I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the sides of the road. Odd, I know. Maybe not since I spend 2 hours in the car each day commuting. For instance, the picture above is a work of “art” I found…you guessed it…on the side of the road. Not a freeway or highway, but Gough, a decent enough, heavily trafficked street in San Francisco. So that counts.
Every year on my main highway, when the daffodils and mustard greens pop open yellow, I send my mom a picture. Don’t worry–I just aim while keeping my eye on the road. It usually takes several takes to get a decent shot, and even then, I have to zoom and crop. But I know how much she loves the pictures, as do I. And once upon a time, I would print those same pictures, and bring them to my Gram, who treasured their timely arrival. It’s just something I do, I guess.
In early March, I saw an abandoned, very brown Christmas tree on the side of the highway, and I laughed out loud. And the best ever Side-Of-The-Road-Experience was the burning mattress. For that one, fortunately, I had a witness. We were dying laughing. The sides of the road mostly produce trash, laughs, and the occasional pieces of strewn clothing. I remain vigilant to my constant scanning, and usually, it produces nothing but junk.
But today–today! This morning, just past the dump and recycle center across from the soon-to-be defunct Candlestick Park, I teared up with what I saw. There, growing in a very small patch, in full bloom, grew a lovely little lilac bush. This may seem uneventful for those of you in the south and the northeast where they use lilacs as property dividers and casual road shrubbery, but here in Northern California, lilacs are rare, period.
I have always loved lilacs. They were everywhere in England. But when I moved to Connecticut, that’s how I knew there was a silver lining to winter–spring was on its way! I was that crazy Californian cutting every possible blossom from my yard, dodging bees and filling every single vessel I owned. Shampoo bottles, wine glasses, water bottles. I’d sneeze for weeks! But let me tell you. Hands down, there’s nothing more lovely than coming in to a cool, crisp house, smelling their intoxicating aroma.
Sadly, lilacs have a short shelf-life. But they taught me that regardless of how dark your surroundings were, they could make everything better. I lived in a converted stable (this is not an exaggeration), and you couldn’t move from point A to B without bumping an elbow or slamming your knee. Plus, the job slowly ate away at me, so any small thing to make me miss my friends and family less, helped.
Hans Christian Andersen said, “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower”. That might have been my senior quote in high school–not sure. But I know it resonated with me then, resonated with me in my 20s, and continues to resonate with me now.All is right with the world when flowers exist. It’s that simple. The mundane can exist. The tragic can exist. I can exist.
So while I did very little tonight with my music, I am okay with it. I revisited an old friend in the sense of Jude, and “I’m Sorry Now”, which was put on a mix tape, yes MIX TAPE, for me by my best friend in 2001, right before I left for Connecticut. I forgot all about this song and how much I love it. Like the lilacs, I am so happy to remember its existence.
Songs are funny. I have written before on how they catapult me through my past. And I love that. And speaking of, I know my song list has an obscenity in it. But I swear to God, there are no lyrics on the face of the earth more truthful and simple as the Eels song on the list tonight.
So that’s all I have. I guess, as Andersen suggests, I need sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. I am working on the two. We’ve been plentiful with the sunshine in San Francisco this week, which is so very welcome. And I always have flowers. Mom always had cut flowers in my room–still does when I come home–and I am looking at my pink and yellow Ranuculus right now. But as always, still searching for that freedom. Somehow, the first two make this possible.
I’m Sorry Now–Jude
It’s a Motherfucker–Eels
Don’t Take Your Guns to Town–Johnny Cash
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue–Bob Dylan
Tiny Arrows–The Jayhawks
If You Love Me–BB King with Van Morrison