flora thinking big

The Car Park

At Toyota, waiting for car service. I always wait outside if I can. Every waiting room seems to have a TV, spewing bad news on my lap. Out in the real world, the news is at least mixed.

I’ve spread my picnic blanket out on a patch of garlic mustard — or is it creeping charlie? — behind a line of supersized pickup trucks. Their hulking metal forms the back wall of my improvised porch. A short chainlink fence straight ahead warns lazily about the high speed highway beyond. I could jump the fence easily, and I am terrible at jumping fences.

But to my right is a tiny green tangle — a few yards of plant life. And the longer I look, the more threads I see. Purple loosestrife is woven with yellow salsify, stitched through with queen anne’s lace. Patches of white sweetclover, pops of sunny goldenrod. Tall swishing grasses, and the velvety stalks of sumac. Some plants I recognize, some I don’t know. I look them up, though my phone is old and battery life is precious. Knapweed, burdock, birdsfoot trefoil.

I’m alone back here, save for the guy a few dealerships to my left, who is working this fenceline with a weedwhacker. But he’s going slow, and I’ll probably be gone within the hour. I doubt he’ll get to me and this little thicket before then. If we’re lucky, he’s only working his dealership’s particular domain, and his weedwhacker will be stopped by a line in the corporate sand.

Chicory’s pinwheel flowers bloom mauve nearby. On each one is an iridescent green sweat bee, harvesting pollen. The chicory harvested, the bee moves on to the pretty pink rosettes of the field bindweed. I notice another little green bee, then another. Transport trucks storm past us. Decorated with logos of eagles and tigers, their bellies are full of fossil fuels and plastic.

I get up to investigate some burdock, and when I return, three tiny grasshoppers are sitting on my plaid blanket. Dandelion clocks that have run out of time float past and snag on the nap of the fabric. The four of us sit surrounded by wild carrots, raspberry, and grapes, with a few plastic takeout containers chucked on top.

I look up at the summer sky and spot a tiny bird chasing off a crow. The tiny bird is so very tiny, but nevertheless, it persisted. The corvid flies past another invisible line and, triumphant, the tiny bird sails back home. I can’t make out what sort of bird this is, this stalwart little spirit. It’s a David and Goliath story, with the part of the pebble played by a self-slinging bird.

The guy with the weedwhacker is inching closer, fighting against all the life that’s already made it up and over the fence. It’s whacked and whacked but the green just keeps coming. Already, the bindweed slinks undaunted over the harsh gravel meant to keep plant life at bay. As if the gravel were a river, and the bindweed were thirsty for more.

It’s all about as simple as everything is, which is to say, not simple at all. Most of these plants are invasive or introduced. I drove here today, and I will drive home. I’m woven into all sides of the story. Sometimes I cut down the green, kill the bug, and whack at “weeds” too. But, as Amy Krouse Rosenthal said: In the alley, there is a bright pink flower peeking out through the asphalt.

A. It looks like futility.

B. It looks like hope.