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Dahlia farm

Big by suburban standards. In Asheville we lived next door to a dahlia farm. It had once been an orchard, and quite a few fruit trees survived. An old apple tree overhung the west end of our back yard, the yard where I showed off my Goldwater sticker. It dropped hundreds of green apples on our lawn every year, and I loved to run over them with the power mower that my brother never had. Across the street from us there was a big vacant lot that was still wooded. Those woods were my hideout. If I felt the need to be comforted by nature, I just walked across the street and hung out with the fairies. One day I walked out and my hideout was gone. All the trees had been cut down helter skelter. They were stacked like jackstraws. I went over and explored the wreckage, walking along tree trunks at all angles, hopping from one to another; it reminded me of swamp walking. But soon a house invaded that lot. In my memory that dahlia farm was huge. I double checked that via Google, and from the remnants I could see it used to be the size of maybe 15 suburban lots; a small farm. Back then, we lived on the outer edge of suburbia. Just west of the dahlia farm you were in the country; it as all fields and woods. Now the hillside where I once listened to snow falling on dry leaves is just suburban homes & backyard barbeques.

At any rate they gave me lemonade, and sometimes invited me to dinner. The dahlia farmers were a couple and her sister. The farm specialized in breeding new varieties for sale, and they were good at it. They had avid collectors eager to buy; that's how they were able to fend off the suburbs. I liked to visit them, and I think they liked having me there. But I was a fat 11-year-old hyped up from a candy habit and I loved to hear myself talk. I didn't pay much attention to what they said except to use it as a springboard to launch into yammering on about something vaguely related I'd done, seen, or imagined. One day my self absorption got to one of the women. She looked at me and said, "Well I guess you're just one of those boys who's been everywhere and done everything." It was a moment of spontaneous meditation. For that instant I grasped how my self absorption felt to other people. I ran home with my tail between my legs, blushing furiously. I wish I could say that it made a difference, but I recovered fast. I stayed self absorbed until one day more than 50 years later I discovered I could not stand being around self absorbed people.