I walked everywhere I went during my incarceration experience. Even after rolling off my top bunk and fracturing my ankle in the middle of the night, my walk becoming a limp for the longest time. We looked like a colony of ants wearing shades of blue on that compound of two-thousand women. And not a pretty shade of blue either. Not like cobalt or ocean or turquoise. Although, perhaps no shade would’ve been pretty in the fashion of a state uniform. I even walked to the infirmary once during a snowstorm for a pap smear. Miserable, and yet still a first world problem, but I retrieve that now from my memory bank when I am tempted to complain about cold temperatures. Or pap smears.
My body acclimated during that time and I learned to adapt to being outdoors often in all of Ohio’s unpredictable weather. In the sweltering heat warnings of summer, I would long for air conditioning and relief, realizing how much I had taken for granted. In the crispness of Fall, I would dream about scented candles and my favorite sweaters and carved pumpkins for the porch and home. And once during Spring, when the sun began to show itself again and hope returned, I was on one of those everyday walks when I noticed something amongst a heaping pile of rubble.
It was inside of a fenced demolition site. A former building that used to house women, now condemned and torn to the ground. A pile of rocks and debris and memories of what used to be, symbolic in the way of my own life and the lives of the women inside those razor-wired fences.
It stood there between the rocks, and I couldn’t help but do a double take. The way one does when you spot something on your everyday route. Like a new billboard or a new park bench that wasn’t there before. I couldn’t help but linger for a moment, even though I wasn’t supposed to linger “out of place.” Ironic, because this wasn’t home and I always felt out of place. It was a dainty little thing, budding and pushing its way up into the light and into life. A small white flower with a yellow center growing right there in the middle of all that had been demolished. I am not a gardener so I couldn’t tell you what lovely type it was. Maybe it was even one of those weeds that grow wild and pretty. But regardless, I couldn’t help but do a double take and admire its beauty.
I could go in many different directions with what I want to say next. I could tell you that there is so much good that is still present even in the most challenging seasons of life, and that would be true.
I could tell you that endless beauty can come out of the most devastating and heartbreaking things you will go through in life, and that too would be true.
I could repeat the saying “bloom where you are planted,” because you should. I knew a girl there who taught herself Spanish and French while incarcerated. Fluently. You should bloom.
But this is what seems most pressing at this moment. It’s a Mexican proverb I heard once, and it goes like this:
“They tried to bury us. But they didn’t realize we were seeds.”
That’s why I couldn’t take my eyes off that little wispy flower blooming right there in the middle of all that rubble. Because I felt that I had been buried in my own life. Like the Sarah I used to know was gone, along with any hope for the future.
Little seedling, there are things you will go through in life that will try to bury you. Sometimes just because life happens and life is hard. And sometimes, because of the mess you have made. One shovel full of dirt at a time, until eventually, it will seem and feel like it is over. Curtain call. Bad ending. Like nothing could come out of this wasteland of a situation. Like all hope for the future is lost. But I urge you to slow your walk and look again.
Remember that just because you feel buried doesn’t mean it’s over for you. If you have breath and a pulse, it is not. You, my dear, are a seed. Keep pressing on. Learn a new language. Dare to believe that God has good things ahead for you. Don’t you dare not bloom.