Friday, April 8, 2016

Purple, Overnight

When you get to be my age, you know a lot.

You're adept at sizing up a situation or people, based on decades of observation.

Still, sometimes you get it wrong.

You simply couldn't see it coming. Literally.

Since August we've lived next door to Rob and Beth, straight off the Hallmark rack of ideal neighbors--friendly, helpful, considerate.

When you live side by side with people, you see their seasonal rhythms. Fall pumpkins and corn shocks. Christmas lights around trees. Easter eggs dangling from branches. Rob and Beth were out there like clockwork for every season, no matter the weather.

But most of all, I watched Rob mow and mow and mow the yard. Grass was his baby, trimmed for all it was worth. Lush, weedless, leaf-free. Irresistibly ready for golfers or picnickers, had they been waiting in the wings.

Some might call it obsessive, but I saw it as meticulous. He was dutifully motivated to maintain an evenly clipped surface, the ultimate goal of a lawn.

Imagine my surprise when spring approached and leafy shoots randomly emerged in that level expanse.  First they bloomed into mounds of white snowdrops. Then yellow crocuses arrived, a pretty poem of pastel commas and periods across that quiet, green page. I smiled every time Maria and I passed by on afternoon walks. Although snowflakes occasionally blew around us, those colorful dots were reminders of awaiting warmth.

Then overnight the purples exploded like gorgeous asterisks. I was astonished. They say dogs are color blind, but Maria instantly stuck her nose in those blooms. According to Dog Theory, she knew this shocking brightness might herald something as momentous as a pork chop or a rib bone. In her own way, she appreciated the glory.

For days I watched cars slow down in front of their yard. It was impossible not to be amazed.

I had no idea that sedate lawn held so much passion.

I would have assumed the scattered flowers would disrupt Rob's manicured beauty. The slow mowing eventually required to avoid the leaves would be a nuisance to his steady back and forth pace. At least, that's what I would have assumed after watching him zip up and down his long lot.

I would have assumed wrong.

When I asked about the flowers, he told me they'd been planting bulbs for twenty years and that daffodils and tulips would follow the crocuses. He said they'd planted so many that they'd forgotten where they all were and surprised themselves each year.

"Beth and I love spring," he added. He didn't say more.

No need.

You just never know how much you don't know yet.

P.S. For those of you who admire the previous posts from my former students, I know this piece by me feels out-of-order. In truth, the first wave of their responses came sequentially. While more have promised to write, we've reached a lull. But I'll tell you this. Their reflections have taken my breath away each time. Like unexpected purple crocuses. Overnight.

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