Colleen is actually my granddad's cousin. Now in her eighties, she is full of amazing stories recalling her work on the Manhattan Project and as a spy in Asia during the 1950's, where she was able to put to use her talent for doing what she's most interested in -- "blowing things up." She's a scientist and an incredibly gifted artist, with a large house filled with her own paintings and antiques, but it is her garden which most fascinates me every time I visit.
On this trip, I learned that a Blue Oak (pictured above) has longer, skinnier leaves than the Coast Live Oaks I am so familiar with in the Southland (below)
Colleen had planted some Matilija Poppies, because she wanted to paint the flowers. She also had a scrub oak from the Sierra Nevada Foothills which one of her students had dug up and brought to her years ago.
Several of Colleen's paintings hang in my house, in my room and even in my brother's dorm, yet I am always blown away by her work every time I see more of it…
|The author with an Engelmann, a.k.a. Pasadena Oak Tree|
Although I'm just a kid from the Arroyo, it's trips up north like these which remind me of what it means to be a Californian… There's always something changing along Highway 99, and usually for the worse. I am so thankful that a place like Colleen's holds true to the sense of place that defines our great state.