Southern California’s Winter-Green Hills: Beautiful or Beastly?
More rains over the weekend . . . definitely a blessing . . . but now that the coastal foothills are responding with an emerald glow (soon to be quilted with patches of gaudy yellow mustard flowers), it’s time for me wax despondent over the whole shiny mess.
While most folks see a beautiful seasonal display of color, I sigh, wondering what the hills looked like a couple hundred years ago, before all the non-native annual grasses invaded. Sure, our hills are green for a bit in winter . . . but the parade quickly fades, and these weeds dry and die. With all the native perennial bunch grasses and rainbows of wild flowers choked out years ago, the hills turn to gray-ish brown tinder for the rest of the year–instead of a year-long blossoming of native plants, and year-long green of native bunchgrass.
Thus this poem:
Like a golden dagger inlaid with emerald
much admired for its gaudy decoration,
so these hills are venerated for
how they light up every year with green-
shine grass and brilliant mustard glow.
What if one day you heard the story of
the dagger’s history: “With this weapon
so-and-so stabbed and killed
your great-great-grandfather. And his wife.”
I think about this sometimes after rain
stirs the patient hills back into color:
emerald sheen of noxious annuals,
golden epidemic of mustard flower—
weapons of death in our Orange County wildlands.
What is in the eyes of the beholder?
On a happier note, there are still a few deer that seem to have adapted to the “new” diet of imported grasses.
And, on an unrelated note: I discovered barefoot pony riding a couple of weeks ago, during an amazing winter break of several 80-degree days. I went for a trail ride with my sister (who bought the cute little guy for her granddaughters), and when I got home did a quick internet search of “barefoot horseback riding.” Some of the warnings/negativity seemed eerily similar to how people regard barefoot hiking: dangerous, demented behavior that will get you hurt. On the other hand, there were a few comments by folks who enjoyed riding their horses sans saddle and shoes, raising the eternal question: is contemporary conventional shoe-wisdom (wear them or suffer the broken-glass, bloody consequences!) the voice of reason, or ?