It’s a Purple World

In Los Angeles, the Jacaranda trees are in bloom. The annual suffusion of the purple-blue flowers makes this my favorite time of the year. I posted the three photos here a few years ago, and I am re-posting them for the benefit of those who may not be familiar with these wonderful trees. You can find more Jacaranda photos at my photography website.

I’m not sure how many Jacaranda trees there are in Southern California, but I do know, for instance, that the city of Pasadena alone has over 3,500. Although there are 49 species of the tree. The Jacaranda mimosifolia or Blue Jacaranda in SoCal come from Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil and are a less blue than the native trees in those countries.

Jacarandas can reach 60 feet high.

The trees can make a real mess, but no one seems to mind. As soon as they bloom, the flowers begin to drop, covering the lawns, sidewalks, driveways and cars like lavender snow.

Like the sakura or cherry blossoms for the Japanese, the jacarandas to me represent the transient nature of life. They remind me of the phrase chen-k’ung miao-yu or “true emptiness, wondrous existence.”

“True emptiness” because all things are conditioned and transient, and thereby unreal, empty. “Wondrous existence” because life is beautiful, mysterious, and subtle.

According to the light of the profound realization of the silent void emerges the difference of great and small, followed by the consequences of good and evil, and the manifest appearance of phenomena with names and forms; so that the realms of desire, form, and formlessness in the ten directions are seen as clearly as a jewel held in the palm of an outstretched hand. Amidst this the dynamism of True Emptiness and Wondrous Existence permeates all things within the infinite universe.”

– Sot’aesan (1891-1943), founder of Won Buddhism

 More Jacaranda photos at


Jacaranda Time

Severe weather is still pounding the Midwest. The videos of these tornadoes are awe-inspiring, just as the scenes of the devastation they leave behind are heartbreaking.

Here in Southern California we’ve had unseasonably cool temperatures and unusual wet weather, but the last few days that’s changed and it’s beginning to feel more like spring. And since it’s May, that means it’s Jacaranda time.

I don’t believe the Jacaranda mimosifolia or Blue jacaranda we have here are native. From what I understand they originated in South America and were transplanted. Jacarandas are a bit like cherry blossoms in that they drop from the trees almost as soon as they bloom.  The Jacarandas tend to drop slower, though, and some blossoms stick for up to two months, while cherry blossoms are normally gone within two weeks.

To me, both  represent the transient nature of life.

Here are some photos I took yesterday of the big jacaranda tree down the street from me. You can click on them for a larger view. And I have more photos of the jacarandas, from a previous year, here.

It is precisely
because all is transient
that even mute trees
put forth blossoms in the springtime
and in autumn shed brown leaves.

Otomo no Yakamochi (718?-785)

One cannot rely
on things to stay as they are –
for on the morrow
this day we call today
will be called yesterday.

Monk Saigyo (1118-1190)

While I gazed out,
barely conscious that I too
was growing old,
how many times have blossoms
scattered on the spring wind?

Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241)

Well one may wish –
but will those who have parted
return once again?

Late into the evening,
mountains where blossoms fall.

Bishop Shinkei (1406-1475)