“There is poetry among the wildflowers.”
Rachel Irene Stevenson
A Keeping It Real Post
When I was in Bristol a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see Calendar Girls on stage at the Hippodrome. A musical in a historic theater? And based on a true story? Yes, please! I loved everything about it.
The story is about a cancer widow and how she and her friends decide to honor her late husband by improving the waiting area for families at the hospital where he died. (Which I can verify are universally awful.) These proper Yorkshire ladies choose to make a pin-up calendar to raise the money. It’s a story of love, survival, and female friendship. I’d forgotten the cancer widow part from the movie, and it hit me in the feels. I wept through the first half.
But the story isn’t what stayed with me. Y’all know how much I love flowers, and the imagery of the sunflower turned me into a giant heart-eye emoji. I loved how it represented these badass women who, like the sunflowers, never stop reaching for the light. They stand tall and don’t give up, no matter what. It’s a powerful image, and I can’t get Sunflower out of my head. I even find myself singing it on my walks. (Silently, of course. You’re welcome.)
But this last week I was on Inis Meáin in the Aran Isles, just off the coast of Galway, Ireland. The island ensnared me the minute our ferry docked, and I stepped foot on dry land. I’m pretty sure I was grinning the entire time I was there, even in my sleep.
It’s impossible to describe the magic of this place, like a waking dream. It’s beautiful, with a rich history and a simple way of life. And while you can easily see the mainland and the other islands, you still feel isolated and protected from the rest of the world. It’s easy to see why poets and playwrights have made this place their muse. As much as we love her, she loves us back.
I walked the island each day, taking in her rugged beauty. (Yeah, Inis Meáin is a Her. My post, my rules.) For a small island, the landscape was ever-changing. But one thing was constant: from fierce waves crashing on cliffs that rival Moher, to thousands of miles of handbuilt stone walls, to bronze age stone forts, the wildflowers were always present.
Despite its small size, I could traverse the island without seeing another human (except the one I’d brought with me). The quiet solitude was intoxicating and addictive. The island is an oasis of both inspiration and peace. Imagine my surprise to learn all the Irish dreams I never even knew I had were coming true. (I’m in Inis Meáin withdrawal as I write this.)
For my fellow garden goddesses, the climate on the Aran Islands is pretty harsh. The earliest inhabitants had to make the soil! They mixed seaweed with sand to create a new growing medium on a big pile of rocks. Holy compost, Batman! (The Dutch like to say they created the Netherlands out of nothing. Well, I think they’ve got some competition.)
Besides the severe soil conditions, it’s difficult to find anything tall that can survive the near-constant buffeting winds. There are no trees to speak of and no mountains. Only low rock walls and stone houses provide a break from the wind. Yet the wildflowers persist, much like the beautiful people who call the island home.
But what I find most significant is the salt air which would kill most plants. Despite that, these wildflowers have the strength and will to live. They’ve adapted. And they’ve moved beyond just surviving; they thrive.
Sure, they grow differently than cultivated flowers. They stay low to the ground, for protection from the wind and a way to be more efficient in water usage. But their beauty is there for us all to enjoy, with nothing expected in return. No matter where I went on Inis Meáin, I found wildflowers waiting for me, celebrating my return to a place I’d never been.
Widows are Wildflowers
So as I traipsed around the island, singing “I’m a sunflower, reaching for the light, going to fight for every ray of sunlight. Every hour of every day might bring the ray I need. One day I’m gonna have all I need,” loudly in my head, I realized what a perfect metaphor the wildflowers are for the resiliency of widowhood. I proclaimed, laughing, “Yasssss! I’m a wildflower!”
Widows have been forced to adapt to the fierce winds of change, the kind that can fell trees. Sometimes that means we learn to grow low to survive. You may have to look a little harder to find us, but we’re still blooming. The salty tears of grief that may destroy others only make us stronger.
Most importantly, we learn to make the best of a bad situation, creating a new life from the rocky land of loss and pain. And as we move from surviving to thriving, we become the wildflowers. To my W sisters, no matter how low you’re growing, I hope you own your wildflower beauty like the queens you are and find the poetry within as you bloom.
The Wandering Widow and Wildflower
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
This post is dedicated to my two favorite Inis Meáin Wildflowers, Meg and Vivienne, who can brighten even the cloudiest of days. And to my Irish poet. Thank you for all the encouragement to put pen to paper, and for sharing in the magic. XO
Wildflower, Deana Carter
I want to run against the wind
I want to pull the stars down from the sky
And put ’em back again
I want to hold the world in my hands
I want to see forever from where I stand
I’m a wildflower
With my roots down an old dirt road
I’m a wildflower
And I need a little rain to grow
A little sun to help my colors show
I’m a wildflower
I want to jump every fence
Want a taste of freedom and hold on to my innocence
I want to fly above the trees
And ride this feeling all the way to the sea
I’m a wildflower
Songwriters: Deana Kay Carter / Charles Harmon Jones
Wildflower lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Warner Chappell Music, Inc