I push the pedals hard to get my mountain bike up over the ridge. I have arrived at a Y junction in the dirt track. If I go right I can roll smoothly downhill towards the river. If I go left I’ll need to navigate a narrow, rocky path, chunky with mud. One thought tells me I should take the challenging path, but another tells me there’s nothing wrong with comfort.
Between the paths at the junction is a wattle bush standing at my same height with fluffy, golden flowers. Ever since I was a child, the wattle has been the true sign that spring has arrived. This bush must have bloomed some weeks before the calendar showed it was spring because I can see some of the flowers have already begun turning a darker ochre as they see out the final stage of their cycle. These different shades of yellow make me lay down my bike and look closer.
I want to touch a branch to stop it moving in the breeze so I can take a photo, but this particular species has thorns. I’ve seen thousands of wattle bushes, so why have I never noticed sharp barbs along the branches, similar to what rose bushes have? I guess I have never often wanted to get this close and hold the branches. Wattle is a harmless, lovely flower and I don’t know what ever happened to it that it needed such violent defences.
I make my examinations without disturbing the plant, then mount my bike and take the easy path to the river.