What a delight to enter the heart of Balboa Park and find myself magically transported to the heart of a Spanish town. The massive structures tower o'erhead with belfries and cupolas that draw the eye Heavenward at every turn.
The intricate detail of the fretwork brings to mind dozens of wedding cakes lining the plazas shouting, "Celebrate beauty! Celebrate life!" to all who pass by. The Natural History Museum's grand entrance beckons me in from the heat and I willingly comply for a spate of browsing in the cool interiors.
Once again I return to the plaza, eyes darting to and fro marvelling at the intricate craftsmanship and architectural detail. These massive buildings enclose porticoes and patios ripe for lingering and dreaming of what it must have been like so long ago in the early days of California history, or even further away to Spain. Strings of festive lights line the avenues promising to continue the parade of beauty and celebration long after sundown. I imagine dining sumptuously in the balmy night air and then dancing 'til dawn. I espy a dark and romantic restaurant through an iron-veiled doorway and make a mental note to visit it upon my return. (On the off chance they invite me to dance until sunup, I shall pack my dancing slippers next time.)
Through arched doorways I happen upon a reflecting pool of proportion suited to a citadel on a Spanish hilltop. The tranquility of the water reflecting the surrounds compels me think of Narcissus and hold back my eagerness to see more.
At the far end of the pool stands a monument to botanical achievement which has eluded my every visit to this fair city. I always seem to end up wandering the grounds of this paradise on a Thursday -- the only day the botanical gardens remain shut. On my next visit I have promised myself a Wednesday respite within the confines of this treasure trove of beauty, whose depths I can only imagine.
The sprinkling of lilies bursting forth in pinks, lavenders, and deep burgundies soothe my disappointed spirit, offering up a feast of color for the eye though resting just beyond the reach of fingers drawn to stroke the peau de soie loveliness of each intricate blossom.
Another entranceway bids me carry on and away I go through yet another arched doorway to find additional bits of splendor tucked away from view, save for a peek of breath-taking beauty atop the walls.
Tiled domes towering over lush foliage,
grilled entrances through which one espies sculpted columns and proud statuary,
walled gardens and plashing fountains,
arched balconies and ironwork invitations entice the passer-by.
Each corner teases with something more, all enveloped in gardens, promising yet another secret up the stairway just beyond.
The poetry of looking back through an airy entrance at what I have just passed fools the eye and yearning wells up as I desire to go out again and see the familiar sight anew.
A maze of courtyards, doorways, and gateways keeps me guessing and progressing on the treasure hunt. Spaniards sought treasure around the world, and surely this inborn seeking for good things embeds into the very architecture they celebrate in their homes and towns and commemorative parks.
But, this park did not merely offer up a parade of buildings and trees like a museum, but rather spreads forth a true parkland ripe for seeking respite and peaceful activity to all who choose pause. A bench under a bountiful bougainvillea vine whispers of the joy found in a brief time of gentle reading in the shade,
whilst towering palms and verdant expanses lure picnickers to fall prey under a spell of drowsing as the body relaxes in the coolness of a neighboring tree's shadow.
Musicians dot the landscape offering the gift of music freely,
while children, dogs, and adults frolic in the refreshing mists and waters of the fountains that add another vital element to the community.
Life teems within the grounds of this special place. When I happened upon this tree I overheard someone softly say, "The tree of life . . . " Yes, I do see the metaphorical resemblance . . . especially with the fenced enclosure ensuring I stay FAR AWAY from the tree itself. Judging from the massive proportion of this magnolia grandeflora, I believe this park offers an abundance of life-giving elements for body and spirit.
Upon finding it time to leave the magnificent jewel-of-a-park in the heart of Downtown San Diego, I pack up all my mental souvenirs and indulge in one final backward glance at the elusive arboretum. I tuck a promise in with all the glorious memories: a promise to return again and further explore the treasures in a California land seasoned with the spice of Spain.