Thursday, January 10, 2019


Peanuts Treasury

In the comic strip, Peanuts Treasury, Lucy, Charlie Brown’s nemesis, laments the dawn of the new year, saying, “I hate this year. Everyone said things would be better but they’re not!” In the next frame, she tells Charlie that she doesn’t think this is a new year at all. “I think we’ve been stuck with a used year!” she exclaims. She goes home and tells Linus that there was a day back in 1935 (the year of my birth!) when a “used year” occurred. Not content with upsetting Charlie Brown and Linus, she moves to the outdoors where she finds Snoopy dancing happily and yells at him:”Don’t you worry about all the things that can happen?” and when his ears begin to droop and he sniffles, she declares: “That’s better…live in dread and fear…be sensible.” However, Snoopy suddenly turns his back on her and dances away, saying, “He he he he he he he.”

As always, Charles Schulz redeems situations that Lucy sets up to cause gloom and cynicism among her family and friends. Not to mention her readers! I sorta’ felt that kind of redemption this morning after the long siege of gray days and rain here in south Louisiana ended, and I stepped outdoors to find my backyard “in the pink.” A lone camellia bush in the backyard was covered with elegant variegated pink faces, just daring naysayers like Lucy to cast her spell of dread and fear over them. 

Camellia flower

Variegated Camellia flower

This camellia bush has undergone at least 15 years of benign neglect — no fertilization, no watering during drouths, no bug killing compounds — and has survived. It was planted by my godfather Markham Peacock on the banks of a coulee bordering my backyard, and if I were to pay attention to the one-quarter Scots blood in my background, I’d say his spirit has reincarnated or at least kept the beautiful plant alive.

Pink isn’t my favorite color but that color challenges me to denigrate the radiance of a pink camellia. The camellia flower is my Alabama friends’ state flower, and here in Acadiana, gardeners favor it because it ignores gloomy winter days and blossoms despite gray skies and heavy rainfall. 

Live Oak Gardens cover

J. Lyle Bayless, Jr., who once owned and developed Live Oak Gardens of Jefferson Island, just a few miles away from New Iberia, was enchanted with the Jeanerette Pink Camellia growing in front of the Joseph Jefferson mansion on the Island when he bought the property. He observed the death of the beautiful pink blossoms of this camellia one bitter winter and its return to life only two weeks later and began to cultivate so many varieties that he had to house the 1,000 awards he won in camellia competitions in “The Camellia Room” of the Joseph Jefferson Mansion. Mike Richard, who now owns Live Oak Gardens, has continued to cultivate the legacy of Bayless.

Although the wind blows out of the north, and temps dipped to the 40s, we’re still “in the pink,” with our hardy camellia, and Lucy can’t cast her dark spell over the many colorful vistas throughout New Iberia, Louisiana this morning. As Snoopy says, “He he he he he he he.” 

Photograph of Camellia flower by Victoria Sullivan

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