A stroll through the neighbourhood just after seven revealed a dazzle of Christmas lights translated as bokeh by my smartphone.
Living so far away from home persistently tests me. When the recent tragic event was unfolding over too-long hours in Martin Place, Sydney, I scrolled social media, emailed family and friends, and checked on Facebook posts so I could keep up-to-date with the latest news. During these times you feel helpless, living thousands of miles away; digital technology gives you a feeling of control in a situation you’re far removed from. In an instant, I knew where my mum and dad were, where my sisters were; that my brothers and close friends were ok. That’s something a phone call could never do, especially when the lines used to be so jammed that many times I couldn’t ever get through.
Most of all, such events show us that we’re in this together, no matter what part of the world we live in. We may not agree on everything but we come from the same place. A good place.
For me, public gardens are pockets of beautiful stillness. While the rest of the city toils and sweats, these green spaces provide a glorious escape. I remember one unbelievably hot day in NY’s East Village. I must have been either hazy under an excess of sun or spellbound by beauty, because when I stumbled into the shady surrounds of the 9th Street Community Garden Park, I was entranced. The dreamscape conjured up scenes from Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree; I was walking through my very own Wonderland.
That said, Southern California’s lush gardens have a similar effect on me. It is always sunny here after all, so perhaps I’m in a permanent state of bliss. I am known to drag whoever is willing to stroll with me through the manicured gardens of The Getty Villa, Malibu. I even ventured two hours away by train to tour Ganna Walska’s Lotusland in Santa Barbara. Interested to understand their beginnings, I researched and wrote about Southern California’s gardens for this month’s issue of Qantas Australian Way magazine. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:
“During the golden age of American gardens (1890-1940), Southern California looked to the rest of the world for horticultural inspiration, especially the latitude-sharing Mediterranean. Landowners were lured to the booming region and its magnificent climate, their bold displays of wealth immortalised in magnificent manses and cultivated gardens that were grand expressions of their personalities. Oil magnate John Paul Getty’s passion for classical design is reflected in The Getty Villa; socialite Ganna Walska’s Santa Barbara-based wonderland exudes extravagance; while George Fox Steedman’s painstaking attention to detail is evident in the architecturally pleasing garden at Casa Del Herrero.
Egos aside, a turn-of-the-century interest in plant collecting bestowed upon Southern California an array of natural wonders. Gilded Age railroad and real estate mogul Henry Edwards Huntington transformed hundreds of his green acres into a microcosm of the global botanical landscape and sought not only to preserve native and unusual species, but to maintain the grounds in perpetuity for the enjoyment of generations to come.”
Gardens are treasure chests of history and botany, and Southern California is one of the top sources of inspiration for ” the enthusiastic green thumb, serious botanist and pure philocalist.” If you have time to visit some in California, these are my top 10 recommendations:
http://travelinsider.qantas.com.au/usa/california/things-to-do/southern-california-blooming-public-gardens (read this from bottom up — the introduction is written after the top 10 list)
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday I was pounding the pavement under the warm sun, elbow to elbow with Angelenos out for a post-Thangsgiving breather. Today, the sky is moody and dropping rain in intermittent bursts. Outside, overflowing gutters are spluttering from disbelief and exhaustion. The gardens, however, seem to be rejoicing. Goodbye 70 and sunny; hello wintry December.
The Boardwalk is filled with all sorts: break dancers with boomboxes, a 70-year-old clown, quirky creatives, “green” doctors in scrubs, guys on guitar, and tourists galore. We hadn’t planned on spending Thanksgiving evening at Venice Beach but that’s where we’d ended up. Seated at an ocean-facing cafe, we ordered sides of chewy calamari, deep-fried jalapenos, and guac ‘n chips; we cheered to a spectacular sunset with too-sweet mixed drinks. It was pretty close to perfect.