I was 8 years old when first introduced to floral ecstasy. It was midsummer in San Francisco, and all of that summer was warm and bright, as I recall, but I’m sure we all like to remember the summers of our youth that way. Of course, it felt like it would just go on and on, and in a way it has.
I had already returned from my first 2-week Catholic Youth Summer Camp experience, and on the day of my family reunion, as I stepped off the bus crammed with Catholic campers, I slipped into an other-worldly faint that would end up changing my perspective on things quite a bit, though that’s for another story.
After that epiphany, I day-drifted through nearby Golden Gate Park, a magical forest of any boy’s dream, and sometimes ambled over to the Cabrillo Playground, two blocks down the hill from our Parish Church and Grammar School – St. Thomas the Apostle. Taking up about half of the long block from Fulton to Cabrillo, this playground was a favorite hang-out for the numerous Catholic baby boomers who swarmed around, bewildered by the various eccentricities and uninspected impulses of their current incarnation.
After my earlier experience, I was likely more bewildered than any of them. I might have been a body, but I sure didn’t know it. Rather, attention occasionally emerged in the middle of timelessness to permit some conventional activity. Something or other managed to somehow concretize itself for a moment, before dissolving in the no-mind state of aimless innocence again and leaving me to the will of That which moves in mysterious ways.
One of those moments came as I lay on the skirt of lawn that ran the length of the playground fence, which was itself bordered with a tall hanging hedge, redolent with the suddenly most intriguing pink blossoms. Their long, translucent tubular flutes extending from the flower’s mandala core beckoned one bumblebee after another to worship and partake of some secret nectar.
Spontaneously, I became aware of a luscious blossom, snatched off the bush, and pressed up to my face. It twirled seductively in the air before me by what turned out to be my own hand, and instinctively I bit the tiny tip of the flower’s flute and sucked in the most delicious nectar I had ever tasted!
This was revelation — I had fallen in love! As I drank in the flower’s essence, lost in the perfection, I understood something that I cannot, even now, put into words, nor do I now recall the name of those buds, but from that point forward, I became a floral devotee, all from that One Taste.