I long to wander Balboa Park, alone, and ask this witness of profound affections to teach me what she knows about Love.
I spent time within her bosom just shy of a year ago, wan and unsteady, remnants of a lover’s row the night before, a state I would come to know too well. In the Botanical Gardens, I strolled among her exotic foliage, hand-in-hand with a man who would soon enough misuse my love, although I didn’t know it then. The day felt brittle, as if the sky was made of the thinnest glass. Although I paid visits to her often in the past, I didn’t divulge to him that this Park and I were well acquainted – and she did not betray my secret. With all our shared encounters, she was indifferent towards me that day. She knew this was not Love and, thus, unworthy of her attention.
I long to wander Balboa Park, alone, and ask this sanctuary of romance to teach me what she knows about Love.
I first met her in 1989, as young hearts blossomed among her rose garden; He, Mr. Oxblood, and I, Miss Prussian Blue. Two shy paramours meandering along her starlit paths. Without words, we spoke of our implicit love through scented floral filigree, as he cascaded pink-petaled missives down upon my head and together we tossed waves of scented bliss into the fountain. He tucked a few of these sweet remembrances within his pocket. I was happy then. It was perfect – and she smiled and anointed us.
Did she realize then that this love would endure almost a decade? Did she see that each would forever keep the other’s heart within them – even now?
I long to wander Balboa Park, alone, and ask if she was aware, four years later, that he, brimming with love, recalled for me, reluctant and unsure, our countless nights spent drifting through her splendor:
“Why can’t you allow today to be like holding hands in Balboa Park? Park of Spanish Porticos and you, content. We were like the courting frogs in the lily pond by the balustrade next to the Botanical Gardens.”
Content. That’s all I’ve ever asked from Love.
I long to wander Balboa Park, alone, and plead with her to share her views on Love. I want her to explain why, on that Friday in July, 2010, she released his hand and let him slip from her embrace onto the asphalt below.
The newspaper headline read, “Man dies after jump from Balboa Park Bridge.” Stark words to me who required a novel’s worth of explanations. I always knew, contrary to his friends’ assurances, as only lovers know, this would be his fate, and yet I still have things I yearn to say, of love and encouragement – and atonement for my missteps, if only time were mutable.
No silent grave to visit, I want to wander this “Park of Spanish Porticos,” alone, and listen for her answer to my question – Is True Love eternal? I wrote to him, after I heard the news, just days after my own mother’s death.
“My Darling Mr. Oxblood,
The email arrived today, like a heavy book-kick to an already wounded dog. Nikolaje said you died Friday night – underneath the Balboa Park Bridge. He said you either fell or jumped. My heart, or rather your heart that still resides within me, knows it’s the latter. Two deaths in two days.
Did you visit the rose garden first? It’s probably beautiful right now. Did you stick your nose deep within the huge, heady, heirlooms? Did you pull handfuls of petals from the bushes, scattering them about yourself, on the pathway, in the fountain? Did you tuck one in your breast pocket as you did that first night? Did they find it when they found you? Did you think about it first or did you decide in the moment? Could I have stopped you?
I was never strong enough for you. I could never nudge you – show you how beautiful you and your world truly were. I was too much in reality – and you were forever in your romantic dreamland. Did you know how much I loved you? I wished a woman existed who could take care of you the way I never could (I wished I could have been that woman!).
It wasn’t easy for you here. I wish there was some other way. I do, however, understand. As you move on, you take a piece of my heart with you.
With My Love,
Miss Prussian Blue”
I long to wander Balboa Park, alone, and ask her to remind me that I already know all that she could ever teach me about Love.
These flavors are similar to those found in Persian Love Cakes, but this recipe was my own creation. I wanted to highlight rose to accompany the musings above and raspberry-rose as well as cardamom-rose are two of my favorite combinations. For the cake, I used this walnut cake recipe, substituting pistachios for the walnuts. I covered the cake in marshmallow fondant before decorating with oxblood and Prussian blue flowers.
Pistachio Cake with Raspberry Rose Buttercream
- Pistachio Cardamom Cake
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon cardamom
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs beaten, room temp
- 1 cup roasted, unsalted well-chopped Pistachios
- Fresh raspberries
- Fondant (optional) Rose Buttercream
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 – 2 teaspoon rose water (to taste)
- 3 Tablespoons milk
- food coloring (optional)
- MAKE CAKE: Preheat oven to 350 ⁰ F. Butter and flour two 9” round cake pans. Whisk together flour, sugars, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix together the oil, buttermilk, water, vanilla and beaten eggs. Stir wet ingredients into dry until no lumps remain (don’t overmix). Stir in pistachios.
- Pour batter evenly into pans. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a few moist crumbs cling to a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake (do not overbake). Cool in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn cakes onto racks and cool completely.
- MAKE BUTTERCREAM: In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until fluffy and smooth. On medium speed, slowly add in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Add salt. Once powdered sugar and salt are fully incorporated, add rose water, milk, and food coloring, if using.
- Fill cake with rose buttercream and a layer of raspberries. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining buttercream. Cover in fondant, if desired, and decorate.