This plant lives on Angel Island.  It’s everywhere on Angel Island.  And other places in Northern California, I’m sure.

Ryan and I fell for it pretty hard when we ferried over to the island for a day hike and picnic on Saturday.  We’re no botanists, but tried to identify different stages of its very colorful life cycle.  (First three photos by him; last one by me.)

Phase 1: Child
Phase 2: Teenager
Phase 3: Adult
Phase 4: Elder

Because I met this plant on Angel Island, its associations in my mind will be bittersweet: lovely but linked to the sadness of life and death that happened there.  Not only Native people exterminated, but also hundreds of thousands of immigrants — mostly Chinese, but also from Eastern Europe, Japan, and Central and South America — criminalized under a racist immigration system (sound familiar?); locked up and detained for weeks, months, or years; looking out the windows and watching the seasons change.

The passage of time reflected in this gorgeous, morphing, splendidly named “Great Quaking Grass” (Briza maxima) takes on new meaning in light of the poems carved in Chinese calligraphy into the detention barracks’ redwood walls.

Clouds and hills all around, a single fresh color
Time slips away and cannot be recaptured
Although the feeling of spring is everywhere
How can we fulfill our heartfelt wish?

More Angel Island poems here.

2 thoughts on “Passage

  1. Roger Nehring May 31, 2010 / 8:21 pm

    Lovely pics, lovely poem-thank you.

  2. Barry Loncke June 5, 2010 / 9:49 am

    Reading this in Fla with Mary Ann and Kizzie. Good stuff. Dad

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