There is one flower that I anticipate all year long.
In every season, when I drive past its patch on the way home, I say “Hi, fire pink!” to the bare dirt.
When mid-April rolls around, I start looking closely at that dirt. It’s a steep, rocky bank that rises up from a very curvy piece of road, so I have to drive about 5 mph to check it out.
When I see the yellow blossoms of the rattlesnake weed, I know it will just be a few days more.
And then…. when I see it, I yell. Loudly!
First there’s just a couple. One or two spurts of bright red against the green foliage, grey rock, and burnt-orange clay.
Then a few days later there are a dozen. Then two dozen.
This patch that I watch is special because I once risked life and limb to photograph the flowers there, with passing cars nearly grazing my backside.
Got my favorite-ever flower photo, though:
Isn’t she just voluptuous, sexy, and fabulous?
I drive past this spot a few times a week. I use the patch to mark the passage of time. To assure myself that spring will come. To affirm the certainty of the seasons.
“I can’t see you, but I know you’re there,” I call out to the invisible plants, all through the fall and winter.
Whenever I feel down, I say hi to the fire pink.
This year, my fire pink has taken its good old time. I worried, as I often do, that the frequent disturbances of road maintenance and culvert cleaning and bank trimming will destroy my fire pink patch.
As we were leaving on vacation last Sunday, we took a different route than usual. I looked absently out the window as the scenery rolled past.
I caught a small flash of red tucked into the green. HEY!
In the next second, there were huge explosions of fire pink all over the bank.
FIRE PINK!!!! I screamed.
Tom had already seen it too – impossible to miss – two huge patches right in succession. I had never seen so much fire pink, ever.
On that stretch of road there were more than half a dozen such patches, each with 50 or more flowers, a splash of red paint across the green canvas of spring. An omen of bounty at the beginning of vacation in the forest.
When we returned today, we came home by the patch. “Go slow!” I said.
And sure enough, there were two red blossoms.
I really need to get a bumper sticker: I BRAKE FOR FIRE PINK.
Today’s penny is a 2008, the first year I ever saw fire pink. We were on the way to our naturalist class when I noticed it growing alongside the road.
HEY! I said. WHAT IS THAT?!