Baby Blue Eyes

Saturday morning came early. It followed a rough week of paperwork, dishonest tenants, legal decisions, teetering hopes.

So when my dear henna-headed friend who I’ll call “Terre” texted her idea, I rolled back over onto my pillow. I would have to think about it.

The evidence shows she texted me at 8:34 a.m. and I answered at 8:36.

Terre

Terre works for a start-up that is bringing “screaming fast internet” to a rural county in northern California … in a county that would later that week be called the unhealthiest county in the state, despite having the cleanest air.

She’d had a stressful week too.

So breakfast at a working class small-town purple-boothed restaurant named after a large tree would be followed by a relaxed hike to check on the wildflowers.

I don’t think I have to say much more here. It took me a full two minutes to become cogent, assess my options and make a heartfelt, if not downright enthusiastic, decision.

Bitterroot

The waitress said little and had to set her notepad down on the next table to take down our order. She had a broken wrist, according to Terre. How she knew this I didn’t ask.

The eggs were over easy, the homefries were hard to resist.

Then I saw the busboy.

“Jose,” I said, his quirky last name instantly rolling off my tongue even though if you’d asked me yesterday I doubt I could have come up with either. His eyes were familiar, his mannerisms I knew as well as my own. Jose was part of my family.

Jose is the eldest of four children raised by a single mom on thin wages in an agricultural area. My husband had been his big brother, back when Big Brothers and Sisters brought such kids and adults together. This was 25 years ago.

Jose went camping and rafting with us, sleeping under a tarp in the rain without complaint; he slurped up whatever we were serving for dinner with a huge smile and a thank you. He always took his plate to the sink. He was about 12.

I watched him cheerfully moving through the restaurant, back and forth with his charismatic grin. I noticed a huge vicious scar near his elbow and asked. Without pausing his work, he explained he had fallen through a roof—and had broken some ribs. I wanted to ask more but he was busy.

He has a life now.

Highland Springs Recreation Area, northern California

Going out to look for wildflowers suddenly seemed trite.

First we saw the shooting stars, my favorite flower.

Shooting Stars

I told Terre about Jose and how I’d watched Big Brothers and Sisters pairs work in the community garden we hosted on our 50-acre farm. We’d disced up a plot near the barn where “Bigs” would come with their “littles” and work weeding squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, onions. Each little would go home with a bag of groceries from the garden, the fruit of their labors. (Notice how I did not use the word “literally” in the prior sentence?)

Nemophila

Next we saw a flower I couldn’t identify, but Terre seemed pretty confident in naming it “nemophila.”

I told her about how the kids learned gardening skills but also took home something to make that single parent proud.

I remembered how my own son, aged 6, had learned to love radishes by planting some seeds and watching them grow. I did not tell my son that I preferred liquid shampoo on my salad to the pretty pink bulbs. His pride defined his taste.

As we explored rough raw hillside that would soon become unbearably hot—and remain so until late fall—I realized that it is up to me to take that power of suggestion and make it into something. Planting seeds isn’t enough.

What the heck is this?