Spring has finally come to South Bend, Indiana. Yesterday, I pulled my dusty bicycle out of the lump of boxes I keep piled up in my guest room, and took my first ride of the year.
A lot of people ride their bikes as a way to get exercise or to get from point A to point B, but I ride my bike largely as a way to explore—to look at things. For a Sunday biker like me, South Bend is really the ideal city:
1) It’s mostly flat.
2) No one lives here so all the streets are deserted.
3) Like all dying rust belt towns, South Bend is full of mysteries.
That last reason probably sounds facetious or ironic, but I’m serious. South Bend, crappy home of the Fighting Irish, is truly full of untold wonders. Sometimes they’re bleak wonders like cryptic graffiti about Satan spray-painted onto the side of an abandoned house. Sometimes they’re bizarre wonders like the bike path that promises sex to whomever follows it. Sometimes they’re heartbreaking wonders like the garden along the river where people place bricks to mark the deaths of their children. But they’re always there, you just have to go out and find them.
Okay, none of those are very wonderful wonders, but this weekend I found a wonder that was actually wonderful—a house in a field of tiny blue flowers.
The number of flowers must have been in the thousands. They were thousands in the front yard. There were thousands more in the back yard.
They stretched across all the valleys and ridges of the property like mold across a slice of old bread.
But the minute the property attached to the pale blue house stopped, the flowers stopped. Not exactly abruptly, there was a little spill over, but not very much. The demarcation was as distinct as the rusted fence that girded the property.
This makes me think that existence of the flowers isn’t some strange coincidence, some mixture of geography and fate that they’ve blossomed at this particular home in this particular neighborhood. Someone decided they wanted these flowers to be there, someone planted them, spread the appropriate seeds.
The pale blue house, though, at their center gave the appearance of being—if not abandoned—significantly neglected, of being somehow unfinished. The chain-link fence that guarded its borders, the stone lined path to nowhere, the way its driveway was gated like a cow pasture, all gave a feeling of distance to the house, a ghostliness.
Compare the pale blue house to its immediate neighbor:
That house seems a hundred times more loved, more warm, more inviting. You would want to live in that house, you’d want to know the people who lived in that house.
But not the pale blue house with its sea of flowers. That house does not want you anywhere near it. It doesn’t want you on its lawn. It doesn’t want you admiring its lawn. It doesn’t want you to be alive. It wishes it were off in a deep forest somewhere, isolated, alone.
And yet all those flowers! Did someone plant them a generation ago in a flowerbed only for them to run wild? Did they instead know what they were doing, tossing the seeds in arcs across their yard? Was it only last year that whoever it is that lives clamped up inside that pale blue house decided that, after all these years walled off from their neighbors, they wanted to share something?
I don’t know.
Nor, perhaps, do their neighbors know. But it’s clear that they stop on the edge of the fence and gaze out at all the thousands of blue flowers growing inexplicably in their neighborhood just like I did. Except they’re drunk.
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