Today in Tucson we were invited to a Spring Luncheon in honor of — a palo verde tree in full glorious bloom:
The magnificent tree was the focus and honored subject of the luncheon, just as it might be in Shinto Japan.
Guests wore something yellow, and we ate, among other things: curried onions, warm potato mélange mostly mini Yukon Gold, chick pea salad, corn bread with jalapenos, spicy corn dip with yellow tortilla scoopers, chicken and yellow squash casserole, orange salad with olives, deviled eggs (of course!), shredded carrot salad, American cheese and cheddar cheese.
The theme clear?
For dessert, pineapple spears and yellow mini-cupcakes (but also Ghirardelli bars and chocolate chip cookies, because there are limits, after all, to any theme). White wine, of course. The hostess received a gift of a big orange cauliflower, and as it happened, the retired plant geneticist who had developed it was one of the luncheon guests.
The witty and gracious hostess from Minnesota had had her inspiration some years ago in the night: a Japanese impulse “translated” to the American Southwest. Like cherry blossom festivals in Japan, the party happens at the whim of the tree, not the humans. The palo verde can blossom early in April in Tucson (as this year) or later in May (as last year).
And once it blooms, the party must be held almost at once, because — again like the cherry blossoms — its yellow flowers will fade and fall within 10 days or less. It is this ephemeral quality, which must be seen and appreciated on its own terms and in its own time, which constitutes the beauty of Japanese Aware (ah-wah-reh).
This is the first — and only — palo verde I’ve seen blooming so early in Tucson this year. It occurs to me that it’s because it’s responding to the warmth of its welcome, a reciprocity between woman and tree which — if not perhaps botanically true — certainly rings true in another dimension than our mundane three.