brought to you by way of bike

There are encounters I only have when I’m on two wheels:

[cross-posted on Imaginary Bicycle: “Thank you, Hydrangea”]

. . . Hydrangea, growing creamy white until the first frost when you blushed and reddened more and more each colder day. But one day – you remind me every time I ask – a month ago or so I was not driving past, locked up in my car, but bicycling up towards you during the last week of hollyhocks,

the first week of winter gloves.

You were a reason to stop – if I needed a reason to stop – and I was grateful for your graceful excuse, halfway up that long slow climb. And while I stood beneath your hometree’s branches, breathing deeply, admiring you and all your sisters, the old woman who has tended you for years came home. I’d never talked to her before.

She rolled down her window, grinning so the gold teeth in the back got sunlight.

“They’re just so pretty,” I said, hefting my camera by way of apology and explanation. “I’ve admired them for years – this time of the year especially – just had to stop today.”

And your little old lady nodded in complete agreement, “A fellow used to buy them at 10 cents a sprig – I’d mail a big box of them to him in New York City. For hats, you know? But I haven’t gotten out to trim them back this year. So take as many as you want.”

“Oh, thanks, but I can just enjoy the pictures.”

But your little old lady was like you, eager to share her beauties, and soon hobbled back out with garden shears, “Take as many as you like. Fill up your basket,” she said.

And so I did – choosing you four sprigs because you were the prettiest of all those pretty branches.

When I offered your lady the dimes I had in my coin purse, she said, “Piff!” and waved my money away.

You are, after all, priceless.

“I’ll think of you every time I look at them,” I called to her as I perched back up on the saddle, beaming over my bike basket mounded over with your rosy blossoms.

And your little old lady stood smiling with a golden glint and waving until I was out of sight . . .

[Imaginary Bicycle: “Thank you, Hydrangea”]

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