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Almond blossoms, Yosemite’s granite grandeur, follow birds in flight
San Joaquin Valley
An almond orchard northeast of Manteca.

Forget about smelling the roses.

Smell the almond blossoms instead.

We live in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

The heart of the world’s most bountiful inland area blessed by a Mediterranean climate.

Ignore the non-stop hyperventilating of those channeling Eeyore of Winnie-the Pooh fame.

Savor what is literally on both your front doorstep and out your back door.

Nowhere else in North America can you breathe in the intoxicating elixir from billions of delicate white and pink almond blossoms carried on gentle night breezes caressing your lungs as the calendar marches toward the end of February and on in to March.

Take a deep breath.

Chanel No. 9 in comparison is a mere odor.

And unlike Chanel No. 9, the scent of almond blossoms isn’t the only offering in the Northern San Joaquin Valley’s bottle.

The blossoms are the precursor to an incredible repertoire served up by nature.

There are the crops, of course, that run the gamut from alfalfa to zucchini.

But they are more than mere food stuffs.

Take alfalfa.

From the moment shoots pop up through the soil to when it is cut, it caresses the senses from sight to smell to touch.

It even creates a soothing serenade when strong breezes cause a slight rustling sound that gives amber waves of grain a run for its money.

You don’t have to be into an agrarian lifestyle to realize you might just live in paradise.

That’s right, paradise.

I never thought that, to be honest, until I ventured over the proverbial fence.

It wasn’t to go in search of greener pastures.

But just to explore, if you will.

One foray took me to the heart of Illinois.

It was there that more than one person that wasn’t laser focused on the California crazy narrative, told me how lucky I was.

And it often was simply because of the weather.

We make jokes about how there is only one season or two in California.

But the reality is it isn’t a joke.

It’s a privilege.

The snow is where it belongs — up in the mountains.

It doesn’t rain — at least not most of the time — and it rarely drops below freezing.

And when it’s real hot, it’s not suffocatingly so.

Humidity is more than pleasant.

If you doubt that, spend some time in the Midwest or South on a 90-degree day with the humidity number to match.

You drip, but you never dry.

There’s nothing wrong with searching out somewhere over the rainbow.

But there’s a lot in your own backyard to see if you just open your eyes and look.

So why not do that?

There is no better time than now.

This is not just nature’s rebirth.

It’s your rebirth today.

The great darkness that was the pandemic is now behind us for a good year.

COVID is still with us but it’s not front and center.

Yes, some of us lost a lot.

But all of us lost something.

Our lives were on semi-pause.

We yearned to cherish the little things we couldn’t.

And we all likely made a promise to ourselves not to ever squander the opportunity to enjoy the little things when we could.

But much like New Year’s resolutions the promise we made to ourselves in the depth of the pandemic have inevitably fallen to the wayside much like a sycamore leaf is doomed to become brown, brittle, and float listless on the wind until it is forgotten.

So why not celebrate the end of the pandemic that was the crisis-imposed winter when we went into hibernation?

Celebrate the spring.

Walk along the banks of the Stanislaus River.

Skip stones below the Knights Ferry Bridge.

Toss stale bread to the ducks – and catfish – in Turlock’s Donnelly Park.

Take a gander at the fowl and birds at the nearby wildlife refuges.

Get adventurous.

Head up to Yosemite and soak in the splendor of nature’s cathedral.

Walk barefoot on the sands of Drakes Beach.

Crane your neck upwards at the base of a soaring redwood.

Make snow angels in the mid-May snowpack near Sonora Pass.

Dip your toes in the backwaters of the Delta.

You don’t have to venture far.

Go for a walk in your neighborhood.

Delight in nature’s little surprises.

The whimsical budding of a tulip tree.

The lure of California Golden Poppies.

Learn lessons from nature.

Follow the life cycle of roses. They are barren bushes in winter. Observe how rose gardeners trim back the deadwood.

Note how they deadhead, battle aphids, and such. Observe the pain of being pricked by the thorns. And then remember all of that when you soak in the visual beauty — and tantalizing scent.

Then keep in mind one of the truths of life.

When you embrace something – or someone – that personifies beauty to you, remember the rose.

It didn’t just happen.

It took work.

And it includes the pain of life’s thorns.

Take the same approach to your backyard — the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

You will find beauty that amazes you.

It involves a little pain, as in California’s high cost of living.

But if you work at it, you will find out paradise is closer than you think.

The San Joaquin River southwest of Manteca.