Letter to the Editor: A Bike Trip on Flower Garden Street | Letters

Spring comes late to Flagstaff. As the weather warms up, I have resumed my geriatric bike rides in Cheshire. I was hoping the color screen in the front yards I talked about in November would be back, but all I see in mid-May is a patch of yellow here and a hint of pink there. The trees have mostly greened up again, although a few shy ones seem to fear a late frost and remain bare, and the lawns are full of promise, but very few accents of color have appeared. I am somewhat reassured by the flags on display, two Americans and one Ukrainian.

I remember while pedaling one day my first trip to Paris, 60 years ago. I had locked myself out of my apartment and spotted a locksmith in another neighborhood who would come out on a Sunday in August. His address was 14 Jardin de Fleurs, which sounded very promising. I drove to the address, a dark, narrow street with no flower in sight, and was relieved to find him ready to fiddle with my door lock. In the car, I asked him why there were no flowers on Flower Garden Street. He laughed and said, “You Americans are always bragging. We French keep our flowers in the back. They are for us, not for strangers. He went on to describe his lush garden and those of his neighbours, a private pleasure not to be shared. Then he opened my door, leaving me to wonder about front yards and back yards and what they expressed.

Of course, not everyone in Flagstaff is blessed with a front yard, but in middle-class Cheshire everyone tells a story, when you stop to look. Pear trees and apple trees preparing to bloom say welcome in a way the more stern ponderosa pines and cedars don’t, but those stories have to wait another month. Now we have green, many different shades of green. It’s a variety of colors that I slowly learned to appreciate while waiting for the brighter colors to appear. Each street is a future flower street, not hidden in the back but in the front for any stranger to admire. And I think my French locksmith was wrong to say that we Americans selfishly like to flaunt our homes, although we are surely more outgoing in general than the French.

I rather like to think that the construction sites that I cycle through, slowly, so that I can really look at, are an art form, developed by artists for themselves and for others. Warm weather brings us an open-air museum with hundreds of galleries and ever-changing exhibits. I think of home gardeners preparing their backyards for themselves and their front yards to display as artists gathering the tools of their trade. I can’t wait for the show to start.

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