So That’s What Color Means

I won a coloring contest in the second grade. The item was a lily, and I won not for my extreme crayon skills, but because I was the only one in the class to use the correct shade: white.

No one else had ever seen a lily. Neither had I, for that matter; I was just somewhat more literate than my peers, and had likely seen a picture or read a description of lilies in a book.

I’m from New Mexico, you see. Our state color is brown.

Apart from a few blooms on a prickly pear cactus, hearty scraggly flowers, or greenhouse-spoiled imports, the desert doesn’t do flowers. My favorite flower most of my life has been the Indian Paintbrush, the only colorful wildflower the desert really produces. Even then, it’s in spotty patches, so seeing one is akin to the excitement of spotting a rainbow.

Boy am I in a different world here. Wales does flowers. In multiples.

I live in a tiny village in North Wales, without even a post office or a convenience store. We don’t have much in the way of amenities, but by god we have flowers.

Daffodils crowd by the thousands into the motorway medians. Weeks later, they perish, only to be replaced by shy groups of Bluebells and bright pink Red Valerians partying it up on the roadsides. I made the mistake a few weeks ago of weeding in our front yard, pulling these fleshy-leaved things out of our front wall. Today, as I walked with my dogs through the village, I see why no one else is as anal with their walls as I am: the Red Valerian grows from the walls, blooming bright pink, flushed against the backdrop of sheep-dotted spring green fields all around us.

Oops. No more gardening for me.

The neighbors have these bursting red blooms in pots, the flowers so heavy they have to rest their monstrous heads on the wall.

Leaning over them, perhaps offering sympathy, are pink and purple flowers on tall stems. White, fragrant vines blanket the wall on the corner house, and Rock Roses, Orchids, and Buttercups spring up in pockets all over the village.

The Rhododendrons are probably the most shocking for me. I’ll be walking along, thinking about how I really need a job so I can get a housekeeper already, and then suddenly my eyes scream “OMG, PINK!!!” I look up, and they’re right: there’s this huge hulking glob of pink infesting a hillside or a back garden. Rhododendrons are the one place where neon pink is probably okay.

The kicker is the sweet little flowers: the tiny white buds no bigger than a pinky nail peeking out beside our drive. The yellow buttons trouncing happily on a crack in the asphalt. Oh, and I saw my first Forget-Me-Not today. I’ve heard of them, with their sugary literary name, and I know I drew pictures of them as a child, perhaps drawing from some sort of genetic memory of what flowers can look like.

I love them, with their happy, smiling faces waving up at me, small but bright. I love that they hold their own against the flashy Rhodos and the pompous “I’m the national flower” Daffodils. I love that I’m 30 years old, and I’ve just seen something very common for the very first time.

Today was a good day.

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