Opportunity. A biker, a green thumb, a cracked hand, and a Queen.

Guest Post by Megan from Velveteen Mind

A random biker on a Harley-Davidson took my picture last week. What I wanted to do was take his picture, but I hesitated. Now, instead of a photo of some random biker holding an i am bossy.com bumper sticker, all I have is a lame photo of me holding the bumper sticker and the mental picture of him riding off into the sunset, never to be seen again.

Okay, it wasn’t as romantic or dramatic as that. It was nine in the morning and there was no sunset.

This is not the first time that I have hesitated to seize an opportunity. I don’t expect it will be the last. However, I hope with each lost chance for something intriguing, I will lose a shade of that hesitation for next time.

One of the last times I let an opportunity slip away was at the beginning of this summer, as I was planting my first flower garden. For some reason, I became simply obsessed with hydrangeas. It seemed like everywhere I turned, there was a beautiful hydrangea bush, bursting with full blooms. Certainly, these bushes must be a snap to grow, as even run-down houses seemed to boast the most gorgeous bushes of blue and pink hydrangea.

Snap my ass. Apparently I don’t understand much about gardening. Or acidity of the soil. Or watering needs. My hydrangea died. Quickly. As in, the next day. Impressive.

While driving home and mourning my poor dead hydrangea one day, I noticed the most impressive hydrangea bush I had ever seen. Blue hydrangea mop heads, weighing down a massive bush outside of an old shack of a house that I had driven by a million times. I was surprised that I had never noticed this bush before because there was an old man who sat outside of this house and waved at passing drivers, if you just took the time to notice him. I always took the time to notice him. But how had I never noticed his hydrangea?

That night, I read a post by Oh, The Joys! about a conversation she shared with a couple of strangers on a plane. She wrote about how she rarely took part in plane conversations, but found herself opening up to these strangers in the most unexpected ways.

“We were three strangers talking about love and loss…

It was nice.

As much as I appreciate the quiet time to read, perhaps I should reconsider my position on plane talking…”

I decided that the next time I passed the old man with the hydrangea bush, I would pull over and talk to him. Talk to him about his hydrangea and hopefully talk to him about his life.

Dangerous? Maybe. Naive? Probably. Hopeful? Absolutely.

Having grown up in a rural community in Southern Illinois, I miss the old couples sitting out on their front steps in the evening, watching traffic and waving at the drivers who take the time to nod their way. There was something about this man, sitting in his old folding chair, next to his lush blue hydrangea bush, in front of his dilapidated old home, that spoke to me. Something familiar that I recognized. Something familiar to which I wanted to be near, if only for a moment.

The next night, I drove by his house, saw him sitting out front, began to bully up the courage to stop… and then hesitated. I realized that I was not driving the car he usually waved at me in and was suddenly afraid that he wouldn’t recognize me. As I approached the intersection in front of his home, I found myself driving right on past.

I never did stop. Despite seeing him evening after evening, I never did stop. I hesitated and the moment past me by, never to return. And now I regret the missed opportunity. The unknown pesters me.

If I have learned anything, it is that opportunities surround us every day. We just have to have our eyes open to recognizing them. It also helps to have our guts fortified so we are ready to seize them when they present themselves.

Oh, what lives we can lead when we do. When we stop hesitating and just pounce.

I used to just pounce. I did some of my favorite pouncing in college. The fortification of my gut was courtesy of a camera lens. The result was memories I will remember long after those of late night college dorm parties fade.

While experimenting with contrast filters, I drove through the streets of Montgomery, Alabama, looking for a subject to capture that would allow me to make the most of my filters. A foreshadowing of my opportunity with the hydrangea man presented itself and this time I pounced.

Outside of the entrance to the local mall parking lot, you could always count on the boiled peanut man. A heavy man in his early forties, he boiled peanuts in a huge kettle on the side of the road. People would pull over, pay a couple of dollars, and he would dip out a fresh batch of boiled peanuts into a paper bag for you.

What began as an opportunity to play with filters capturing light colored peanuts against dark water turned into an afternoon learning about a life. His huge, rough, cracked hands could have spoken a thousand words as they moved in and out of the hot water, but something in the air of the moment allowed him to open up and tell me tales his hands never suggested.

I was open to the opportunity. And I did not hesitate.

Now that fortification of my gut is found, not in a camera lens, but rather in the endless appetite of my Velveteen Mind. Always hungry for another story. Always searching for a new ear to bend.

I just have to remember to never hesitate. To simply pounce.

Just a few hours ago, I noticed your lovely Queen post a Twitter calling for guest bloggers. Figuring she was looking for someone to post, say, next week or so, I threw my hat in the ring. Her readers have always struck me as my kind of people, so what better way to introduce myself and hopefully find a few new ears to bend.

Fifteen minutes later she emailed me back and said something along the lines of “Great. Write it right now and post it yesterday.”

Okay, it wasn’t as demanding or dramatic as that, either. She actually granted me an hour or two of breathing room and then threatened to sabotage my Technorati ranking through her magical Queenly blogging influence if I didn’t deliver ASAP.

No time for hesitation this time. Seize the blog, my brutha, seize the blog.

Before she saddles up her Harley and rides.


  1. Queen of Spain says:

    Well I for one am glad you are not an “unknown” to me, as I found you through our mutual blog scream at Bill Maher. Just think, if I hadn’t turned on HBO that night and if I hadn’t been twittering….

    …and for the record, I’d really like a Harley if anyone wants to buy me one. Just saying

  2. You can pounce with me anytime, VM.

  3. Queen of Spain says:

    Why, OH WHY does the Spanish Blogosphere keep spamming my comments. WWWWHHHHYYYYYYYY

  4. I’m sorry I’m not a new ear. But I’ll read your writing anywhere. I just love to float along on your words.

  5. Not a new reader here either – but happy to follow you around the internet at your command!

    I guess all of us need to ‘pounce’ and have regrets about missed opportunities.

    Go speak to the man about his hydrangeas, they are beautiful, but fickle plants. They remind me very strongly of my grandmother’s house, and my mum has a bush grown from a cutting of hers. I haven’t attempted them here in Florida because I figure I’d have the same luck as you did!

    And talking to strangers on a plane is an artform I perfected after countless solitary transatlantic trips – I’d have died of boredom had I not spoken to people – I probably drove them close to dying of boredom in the process though.

    Hmm – shoulda sent ya an email, huh?

  6. Sorry, just me!

    I hope you’ll stop one day, and talk to the hydrangea man. I could use some tips and I;m sure he make for a great story.

  7. That is so true! Carpe Diem and all that!

    Great post! Lovely!

  8. QueenWench Tammas says:

    Hear, hear…talk to the hydrangea man and then tell us a story…like who he is what he does and what his life story is…


  9. I drove by the hydrangea man again today and we exchanged our waves. Again, I was in my mother’s car, but he seemed to recognize me anyway.

    I’m going to keep my camera in the car and keep myself open to the right moment. I will talk to the hydrangea man. And then I’ll tell you about him.

    I just wish I hadn’t called his house dilapidated. I could have given him this post.

  10. I’d follow your words around the great big Interwebs any day of the week. This post is lovely, and a great reminder to me personally. I plan to make more eye contact and flash bolder smiles tomorrow. Yes.

  11. canoe chick says:

    I am a new reader, and thrilled to have been given the chance to read your wonderful post. Please please talk to the hydrangea man and tell us about it!

  12. Totally worth it, you’d better hope Hydrangea man doesn’t up and die on you or that will be a horrible lesson to learn.
    Just kidding, sort of.
    Carpe Diem.

  13. I love these comments! I’m pouncing with Oh, The Joys!, floating along with MammaLoves, and trying to beat the grim reaper with moosh!

    Ya’ll are all awesome. If you followed me from my own blog, thank you, you made my day. If you are a loyal subject of the Queen, thanks for giving me a shot. I’d like to say that I’m not usually as long-winded as this, but, yeah, I’d be lying.

  14. Great read! Your mention of boiled peanuts caught my attention (as well as the rest of it…) I grew up in WV but do not hail from there and moved away again at age 14. There was a man, a friend of the family, who used to talk about boiled peanuts, and the way he said it sounded like “bald” or “balled.” ha ha! Bald peanuts. Even though I heard him talking about them growing up I am still curious about them – never ever saw, much less tasted, any.

    I really need to start adding more of you gals to my links so I can easily keep up with more blogs. So I guess in the spirit of your post, that means I should add you now? Okay, here I go – if you don’t show up, it’s because the baby woke up and I had to run upstairs.

  15. She wants us to forget the post-election violence and get on with building the nation. ,


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