In Every End, A Beginning

One of the eternally perplexing mysteries of California to this East Coast native is the change of seasons. I simply have to give up my inclination to measure it out by the calendar, because after nine years here I know, at least, that the calendar has nothing to do with the seasons as I know them. The waning of long, white-bright summer days into short, brilliant autumn days, that in turn give way early to indigo evenings, is a pattern that has become part of my DNA. So I can’t help being disappointed by the absence of traditional fall foliage, although I’ve learned to enjoy the occasional perfect red or golden tree that I see in my travels.

This coral bark maple outside our front door is a showstopper, especially against the vivid blue of the fall sky. Almost overnight, its leaves go from a flash of chartreuse to the color and texture of dry straw, so I always pause to appreciate its brief show.

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No more artichokes until next spring, but those that are allowed to bloom on the stalk are spectacular in their own way. Enormous. Sculptural. Inedible but glorious.

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Highly edible, however, are the delicate lettuces in the vegetable garden, where already I cannot seem to pick them fast enough.

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In addition to the last of the figs, the citrus trees are loaded with unripe fruit. Our lime tree is already starting to drop the early ones, and I try not to let a single one go to waste. Often I just squeeze them and pour the juice into ice cube trays for later use. A couple of those cubes with a splash of Sour Cherry Syrup and seltzer makes a divinely refreshing drink.

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By rights, the dahlias should be done by now. The first hard freeze will definitely turn the remaining stems into limp and slimy straws. But not yet. Nope. For now, there are still fat buds on those stems…

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… as well as the occasional ripe bloom that invites the local moth population to settle down for a visit.

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What really makes me catch my breath are sights like this remontant iris. Although I’d read that certain iris varieties MAY bloom twice in a single season if the conditions are exactly right, I never expect mine to perform as advertised. As with many other things in life, there’s no guarantee from the iris catalogue company that a second bloom cycle will occur. Cynic that I am, I wonder how often, then, could it really happen? So this is a rare treat, and one I won’t take for granted.

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What surprises me the most about Fall is how much rebirth surrounds me. Back east, it was the rare, robust rose that could survive and continue blooming into late October, yet the ones in my garden show no intention of fading away.

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If anything, those last blooms of autumn have an intensity and lushness that suggests they know on some cellular level that their days are numbered.

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