One evening mid-summer, the year after I lost my job,  I went out to pick the last of the day’s ripe blueberries. As I was lingering in the garden enjoying the cool dusky air, I noticed the sunflowers.  Four of them had grown almost as tall as me and were starting to show signs of blossoming. Their heads were still tight in a bud, but I could tell they were eagerly waiting the day when they could show their petals to the sun.   

It’s easy to forget what the earth can offer when it comes to navigating challenging situations: from physical cures in the form of a tincture to emotional respite that might come from noticing the beauty in a sunflower for longer than a passing second.  Sometimes I feel silly to be caught up in something like a sunflower – after all, there are important things to do, like answering emails or looking for a better job or financial planning or organizing the hall closet. I think it’s because I don’t like to feel exposed.  Reveling in the beauty of a sunflower reveals something about me that can feel dangerous to show to the world. After all, it exposes my values and what truly matters to me, and that, though essential for a full life, is scary.

Sharman Apt Russell writes, in a book titled The Anatomy of a Rose, about her feelings of embarrassment when spending time naked in some hot springs, and she’s certainly not alone in that. I would have a hard time, too, as she did, standing naked outside and drinking in the healing properties of nature, instead of being preoccupied with how my body looked or felt in its exposed state. It’s more comfortable to stay covered up, even when there’s no one else around. It’s easier to skim the surface than to go deep enough to let the healing of something like a flower do its work in us.

It wasn’t been easy to navigate this time of upheaval, and in fact, it often felt like standing naked outside on a sunny day. Losing something central to modern life – like a job – made me feel exposed and vulnerable. But it also made me realize that it’s possible to heal from such an event and that wildness and nature and learning to lean into the ashes of what has burned away have a place in the journey.

As Russell writes, “We may need to be cured by flowers. We may need to strip naked and let the petals fall on our shoulders, down our bellies, against our thighs. We may need to walk naked through beauty. […] We may need to feel beauty on our skin. We may need to walk the pollen path, among the flowers that are everywhere.”

No life situation is permanent. Losing a job that felt really secure was unsettling, and it continually reminds me that there are no guarantees in life. Things can change in a blink of an eye, and we can’t ever know what might being coming next. But we can learn to pay attention to what serves us and prioritize those things, and we can use each hardship to build the resilience we need for whatever challenges lie ahead. And the meaning that we find outside of our day jobs? That’s what sticks around. That has staying power, even while the circumstances of life change.

What does come next? I can’t know. But there is always a choice in how the story unfolds, even if it is only found in how I respond to something completely outside of my control. And wildness? That always has a place in the unfolding of the story.


This is an excerpt from What Comes Next: Between Beauty and Destruction. Available March 26 wherever books are sold. To learn more visit Homebound Publications.


Heidi Barr

Author Heidi Barr

Heidi Barr lives near the St. Croix River Valley in Minnesota with her husband and daughter where they tend a large organic vegetable garden, explore nature and do their best to live simply. Author of Woodland Manitou and Prairie Grown, she is committed to giving voice to ways of being on the earth that are life-giving and sustainable for people, communities and the planet. Visit her online at www.heidibarr.com.

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