Walking through a field of wild flowers for as far as the eye could see, I trailed my finger tips over the soft petals that reached up for more of the sun. I understood their reaching, for I too relished the feel of the sun as it warmed me through to the inside of my being. I shut my eyes and navigated through the tall flowers only by feel of the sun on my eyelids, brightening the darkness that might have been had I turned my head away. Slowly, savoring the feel of velvet flowers on my fingers and delighting in the warmth of the sun upon my face, I walked. Every once in awhile, I would feel a flower of particular softness or size and I would pause to pick it and place it in my ever growing bouquet. I had yellow crocuses, white daisies, towering spikes of pink delphinium, drooping heads of fox glove, playful sunflowers and many more I couldn’t name but which had struck me so with their beauty that they found their way into my hands.
I walked as such for a luxurious amount of time, lingering here and there in a patch of a specific flower to soak in its essence. I felt no hurry, no rush, no driving need or gnawing hunger. All was as it should be and as it always would be. Or so I thought.
In the passage of time and distance, I found myself at the edge of a forest of such commonplace features that I was not tempted to enter. However, the cool breeze that came from within, brushed over my sun-kissed skin and allured me past the boundary of the first trees into its refreshing and tranquil depths.
The change was delightful and I wandered my way, brushing past rough-barked trees, ducking low boughs, caressing the soft needles of formidable evergreens, until I was completely lost. I had not paid any attention as to how I arrived at this spot - a wrong turn or two, a butterfly to chase, a desire to look closer at an object that called to my attention - and I was completely without direction. No path to guide my way out.
Discouraged and a bit frightened, I sat down on a rotting log, tarnishing the purity of my white sundress. In such a state, I began to hear the sounds of the forest – the ancient creaking, the foreboding rustle of leaves, and ominous shuffling. I knew there were forces out there with which I wouldn’t be able to wrestle victoriously and I felt small, timid and alone. I grew very afraid.
Suddenly the wind kicked up, violently snatching up leaves and sending them thrashing about as it threatened to knock the bouquet out of my hands. The shock of thunder knocked me to the forest floor and paralyzed me until I realized I had dropped my flowers. I frantically scrambled on hands and knees to pick them up before the wind sent them off, scattering them to the most unreachable destinations. As I rescued the last of my blooms from their unknown fate, a frigid rain began to fall. Soon it fell upon my head as though poured from a bucket, taking my breath with it as it battered the dark earth into submission. Lightning struck a tree behind me and it’s victim split in two and fell within inches of where I grappled on the forest floor. My hands were torn and bleeding, my knees were scratched and stinging dreadfully as I frantically crawled, seeking shelter, ultimately found under an ancient evergreen.
In that relative calm, with the storm wild about me, I could feel my heart throbbing and taste the tang of my fear on my tongue. My vision blurred. Blinking away tears, my terrified eyes searched the darkness for that which could save me. Nothing. I was destitute and hopeless. I clutched tightly to the bouquet in my fist, desperate to hold onto something of warmth and beauty. I moved the bright, tender petals ever closer to my cold and anxious face.
It was then that my focus corrected itself. For instead of sensing the danger and terror around me, I breathed in the warm, gentle scent of the blossoms in my hand. I cherished the sensation of lavish petals caressing my parted lips. I warmed in the glow of their brilliant colors that overtook the darkness around me. And as the darkness dissipated and the storm subsided, I discovered to my joy, a lone flower, growing out of a rough and craggy rock with a deep purple hue so unlike the bright oranges, yellows and whites I held in my hand. This flower, though beaten by the wind and rain was yet somehow, untouched. Had I never strayed this deep into the dark forest, I may never have seen it’s beauty – not more beautiful than those in my hands but of a different quality and bearing that gave me courage and a sense that I was not alone but in the presence of strength and calm. I can’t say I delighted in this flower, as I had in the flowers from the meadow, but I felt a peace that I couldn’t explain, in the midst of my fear and predicament.
This precious little flower got me wondering if there were others about. As the rain slowed to a stop, I tripped and stumbled from out beneath my shelter to this little bloom and plucked it rather greedily. I was a little worse for the wear for I was smudged with dirt and grime. I felt the coolness of the air that had been so pleasant in the beginning now turn to a damp chill as time in this forest passed, but as I took in the aroma of this new treasure, I found it pleasing and warm, the way one is warmed by the first feeble ray of sun after such a storm. I felt hope and a bit courageous! Enough so, that I began to wander again, this time with purpose, determined to add to my posy, more of these precious, unobtrusive, jewels. I was determined to seek where I must and find what I could.
I looked to my left and found a dark purple columbine regally growing under the shade of an evergreen. I wandered around large boulders to find a blue flower so deep in hue I could almost taste the coolness of it’s color in my mouth. I found more flowers as I climbed over and under fallen logs rotting in the moist, heavy air, until finally I came to a stream and discovered to my delight that the opposite bank was peppered with a rich, blood red flower I had never seen before. I slid down the bank, fully prepared to charge through the waters to gather this prize gem, when I noticed how swiftly and deep the waters ran. I checked myself and weighed the cost against the reward and felt so strongly that I must add those striking flowers to my arrangement that the cost was of no concern. I plunged into the cold waters and kept my eyes on the prize. The rushing waters were frigid and strong, currents I couldn’t see threatened to pull me off course, but I strove forward and lunged onto the opposite bank. Grateful, I fell back into the flowers, allowing them to surround and cover me. Worth it?! Absolutely!! I was giddy at my own daring!
I’m not sure how long I lingered in the presence of these flowers, but soon I felt it time to go. I added a few of these beauties to my growing collection and headed up the steep bank to see what lay beyond. To my joy, I noticed that the forest, which I had come accustomed to, thinking it to be my new reality, was at it’s end in the near distance. The air was lighter, fresher, with the smell of warmth and the taste of summer. Clutching my hard-won prizes in my hand, I sprinted past the last few remaining trees until I felt myself warmed through by the sun. The thrill of pleasure and relief I felt was indescribable.
As my eyes adjusted to the brightness of the world around me, I looked at my new bouquet with seasoned eyes. The colors were brilliant and varied, the textures and scents mixed among themselves into a blend of depth and dimension I hadn’t been blessed to notice before. These were not only the light colored flowers of ease and leisure bestowed upon me from a meadow of sunshine, these were also the dark, rich flowers of purples, blues and reds, that cost me much to gain, yet in my torn hands and filthy dress, they looked all the more beautiful and precious than had I found them at my feet in just this simple moment. I cherished each and every flower I had accumulated, but somehow the ones harder to obtain gave me an inexplicable feeling of security, a stronger sense of belonging and a greater sense of understanding.
Again I found myself walking through a field of wildflowers, but somehow I was changed. Yes, the dirt and smudges of the forest were still with me, but it was more than that. I turned to look back over my shoulder at what I had just come through. Seeing the forest there, now so distant, deceptively quiet and peaceful, I knew what chaos and fear had been hidden within. I thought back to my terror and how in the midst of it, my perception had changed with nothing more than a clutching of the flowers to my breast as I remembered their beauty and promise of light. It was then that I had found the others hidden within the chaos that had ultimately guided me out of such savage darkness. Their beauty so enchanting as to be enough – all I would need to find my way.
I will never forget my journey through the forest, nor in some strange way, do I want to. Though the sensations of fear and helplessness may subside a little, the beauty that I had found there will be cherished forever. To say that I would walk through that forest again, or others like it, if it means holding this bouquet before me in my hands or one of greater depth and variety, is to speak the truth.