2020 | A Season of Flowers
I was that introverted kid who preferred to eat lunch in a classroom rather than brave the chaos of the societal hierarchy known as the cafeteria. I distinctly remember one of those teachers whose room was always open and welcoming, I thought of this science teacher as a bit eccentric but solid, trustworthy, and an adult I sought to please and gain approval from. I remember he rode a bike to work each day, it was always in the back of the classroom during the day and I thought that odd, little did I know of the relationship I would later have with the bicycle.
His science class included a massive project that took up much for the school year focused on identifying and collecting native flowers and weeds. As a child who spent much of my free time exploring and playing in the uninhabited Upstate New York woods and meadows, I loved every second of that project and wouldn’t doubt it was one of the best grades I ever received in a subject.
I can still name and identify nearly all of those plants but alas, the difference 1,600 miles and 5,700 feet of elevation gain leaves very few species that relate to those days of my youth. My introversion kept me happily outdoors alone but the drive to complete that project inspired me to spend hours in the fields collecting every species and painstakingly drying and cataloging them in a book. I seem to very much be the same person now that I as back then; I still love outdoors, the solitude, and being able to identify the flora.
My memory could very well be mistaken but I don’t recall the variety and abundance of wild flowers in New England that I find here in the Midwest. My riding preference takes me to comparable locations; as comparable as the sea level, humid, dense, and rolling hills of New York can be to the mile plus high, arid, and severe terrain of Colorado. I inadvertently seek out the same solitude I found as a child far from the beaten paths and alone amongst the wildlife. I still desire to know the names of the plants around me, just because they are there and most certainly have a name.
This year of COVID might just be the first full season of spring and summer (and likely soon to be fall) that I remained in one spot without some form of travel and instead much time purposely spent occupying myself away from the growing throngs of work from home adventure seekers.
When the snow melted and the first few flashes of color popped up I started to excitingly placing tabs in a book on all the species I saw. As I ride I recite the names as if each flower was a flashcard, taking note or photos of the ones I don’t know to look up later. I thought it would be straightforward and I would just add in more as the season progressed but the early spring flowers faded to the more hearty blooms of late spring, which in turn stayed their own course or moved up the mountain. With the slope side colors in the dry heat of summer fading from green to brown, yet another crop emerged on the front range and the higher elevations are awash with colors reminiscent of every shade of a rainbow.
Each ride I find something new to note or identify, a particular flower I hadn’t seen at all that year, one I hadn’t seen up until that point, or a smaller less flashy type that I hadn’t taken much notice of earlier. The land itself is life, there is beauty in being stationary, watching organisms take form and reach their peak only to be replaced with another. That progression we as humans caught up in the frantic pace of self created drama rarely take the time to acknowledge. Taking them all in is a challenge in itself, the sheer number of sub species are so abundant it feels overwhelming. But it gives me one more thing to be excited about with no races or travel on the horizon; maintaining that innate need I have to grow, create, learn, and explore on a daily basis.