Late Bloomer (Turning 39)
I saw two California poppies in my front yard rising through the weeds. Their golden sheen stole my am routine; then at some point I remembered to head to class. The day droned on until I arrived back home. As I pulled into our drive Charlie started the lawn mower and I heard its roar above the gravel tumbling beneath my wheels.
“STOP”, I yelled.
“The meadow it is finally blooming. Life is finally coming and you can’t cut it now”.
I ran down the meadow toward him.
“You have to trust it: you have to let it go wild”.
“It is not what we planned.”
My breath escaped me.
“It is even better. I promise.”
Tears rolled. We stared at each other. Both knowing my words rang true in the afternoon light. We stood in the meadow, the one we had tried to build for two years. We had killed the uniform grass-- twice. It kept coming back with vigor taking over our home. We made a decision that grass and its pro quo business as usual presence had no right to live around us any longer. It had to go. We were rewilding our yard. It was good for the animals. Good for the water table. But, even more good for us.
The first year we just let “by gones be by gones” and the land filled in with weeds. Their tall and heavy stature gave rise to claustrophobia. We lived among them trying to enjoy their beauty, but really they were just weeds. They grew fast and quick, and contained little roots or substance. They produced little to no flowers and eventually they killed the roses. Our yard was left with a tower of pioneers that lacked depth or productivity. We killed it a third time.
We did not want uniformity. But we did not want anarchy either. What did we want? Was it even possible to live somewhere in between? Then that May morning we saw evidence of what we longed for. Beauty...presence...humbleness...simplicity...glory….
The poppies simple as the lilies of the valley stopped us, took our breath away, and made us trust. Within the week the meadow filled in. Multiple varieties of wildflowers popped up across our half acre. Birds came back. Ticks left. Raccoons giggled at night. Red headed woodpeckers knocked in the morning light. Fireflies returned at dusk. The meadow was finally the vision of what we wanted. It was a home to the hopeless, a respite for the traveler, and a joyful discovery every waking day. The meadow was us. The toil, the questions, the uncertainty, and even the deaths paid off.
So today we make some final decisions on my 39th birthday. The meadow in all its blooming reminded us that God is not finished with us, and our work on Earth is not done. The Wilsons are headed to the Virgin Islands this August. The small island of St. John stole my heart last summer and there is a green preK-12 school that’s been taking huge leaps. After two devastating hurricanes they opened their doors to any student on the island and they banned together as a school to be a strong community amidst great trials. Their resiliency, passion, and dedication to people and environment is astonishing. Charlie will be rebuilding homes and businesses, and I will teach environmental science while building sustainability programs at the school. Sarah will finish her last three classes of high school and we will spend her last year in our nest together-- serving St. John. Sir Maxwell is excited to swim daily and King Tut can not wait to explore the Virgin Island woods.
Life is in full bloom. The spring we were promised finally came. So, here is a little encouragement from Mary Oliver on this full summer day. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Oliver, 1992). Trust the journey. Become your “ideal self not your ought self” (Gilovich & Medvec, 1994). Kill the grass-- the monotony and the have to’s. “Leave the harbor” and “do what you were made for” (Shedd, 1928). Be okay with looking different. Toil hard. Wait for it. Enjoy the poppies.
Image above: found on Pinterest with no reference
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
"The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/133.html
Gilovich, T., & Medvec, V. H. (1994). The temporal pattern to the experience of regret. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(3), 357-365.
Shedd, J. A. (1928). Salt from my attic. Mosher Press.