The July heat turns the black asphalt to hazy waves as I drive. Windows open wide, sweaty legs stuck to the leather car seat, and so much camping and fishing equipment that my vehicle is flirting with its payload capacity; that first summer road trip is a rite of passage. The scenery flies by. Red barns blur into lush trees and grazing herbivores.
In summers past I would spend my passenger seat shifts watching the purples, yellows and whites of roadside flowers flash beauty across my view. This summer, however, after months of research and study on invasive plants, the colorful vistas have turned to shades of gray. The side effect of my new knowledge is simple but infectious – I can now name those pretty flowers that once caught my fancy: the purples are loosestrife, spotted knapweed, bull thistle and crown vetch; the yellows are tansy, birdsfoot trefoil and wild parsnip. All are exotic just like those lovely white daisies, whose yellow eyed faces bob innocently in the summer breeze.
Ultimately my summer road trips will never be quite as they were, for although my eyes still see the beauty in a hillside covered with Queen Anne’s lace, I find myself choking on a strange nostalgia for my lost ignorance.