She steps out of the house, through the patio door and into the yard, determined to see what she has missed. Although no longer in bloom, the memory of the orange blossoms’ overpowering aroma is present as she begins her tour. The brilliant pinks and reds of the bougainvillea growing over the columns of the covered patio form an archway to the yard. Their tissue paper flowers with little white eyes rustle a welcome as she passes through.
The waxy deep green leaves of the gardenia are visible just to her left. The heady scent of the white multilayered flower brings tears to her eyes. Not wanting to separate from it, she bends down and picks just one to fold into her pocket.
She walks toward the little square of a garden tucked around the side of the house. The lush leaves of the ground cover encircle each piece of the jagged pinkish stepping-stones. The wooden raised beds, recently painted sage green, hold herbs and tall willowy dark purple flowers that appeared out of nowhere. In her Mexican pots, the orange and yellow daisy-like dayflowers stand up as if they are saluting the sun. With one hello to life, by tomorrow they will be gone.
Vines cover most of the gray stucco wall that encloses the yard; the first is a Carolina jasmine with its beautiful tiny yellow flowers and next to it, another so heavy it pulls the wooden lattice forward. Spring green now, it throws out shoots without blooms. Later it will grace the wall with pointed little white gifts. Below the vines, the brilliant and delicate red and orange ball-blossoms of the Mexican Bird of Paradise splash their colors in the breeze.
The bower vine climbs up the house, almost to the second floor, heavy with its large white billowy blooms. Sadly empty of any fragrance their beauty still captivates her. Turning to the palms, which grace the pool’s edge, she nods to the two Mexican fan palms guarding one end. Once as short as the pygmy palms, they now tower over 20 feet high and house many birds. When they have their signature obligatory “bad haircut”, the birds become sad homeless wrecks of their former selves. Flanking each side of the palms live two red hibiscus, one a spring blooming bush and the other a ruffled summer version. Each competing for the most beautiful – each have their day.
The multi-armed Yucca plant, now over 14 feet tall, houses all of the yard’s hummingbirds and a thrush or two. Its branches appear to be made of pointy armor that defies human touch, yet provides a safe haven for the birds. Below lives the fairy duster bush, its red flower is home to most of the bees in the yard.
Brilliant red-orange lantana, the workhorse of the Phoenix landscape, flood the back part of the yard. An interloper, perhaps seeded perhaps during a storm, stands out. What began as just one pink, yellow and white specimen now edges an entire section of the yard. It thrives happily under two hanging baskets of red, purple and white annuals. At last, she notices the various cacti and finally one lone mesquite. They serve as reminders that this is the Sonoran desert, not a Southern California landscape. She sits and looks out onto the yard.
This had all been invisible to her, masked by her drive and determination to make something of herself. She takes in every color, each smell and sound as the years of distraction fall from her eyes and tears appear in wonder and gratitude. She says a silent prayer, thanking God for allowing her to enjoy his beauty.