I was riding on the back of a motorcycle in Asia when I glimpsed it. The “motorcycle taxi driver” had taken the long way home. Tired, I wished I had remembered to tell him about the shortcut back to my host family’s place. I was staying with them for a month while researching their city, and it had been tough– beyond anything I had experienced in the previous year of living in the country. But we were too far in to take a shortcut.
This route brought us to a different horizon, on the city’s edge. Instead of smothering smog and sun-concealing concrete, I saw low houses and fields lit up by a glorious orange sky, that was fading to pink, then to dusky blues. My breath was caught. Now I wanted the ride to be as long as it could be.
A talented friend, Shawna Handke, gave me a piece of her artwork while I was still in New York (you can see more here at her website). Wildflowers Live Here Too, she calls it. I love the movement, the color of the flowers– and the stark beauty of the solid buildings.
The stories this week include some large piles of concrete, hard edged, pretending they possess power to delete the sun from the sky and keep the ground without life. I will tell you only one: from a woman who eagerly helped our group pack first-aid boxes to give to refugees. She is also here in flight of that war.
She showed pictures of her two kids, her mother, her sister, all smiling. Then she showed a picture of dust and rubble. “That is all that is left of our home,” she told me. The difficulties of displaced people go far beyond material provision– loneliness, lack of family network, loss, insecurity… Although now she has become part of community exercise, she said she would go for weeks with no one to talk to, when she first arrived here.
The Wildflowers picture looked bare on my wall, and I found no frame. So one night, inspired by Brene Brown’s challenge in Daring Greatly that gratitude is a PRACTICE, I grabbed a post-it note, jotted one thing to be grateful for that day, and stuck it on the edge of the picture. Same thing the next day. Two days after that. The frame is a work in progress– sunset-colored notes reflecting the flowers that, in Shawna’s art, tower over black-and-white buildings, and somehow seem far more permanent.
- My friend’s 6-year-old daughter smiling and greeting me as “Khalto,” the Arabic word for “auntie.”
- A quiet place outside to sit with my music, journal.
- A trio of messages from dear friends, coming when I needed them.
A fistful of wildflowers.
And perhaps, I can be a friend– a wildflower to my new acquaintance– as she, with her dedication to helping other displaced people in this town, is a wildflower in my eyes.