Tag Archives: illustrations

Two Illustrations from Nature…


It is the weekend my Dad died nine years ago. It is the week a dear friend died one year ago. A coworker just had a miscarriage. A close friend is going through a divorce.

Illustration number one: This week I was at a work retreat up the coast. There was pine, dry grass, and dirt that acts like chalk on your shoes. The sunrise was obscured by a heavy fog being blown over the hill. As I climbed the hill I stepped into a copse of pine. I turned my head into the breeze to catch the wind in my ears and I caught another sound. It was so loud I looked around for what could cause this “pat pat pat”. Droplets had formed on the tip of every needle of every pine. I thought of the fog, how like grief, heavy, pervasive, and obscuring the view at three feet. And I thought of the trees, every day reaching out and into; by will and persistence making tangible something good and life-giving, watering themselves.

Illustration number two: Today we drove down the coast. We stopped just south of Linda Mar at a battery held aloft still by a truculent chunk of granite. High above the water and rocks, the walkway around seemed to drop out of sight with a certainty that made me hold my three-year-old’s hand tighter. Surely it would mean death to ever step past that edge. And yet, as we walked closer, we were surprised to find slopes, not gentle, but like many things in life, surprisingly survivable.





If someone were to retell the story of the Pied Piper from the Pied Piper’s point of view it would look an awful lot like me trying to get three kids home from the eighteen block expedition to the library. My face, like his, would be plastered with the lie that this hike is totally worth it because of all the wonderful things waiting at the end of it, which may or may not have actually been leftover pasta and bedtime. And me, more out of breath than all of them as I dance and magically sing them home while pushing the baby, the stroller, and every library book at the Senator Milton Marks Library containing the words “Ninjago” or “Fairy” in the title.

I was one game of “I Spy” away from gouging my eyes out with a washable marker.

My five-year old son was racing ahead of us on his scooter and waiting at the end of every block watching the cars go by. And that was how he stood, poised with right foot and right hand holding his scooter away from him when he stepped deftly down into the gutter to yank up a yellow dandelion flower with his whole fist.

And there it was framed in his hand when I arrived, a yellow dandelion for me. I can’t tell you how many of these thoroughly unextraordinary flowers I’ve received. But a voice other than my own said, “Look. This is beauty, too, Barbara. ”

This is beauty. It even grows here out of the messy gutters and busy intersections of life. It’s even as ubiquitous as a yellow dandelion flower. Maybe the very commonplace nature of beauty is what makes it so hard to see. The work goes into noticing it, maybe, wrapping your fist around it and pulling it free. Or, perhaps, it best arrests you when framed for your attention in a passionate palm.

Much like a piece of forgotten art on a studio floor, when hung, proclaims a readiness for examination.

Examine this. It’s worthy of your time, the effort, to pluck it from normalcy with the power of your fighting fist.

I looked at the unassuming bloom that took the strength of a whole hand to wrench it free and had dared to defy the idea that flowers can’t grow out of asphalt. It was beautiful.

I thanked my son, tucked the lesson behind my ear and wore it, as I wish I could wear all of them.