116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It was the blue hair that first caught my attention, then I noticed the blue eye liner and colorfully matching blue summer dress. She was behind me in line at a Starbucks and one could not help but notice her. Some parents might be concerned if she was their daughter, but no matter, because she had something most do not; she had style. And the best part of her look was a shoulder bag that had printed on it, “Life Is Too Short To Have Boring Hair.” My sentiments exactly.
A few minutes later, on the four-lane back to my two-lane, then gravel, road I was passed by one of those Kawasaki “crotch rockets.” You know the bikes I’m talking about. In the old days Italians cornered the market on fast motorcycles but the Japanese caught up in a hurry. Anyway, this rider courting death passed me so quickly I was breathless.
Hospital emergency room folks refer to these bikes as “donor mobiles,” and it’s easy to understand why. Only this time it was different: weaving in and out of traffic, helmetless, hair flowing behind, this rider was a young woman, and it pleased me to no end, knowing that when it comes to motorcycles women can be just as stupid and reckless as men.
Back here at home last week I was sitting on my new lawn tractor mowing the backyard when a charcoal-colored vole leapt out of the grass in front of me. Cutting my speed immediately, I slowly followed her as she charged ahead across the lawn as fast as she could. I named her O.J., as our experience was much like the slow-motion pursuit of O.J. Simpson on a Los Angeles freeway more that 25 years ago. Like the earlier O.J. she will live to see another day.
Purple Perennial Lupines are everywhere. Purple what, you ask? It’s a wildflower here and to the north in Minnesota and it’s quite pretty, filling the woods in my hollow as well as roadside ditches. Out in my front yard, two feet from a window, a five-foot thistle has come up through a decades-old intentional shrub and I’ve decided to let it be. If snooty folks can tolerate mean-spirited, hostile flowers called roses then I can tolerate a plant that eventually offers up gorgeous purple flowers, flowers visited by monarch butterflies and hummingbirds alike.
It’s a slow turn, but on some nights it’s clear we’re moving toward a glorious autumn, and soon enough our breath will be visible outdoors when we labor. As days slip by the longing and grief many of us have hauled around for the past couple of years will be less burdensome, less likely to trip us up as we travel gingerly from day to day, still a bit gun-shy, looking for all of the late summer beauty we can find.
Let us talk birds, and women, again. While walking across a parking lot toward a grocery store in a nearby mid-sized city I noticed that about 30 large, white birds were in a “vee” formation above the high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. I stopped in the parking lot looking up, watching them change patterns. A woman exiting the store with her full shopping cart stopped next to me and looked up as well. I turned to her and said, “Pelicans.” She turned to me and asked, “Do you think they’re telling us anything with their patterns?” “I don’t know,” I responded, “But if so, I hope it’s good.” “Me too,” she said, smiling. And that was it. After a brief, sweet, 10 second connection her life continued, as did mine.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.