Spring comes late in Flagstaff. As the weather warms, I have resumed my geriatric bicycle rides through Cheshire. I hoped that the color display in the front yards that I wrote about in November would be back, but all I see in mid-May is a spot of yellow here and a touch of pink there. The trees have mostly greened up, though a few timid ones seem to be fearful of a late frost and remain bare, and the lawns are full of promise, but very few color accents have appeared. I take some comfort in the flags on display, two American and one Ukraine.
I remember as I pedal one day on my first trip to Paris, 60 years ago. I had locked myself out of my apartment and had located a locksmith in another quarter who would come out on a Sunday in August. His address was 14 Jardin de Fleures, which sounded very promising. I drove to the address, a bleak and narrow street with not a flower in sight, and was relieved to find him ready to handle my door lock. In the car, I asked him why there were no flowers on Flower Garden Street. He laughed and said, “You Americans, always showing off. We French keep our flowers out back. They are for us, not for strangers.” He went on to describe his lush garden and those of his neighbors, a private pleasure not to be shared. Then he opened my door, leaving me wondering about front yards and back yards and what they expressed.
Of course not everyone in Flagstaff is lucky enough to have a front yard, but in middle-class Cheshire every one tells a story, when you stop to look. The pear and apple trees preparing to blossom say welcome in a way the sterner ponderosa pines and cedars do not, but those stories must wait another month. Now, we have green, many different shades of green. That is a variety of colors I have slowly come to appreciate as I wait for the more vivid colors to appear. Every street is a prospective flower garden street, not hidden in back but out front for every stranger to admire. And I think my French locksmith was wrong to say we Americans like selfishly to display our homes, though we surely are more outgoing in general than the French.
I rather like to think of the yards I bicycle past, slowly, so I can really look, are a form of art, developed by artists for themselves and for others. The warm weather brings us an outdoor museum with hundreds of galleries and ever changing exhibits. I think of the home gardeners preparing their backyards for themselves and their front yards for display as artists gathering the tools of their trade. I am eager for the show to start.
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