Don't Step on the Flowers
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
— The Way It Is by William Stafford
An image that stalks me is of a small, fragile desert flower with violet blooms and an unassuming presence. This flower blooms in all its tender glory in the harsh, waterless, and sun-scorched desert landscape that is its home. It does not grow surrounded by a bed of other grasses and green plants, or in the grove of cottonwood trees. It doesn't seem to concern itself with any shelter or protection of any kind. Instead it grows up out of the sandy wash. Right dead in the middle of it. One tiny, little stem with radial leaves and a violet cap stretching up out of barren soil…one splash of color against crumbled sandstone. One tiny voice, and a thousand unheard stories.
I had been romanced by these little flowers as I came upon them. They were little sentinels of accidental beauty whose very being lit the fire of my imagination, filling me with wonder, with poetry. Their presence reaching out across the space between us to touch me, as surely as if they stroked my cheek with their fibrous, hairy leaves. They were not inert, and unintelligent matter. There was intimacy between us. An intimacy of living image, of Otherness…of infinite possibility in each other's presence. A shared dreaming.
And so on the day I walked out to see this one fragile flower irreverently crushed under the weight and tread of a hiking boot, I felt it as if we were not observed and observer, but one being in two forms. I felt it's wound in my heart. Its little stalk ripped, bent, and weeping white tears, its petals strewn, marked with their own moisture, seeping through silky petal. I went down on my knees and wave after wave of a very familiar and particular grief poured through.
This grief, by nature, is generative, and as it swelled into the strange simultaneity of joy, and sorrow both, I recognized these were tears for so many times the tender, blooming of me, the impossible dreaming of me, the wild imagination - mine and and of others, had laid crushed under the weight of a treaded village shoe. This flower roots into a holy crack in the amour of the one of me who has desensitized to a world where uniqueness, expression, and the audacity of flowering is often crushed, without thought. Without words of condolence. Without acknowledgement. Simply stripped away in one fell swoop, leaving a distant memory of another way of being in relationship to the world, one infused with mystery's language of image, and symbol and gesture, and wonder until the part of us so uniquely human - our imagination atrophies, and it's better to not feel, and to not see the world of wild possibility that lies on either side, above and below, the well-worn path to home.
This is the thread I've been following. The one that is mine to hold.