I Am a Desert Poppy

September 3, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Back at the end of May, as we were franticly packing up for our sudden early departure to my parents’ house, my mind was scattered with horrific thoughts and images. In those moments, nearly two days without sleep, my body pulsing with panic, I prepared myself to kiss my children good-bye, perhaps for good. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I was sure I was either going to spend the rest of my life in a psychiatric hospital or soon be dead by my own hands.

Then the doorbell rang. A little while later, my husband returned from answering the door, carrying a cheerful-looking basket full of yellow things. Last year, I had brought a friend a “basket of sunshine” when she was stressed-out and struggling, and she said now it was my turn. One of the gifts in her basket was a picture she had painted.

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I thought her gift was so lovely and thoughtful, but I didn’t thoroughly examine all of its contents, too frantic and frightened to fully appreciate it at the time. This morning I pulled the painting out of the basket still sitting on my dresser where I put it three months (and what feels like a lifetime) ago. As I did so, I felt something taped to the back of the frame. It was a note:

Lani,

These flowers remind me of you. They are desert poppies. One year, at our last house, I planted a few little poppy seeds and looked forward to a flowerful spring. They grew quickly and bloomed all season; then they KEPT growing. They grew and spread beyond the planters and into the rocks. In the summer I stopped watering them–it was too hot to go outside. They kept blooming, growing, and spreading! We even tried to kill them with weed killer, and they still hung on. For years to come they continued to pop up all over the yard. I’ve never seen such determined little flowers! Even though you may not feel like it now, you are like these tough sunny poppies. You are strong enough to handle the sun, drought, and even the poison. Your love and loveliness continues to spread. Hang in there!

I have seen desert poppies in bloom dozens of times, coating the parched face of South Mountain where my family often hikes. But this morning those poppies became something more than just little yellow flowers. I will treasure that painting always, not only because it represents the love and kindness of my friend, but now because it also stands as a reminder of the strength and determination I can now look back and see that I truly do possess.

My friend saw in me back in May what I could not (at the time) see in myself. I didn’t kiss my kids good-bye that night. And I haven’t any other night since.

Because I’m a desert poppy.

You’re a desert poppy too. Even when you don’t think you are. You are strong enough to handle the sun, drought, and even poison. And if you ever need someone to remind you of that, send me an email.