Bottlebrush buds

I walk the street without any planned route or purpose except to be out of the house, avoid getting close to people and keep an eye on the time to ensure I’m back within an hour. It’s something I’ve been doing for months, but it still doesn’t feel quite right and never will. It’s overcast and grey, but warmer than the last few weeks with a subtle scent of fresh lavender and honeysuckle from gardens I’m passing, so at least today it feels like the worst of winter is behind me. 

I walk down a different street today, one of the smaller ones, for some variety and to give myself a sense of free choice because I’m not allowed to move very far right now. I’m reminded of the story of the prisoner who was kept for years in a four-meter wide cell and showed defiance by choosing to only pace back and forth three meters. 

Ok… no, my situation is not that drastic. 

I pass what I’m guessing was once a small church that has been turned into several town houses. It has a front yard divided into four sections by three short fences. There is a bottlebrush bush that seems to be shared by multiple dwellings, with roots set in one yard but branches reaching across as if trying to round everybody up and bring them together. 

“Come on guys, come around for a barbecue,” it is saying. 

The deep, magenta flowers are in all sorts of states. There is new growth coming through, but there are some leftover from last season with missing wiry stamens that were picked out by minor birds – they are the weathered veterans of the tree. Some flowers have been broken by wind, birds or possibly humans, but you’d need to be in a strange frame of mind to purposely break a bottlebrush. Then there are brown buds with tangled red wires which are fading away to make way for the new. Only a few typical flowers with their cylindrical brush shape remain. I would usually say bottlebrushes are an example of a tree with some sense of symmetry and order, but this particular bush has received a lot of attention from nature and has seen a lot of life. 

There is somebody walking a beagle approaching me and another pair of human eyes on me. It reminds me I’m not supposed to stop and look at flowers, so I recommence walking. Like a bee worried about a predator pouncing on a moment of rest, I keep moving, my mind doing the buzzing. 

Bottlebrush buds triptych. Oil on canvas. 30cm x 25cm (x 3).

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