This was a different neighborhood, but barely. A block I’d driven by a thousand times but never passed through on foot. And there they were, filling the front yard of an unassuming house. I nearly fell to my knees, but caught myself and simply bowed my head instead. Forgive me, I said. My worship skills are rusty. Searching my pockets for an offering, I came up empty-handed. All I could do was hold my palms in praise and let my gaze fall lovingly across each jeweled limb.
For years, I’ve envied other people’s poppies. Now I visit mine every morning to watch this slow birth, this bright unfolding.
The pink snow has turned to brown slush and even the dogwoods are starting to green as we leave behind one of the driest April’s on record. Meanwhile, the forests quietly gather the kindling for their own immolation. We watch from our porches as summer rubs its sun-wrinkled hands.
Someone put on lipstick to participate in a Zoom reading the other night and her red lips made me smile. I didn’t know I missed other people’s lipstick, but apparently I do. I also miss other people’s jewelry and other people’s freshly polished shoes. I miss the deliberate details we offer each other that say trust me, listen to me, want me.
Someone had the brilliant, long thought to plant this here, an agave that blooms once every 20 years. This dinosaur of a flower plodding along at its own pace. Like all of us.
I blame the greedy chaos of squirrel who couldn’t pluck a single egg and leave the rest be. Who had to pounce and grab the whole brood then act surprised that this feather and lichen-lined home couldn’t bear their weight. Who had to scramble away from the destruction, mouth full.
The cars grow still as the neighbors start to talk from opposite front yards. The tree knows all about home schooling resources and the fact that Marnie wears the same yoga pants for four days in a row before changing them. The kids in the blue house grab a lot more than they used to but their hands are less sticky than normal. The tree knows all about the latest deadly blunder from the president. Yes, we’ve all heard, the tree wants to say, wishing it could roll at least one eye. It prefers the street at 2am, human-free now that the bars are closed. It relaxes into the same ol’ same ol’ with the possum and raccoons, the roly-polys and centipedes.
I walk down all the dead ends now. I feel half fool, half trespasser, but my walks have ceased to have a destination or even make a scenic loop. My body simply wants to map all the places that look pointless, that tell me not to bother. The places that seem to have something to hide.
The big beautiful bees feasting on the lupines are good at evading the paparazzi. So I put down the camera and watch as they dip and buzz around each level of petals. Maybe diligently. Maybe ecstatically. The creek behind them mumbles. The neighbor’s dog protests.
Maybe it’s a little like Stockholm Syndrome, the way part of me doesn’t want to leave. The way part of me wants to stay cocooned with the virus. Not in me but around me. Around all of us. I know the misery of this. I’m not making an invitation or a wish for this pain to be prolonged (though it will be). But there is a feeling. The feeling says stay slow. May the whole world stay slow. May we stew in our cocoons until we find something new to be.
What a relief to wake up in a sleepy blur. No mad, puzzled dream remnants. No spark of news panic. Just a vague sense of light and color.
The trees release their children out into the world by the thousands. It doesn’t matter that most make their brief home on a patch of asphalt beneath their mother’s branches or are swept away by a tidy neighbor. For a moment, there is more green.
I took these peonies on a bike ride to see my mom and dad yesterday. They stayed sequestered on their front balcony, held back by a short expanse of dusty railing. We talked for an hour, laughing at our shaggy hair, comparing our ballot choices, and telling tales of our young scars. Almost like before.
The poppies grow voraciously, hundreds of uncomplicated orange tongues. We want simple and predictable and think trustworthy means you’ll always be the same. But even these little flowers are mostly mystery. Who knows where they will lead me?