Tough flowers

The other day I visited the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. This is pretty much a stretch of hills in the middle of nowhere that is blanketed in orange poppies.

Blankets of PoppiesIt’s an incredible sight, reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, with orange colored fields stretching into the distance. But the stunning thing to me is that this is all happening in what is essentially a desert. Silvery green sagebrush breaks up the vivid flowers. Tumbleweeds come rolling at you up across the landscape. And rattlesnakes sun themselves on the sandy path.

It amazed me that, in what should be a sparse landscape, such beauty and vibrancy could be found. The plant that fascinated me the most was the false dandelion. It was instantly recognizable as similar to the puffballs we’re used to. But this ‘dandelion’ was shimmery and structured, almost looking like it was made out of glass or quartz crystals. I bent down to study it and hesitantly reached out to touch it, certain the flower would be barbed or sharp. But it was sleek and silky.

False DandelionThe wind was so fierce that it hurt my eardrums. You could lean into it and let it hold you up, imagining you were flying out over the orange hills. But even in that exhilarating, buffeting wind that swept across the landscape, this ‘dandelion’ remained intact. Waiting.

But what was it waiting for? Just the right current of air to blast a seed off of it? Was it waiting for rain? Or the right temperature? I guess in the desert, you have to be sure of your moment.

And I suppose the same is true for a story. The landscape around us is often a bit harsh. If we aren’t careful, we can be swept up in hurricanes of criticism and doubt and cautionary voices. And if we do, we run the risk of our story falling on gritty, dry land.

So while we are crafting each crystalline seedpod, we must shield our stories. We must hold them close and muffle the noise of the wind whipping past. We must build the story as strong as we can and hold tight. This is challenging enough as it is, but then there is a trickier bit.

We must wait.

How can we be sure when it’s the right time to share our stories with others? We can’t. Somewhere there is a balance between giving your story to trusted readers and patiently allowing the story to grow in the protected alcove of your imagination. By letting it go too early, you risk the wind smashing your dandelion apart. But if you never let the story go, it will never take root.

Single poppyIn this dance of risk and trust, each of us has to figure out the timing we feel comfortable with. When to take shelter and when to share. But the most important thing to remember is that even in the desert, lovely things grow.

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