I am, always and once again, recognizing basic things that are obvious to anyone who was paying attention: spring really blooms in a round, as each species bursts briefly and in turn. I guess I thought of this transitional season springing slowly and monolithically. I guess I still see the kindergarten calendar when I think of the year—umbrella drawing all April, daisy drawing all May. June was more vague, with a kite or something. We’ve made it to the month of the sun wearing sunglasses.
During the pandemic, I’ve been walking the same route most days, through the Garfield Park Woods, past the Kroc Center, and along Plaster Creek. For no more than three days, tiny flowers, some purple and some white, exploded along the path. The next week, fluff piled up along the paved trails like prop snow. It was gone in two days. Under the Madison Street bridge, the tree that grows sideways suddenly popped flowers that smelled like corn tortillas. I took lots of pictures and posted. I took a branch home and it immediately shriveled, beckoning whatever blooms next. I try to keep up.
As with the houses on our walks, Kendra and I mark how observation feels like intimacy, like that Ladybird quote about attention and love, and how we admire when people know a lot about something easy to ignore and seemingly esoteric, like agates or the band U2 or the varieties of welding. Kendra’s dad, a biologist, recommended a plant identification app to me, and I found names for the brief phenomena I listed above: Dame’s Rocket, Cottonwood, Northern Catalpa. I took lots of pictures and posted. Learning just a little bit can feel so novel, learning like a tourist in my own backyard, feeling like all this noticing reflects backward on my presence and my gaze, and is still really about me.
But natural spaces are apathetic to me. I think this is part of what makes them feel so beautiful. Ironically, overgrown authenticity draws attention and participation that, in shifting balances, celebrates and devastates. Parks—neighborhood and national—find some spot along a spectrum of accessibility and nativity. Meanwhile, in developed spaces, around the foundation of my home, flowers bloom in spite of me. On my windowsill, succulents bloom under my curation. I’ve taken a token as decoration.
I am, always and once again, recognizing basic things that are obvious to anyone who was paying attention. On my walks, on my phone, on my reading lists, on my high horse, I am feeling the same mixture of conviction and embarrassment likely shared by many white people lately. And my self-centering is instinctual—the sensation of paying attention prompts having a take, and sharing is so indivisible from signaling, “Look, I’m now paying attention to and participating in something I should have known all along.” Maybe writing this post is a way of saying so all the same. Still, what a mercy it is that my ego is beside the point.
Because however much I perform noticing as part of my personality, what’s blooming has been blooming forever, apathetic to me or in spite of me, and there is only my quiet responsibility of attention and practice, of a participation that isn’t seasonal.