Home -> Other California History Books -> Vignettes of San Francisco -> A Whiff of Acacia

Previous Page Home Up One Level Next Page

A Whiff of Acacia

In Connecticut now, and in Illinois and in Utah too, it is lilac time. Lilac time - I'll stop, if you please, to say the words over lovingly. In San Francisco now the lilacs are in bloom but it is not lilac time. In Golden Gate Park the rhododendrons are blossomed into gorgeous mounds of color but they are not an event in San Francisco, only an incident. In "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" set in the mountains of Virginia, they are the dominant background.

Poppies and lupine and many others are the flower tradition of California but they are not what I mean here. It is an impression of mine that San Francisco more than any other city has taken the traditional plants and flowers of other sections and made them into a composite that makes up the plant atmosphere of this city.

Take roses and geraniums and callas, none of which are epochal because they are always at hand. But with old Mrs. Deacon Rogers in Connecticut who nursed her calla through the long winter that she might take it to church on Easter Sunday, the calla was history.

Even the camellia San Franciscans take very philosophically. It has not, for instance, the supremacy that Dumas gives it in "Camille." In Sacramento they feature it more and an Easterner who saw them picking it in branches instead of single flowers, exclaimed: "Why, they think they're oleanders."

The plant and flower atmosphere of a community is very important. Some child is now growing up in the city, who some day will be far away when there will come to him a whiff, perhaps of acacia, and in an instant there will come surging over him all the feel and urge and thrill and wistfulness and dreams of his childhood, and he will be once more in the atmosphere of San Francisco. It will not include winter and summer but an all-round-the-year-ness, it will not mean a flower, but flowers, cherry blossoms from Japan, acacia from Australia, and the best from everywhere which all together will mean to him - San Francisco.

The smell of the acacia, which he knew as the wattle, inspired Kipling to write those words

"Smells are surer than sounds or sights
To make your heart strings crack."

Perhaps many others see with me this difference between San Francisco and the rest of the country, as though nature here expresses herself in bounty more than in resurrection. Oh, well, whether it be "lilac time" or "all the time" to each locality there is its own beauty and, as for me, I have yet to find, in all my travels, the "place that God forgot."

Previous Page
Up One Level
Next Page