A few days ago, a pair of Anna’s hummingbirds were in mid-air, doing what hummingbirds do this time of year in this climate. Soon there will be tiny nests and tiny eggs. Today, a pair of petite dark-eyed junkos chased after each other in a flitting courtship ritual, darting in and out of a ceanothus bush that will soon be saturated with blue-violet flowers. The small yellow flowers, shaped like stars, dot a golden currant, with small berries to follow that wintering birds will be eager to add to their diet. For now, hummingbirds and butterflies—sometimes monarchs—have dominion over the plant.
A groundcover of woodland strawberries has become a carpet of delicate flowers with tiny white petals that draw attention to the golden yellow of their centers. Soon there will be small berries with an intense strawberry flavor. The squirrels will sit up in the midst of the vines and leaves, holding a berry between their paws and eating it as a delicacy, quite unlike the acorns they have been hoarding within the earth for the past months, food that merely provides sustenance. They will, of course, unearth their stored harvest as their young stay hidden amidst the branches of our majestic oak tree. Their blind newborn kits depend on the arrival of food. But apparently, the strawberries are too marvelous to be shared.
My home (and that of my little guests) is in a city with the tagline “The Heart of Silicon Valley.” Residential housing is dense. Walking a short distance lands one at a Google or Apple or LinkedIn campus. Walk a little farther and see the emblems of other titans of high-tech research and design. In another direction, see the names of hopeful startups on easily changed marquees. The area bustles with creative energy but also with an environmental load that comes when fruit orchards and vegetable farms are replaced by Class A office space with LEED and Energy Star ratings that insufficiently acknowledge that the soil that once gave us fruits and vegetables is now covered in concrete and macadam.
However, walk through my humble California native gardens and see a miniature oasis of native plants, birds, bees, and butterflies. When the ceanothus bushes are in full bloom in another week or so, species of bees will zip around the perimeter. They seem half crazed by the flowers and their pollens, but it is the frenetic energy of courtship that drives them. Even now, ground-nesting bees are at work amidst our winter crop of lettuces and perennial oregano and parsley.
It is impossible not to be mindful in these gardens. My mind cannot wander while squirrels scurry in search of spring delicacies; birds dash about in a courtship ritual; bees dive into flowers of purple, yellow, and white; and butterflies balance their time between courtship flirtation and a consideration of promising floral delights.