets the dry slopes of the foothills with its hardy sunshine, and here in West Oakland it makes a welcoming arch to the lavender walk bordering the playground/parking lot behind the church.
When I stand near it, I feel as if I am again walking through the hot dry ravines outside Georgetown, in the foothills of the Sierras, looking for the entrance to a long abandoned gold mine, but that is another story. I will just say that I did find the mine and then crawled on my hands and knees into its dark interior but backed out quickly when I heard the steady thrum of a breathing sleeping animal -- a gruff rumble echoed through the tunnel and made me think the animal was large. I fled as fast as one can flee crawling backwards, and was never so glad to see once again that noxious weed, Scotch broom, ablaze with yellow bloom. I am equally glad to see it hear, blooming down the street from the rose.
Across the street from the church, in front of the house with the cast iron dragonfly on its gate, a feeding station for cats (no bears will eat them here!) nestles beneath one of two bushes of blooming angel's trumpets, one golden, the other a most delicate shade of blushing pink.
I like the music of these trumpets. They sing for the cats. They sing for the passers-by. And that song carries those who hear its fragile music to other shores, away from the hard edges of cities, away from trash blowing on streets, away from the grey rumble of trucks and trains and into the deep valleys of islands where the dense silence of vines and green growing is broken only by the cries of forest birds calling to one another.
I like that voyage.
Nearby a venerable old tree is host to a passion flower vine with many small pink blooms, themselves host to dozens of honey bees that hum and buzz around the sweet pollen laden flowers.
I have often thought that I should have a bee hive in my backyard. With all the blooming flowers in West Oakland, the bees would have no trouble finding enough nectar that might be steadily converted to golden honey, and what a honey it would be -- distilled from a mix of nectar drawn from lavender, passion flowers, sages, even roses.
I can imagine its sweetness, its delicate aroma, but for now, I will have to content myself with butterflies.