First day in Santa Barbara, chilled to the bone and standing in front of the Old Mission, at the top of the city. The Mission was founded by Fr. Fermin Francisco de Lasuen in 1786, and it was a political act — they all are — to secure Spain’s claim to the land and to the hearts of the native people. The current building was built in 1820, following the massive 1812 earthquake that nearly levelled the three adobe churches that once stood here.
The present-day Franciscans are kindly men. They have a gift shop, tours, places to pray and study. Maybe to offer penance as well.
Behind me, on the grassy field, is the A.C. Postel Memorial Rose Garden, founded in 1955, with a donation of 500 pedigree rose bushes.
As we watched, in near freezing temperatures, a bridal party assembled under the white tents on the left: men bundled in warm suits and ties, bridesmaids shivering in clouds of lace and tulle.
Then I wandered the rose beds, studying names that are as evocative as the names of racehorses.
Ever since I was a child, roses have haunted my imagination. I stroll past yellow celebrity roses named “Henry Fonda” and “Julia Child.” There’s a salmon-pink “Over the Moon.” The strange, off-putting pink of a “Koko Loko.” But also the more beguiling pinks of “Falling in Love,” “Pink Iceberg” and “Sweet Surrender.” There are the heart-stopping whites of “Pillow Fight” and “White Licorice.” The blood red of “Othello,” and the crimson “Betty Boop,” the latter composed of miniature clustered blooms.
But “Passionate Kisses,” at the end of my stroll, makes the best proposition of all. They’re the only rosebushes in the entire garden without a single bloom on offer. At lease not yet: just thousands of IOUs of kisses to come.