Mist curled around the edges of dark hills in the distance, lines and lines of vineyards flipped past like the pages in an old rolodex. I lay my head lazily to the glass of the bus window, satisfied with my choice: I had chosen to say yes to Adventure. To Unknown. To the call of a far off valley, and the beckoning of new faces and foods and scents. I was frightened at the start, but it had brought me beauty, and best of all: the knowledge that I could do brave things. I had taken a risk. But so had the woman sitting behind me on the bus.
She was a new acquaintance I had made at the conference in Napa Valley we had attended that weekend. As we were sitting there, driving out of wine country and to the airport, she got a phone call. Her apartment had burned down. Nothing was left. She had just moved because her last apartment had a flood and she had lost everything. And now it had happened again.
“What’s next?” she asked.
Everything we do is a risk. We wake up in the morning believing the world will keep its promise to not frighten us to death. But it does, again and again. And in turn we strive, daily, to ignore its dalliances and unfaithfulness and try to not let our blooming petals wither. “This is the day!” says my heart, “Magic is brimming!”
The other day I was walking along a lovely stone fence in Napa with my friend Joey, breathing in the scent of lemons and oranges and feeling carefree in a land that could do us no harm. The scream was entirely unexpected. A man opened his car window and screamed at me as he drove by. I startled to my very core, said some expletives, and then took about ten minutes to feel my adrenaline settle back down from the surge. Who does that?
It always seems to be at our most trusting, easy moments that we are caught off guard. About ten years ago I started posting paintings on my blog. I had no agenda, no hope…only the thought that I wanted to share beauty. I got a nasty comment one day ripping me apart. The anonymous person said such things like I was ugly, I didn’t respect my husband, I was good for nothing, and that I didn’t do anything with my life. It took me a long time to feel comfortable posting anything again.
We hope our gifts will be worthy. That they will grow. That those who view them will treasure and cherish them the way we do. Respect them the way we do. I plant seeds in the early spring, on a busy four lane street in front of my house, with the same thoughts in mind. “These are for everyone to share!” says my heart.
The very first year I planted seeds someone came and stole every single poppy plant, roots and all. Five foot tall plants I had watched grow from from tiny seeds!
As I grow older I become more and more hardened by the response of this promising world to the beauty I try to represent. The stakes are higher, the playing field full of weeds. But I trudge on, shaking, into the world every day.
I took a big gulp and bought a puppy online for my birthday, hoping against hope that the hypoallergenic breed wouldn’t make me sneeze, and that a dog wouldn’t destroy every last bit of calm we had in our house. I did it for my boys. They wanted a dog, and the child in me did too. I knew it was impulsive, and geared up for disaster.
Disaster is what I’d been taught. But “what if?” said my heart.
There are times when I don’t have the strength to believe. Can the world really hold enough magic for everyone? Is it fair for me to gain while others suffer? Is it fair for me to suffer while others gain? I have to swallow those fears and push up out of the ground and bloom, no matter the cost. It doesn’t matter if all my petals wilt in the end. My faith and hope that good will come is sometimes the only thing that makes magic happen.
I put on my shoes and scarf knowing full well that after an outing my nerves will be shot. I take my anxiety medication, I take deep breaths, and I say a prayer. But out the door I go full steam ahead. I do it, and want to do it, because on days like today I learned the nesting spot of a hummingbird from a birder on my walk. I got an email from a greeting card company that found one of my old paintings long forgotten on my blog and wants to use it. I delight in the colorful primroses that adorn my path. And I now have a creature by my side who is so in love with me, so adoring and soft, and attached to my side…I cry every time I think about how I used to say I’d never get a dog.
So my house might burn down when I’m on a bus somewhere far from home. There could be a flood. Or an earthquake. My flowers might be stolen. My dog may have been a frustrating beast. And my art may have been hidden forever.
But it was worth the risk.
Bridget Beth Collins is the artist behind Flora Forager, the mother of three wild boys, and a believer in everyday magic.