At first 'woman and flower' sounds like an old-fashioned cliche for poets and songwriters. And it is, but only for society in general. It's a good guess that men, who retired early and became full-time travelers, did so because they walked away from women relatively early in life. Therefore for us, the 'woman and flower' connection is not a cliche, but in fact, is radical and naughty.
The diabolical scheme was simple enough: I would take her along on the walk into the Florida mountains to enjoy the best wildflower season in years, and somehow something might happen to take things way beyond the tourist level.
It's one thing to say that you really want something to succeed. It's quite another thing to actually give up something to make it work. Praising lifestyle experiments is easy enough, but what if it fails? What if it causes embarrassment?
We weren't that suitable for each other, but there were a couple things in common, so it was at least conceivable.
|Spring wildflowers on an anonymous desert peak in Arizona.|
The next day we took our walk into the mountains. We expected a spectacular show of flowers, of course. But we didn't expect to see a large herd of ibex.
We were near the top of the trail when I sat down on a boulder, while she continued to circle around the boulder. And then came the real surprise. She came over and sat down on the boulder next to me. Rather close. This was no longer a cute little experiment that I was toying with. The experiment itself had taken control.
We sat there for a minute while I tried to gather my wits. I had thought I was too old to feel static electrical discharges between my arm and a nearby woman's arm. Although the flowers at that location were beyond the superlatives of the tourism industry, it wasn't their beauty that impressed me; it was the impetuousness of life that did, and its unpredictability.
Then another surprise. Despite its subtlety, only a loutish adolescent would not have picked up the signal to "come no closer." The bubble burst.
But we still sat there looking west towards a late afternoon sun. The sky was as blue and dry as possible, but it was the calmness that was easiest to appreciate. There was the most perfect contrast between cool air and warm sun. The sun could still warm the face. The boulder warmed the backside. But the rest of the body could detect an incipient bite from the evening chill. It was late afternoon and the sun wouldn't be able to hold off the chill for much longer. The downward slope faced the glowing but cooling West.
My life was at the same o'clock as the day. Maybe the "near miss" I had just had was my "last chance." And from here on, I could only look downward into the declivity of old age and loneliness.
Later we walked back down the mountain. What if she had been playing the same game as I was? Perhaps she had told herself, "This particular fellow might be a sorry specimen, but at least he is a concrete representation of a general Idea that interests me at the moment, with all the desert flowers, Spring, and all that crap."
She had a long air flight ahead of her. I took her to dinner as her farewell present. We had a nice talk at dinner.