In the noise and whip

Amid chill winds, wildflowers bloom on the untended, rocky shore of Captiva Island, January 2013.

Amid chill winds, wildflowers bloom on the rocky shore of Captiva Island, January 2013.

…It is lonesome, yes.  For we are the last of the loud.
Nevertheless, live.
Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.

Gwendolyn Brooks

This post is for anyone who has ever felt alone in a crowd.

It’s for anyone who speaks in a voice trembling with grief or rage, while hearing silent reproaches screaming inside the mind: What is it with you, anyway?  Why can’t you just get over it– chill out– get used to it?  Why don’t you just sit down and shut up?

It’s for anyone who has ever longed for a quiet hour, a normal day, a boring week, an uneventful month, a healthy, prosperous, consistently happy year.

It’s for anyone who endlessly waters other people’s gardens while wondering when her own life will have a chance to take root and bloom.  The answer is: it already has.

Brooks hit the nail on the head.  For some of us, it’s never going to be “So now, live happily ever after!” It won’t ever be “At last! A real life!”

For some of us– I suspect, possibly even for most of us– our earthly task is summed up in her two powerful words: “Nevertheless, live.”

A lot of people won’t get this post at all.  That’s OK.

For those who do get it, remember: we have poetic and historic and literary and spiritual proof that it’s possible to bloom even in the most ferocious storm.  You’re actually part of quite a magnificent garden.  When you feel lonesome, remember that.


  1. wisconsinwellnesscounseling

    Julia, thank you for writing this. It makes me feel less alone and your words give me encouragement to go on.

    • Thank you so much. It means a lot to me when someone says that this blog has been helpful. So many of us have had times when we felt abandoned, or misunderstood, or disregarded. It’s healing to realize we truly are not alone at such times.

  2. Good morning, Julia! Suddenly, I feel almost noble. To “conduct your booming” is a very different way of looking at what we usually call “bloom where you’re planted.” It acknowledges that blooming isn’t an easy thing that just happens and turns us out beautifully. Sometimes we have to gather our resources and courage and plan a strategy, and so “conduct” what we thought would be a natural progression toward a lovely conclusion.
    Thank you for this bit of wisdom, which I need as I continue to grow up (or is it grow old?) and take on a new level of responsibility for my season of life, well beyond my early blossoming.

    On another level, if I could choose, I’d be a sunflower so that I could always look toward the light.

    • Susan, I think “growing up” fits you better than “growing old” – in the case of the latter, you are definitely not there yet. 😀 And I think a sunflower fits you quite well.

      Yes, blooming takes lots of energy, even for a plant. In recent years I learned that all the unsightly foliage that dies back after bulb flowers bloom should not be cleared away too early, because it provides valuable food for later growth. So the analogy can be extended; some seasons are more overtly beautiful than others, but all are necessary to peak bloom, apparently.

  3. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. ☕️ I get it, really understand it! There are no certificates or awards for being among those that can comprehend the “whip of the whirlwind”! But if we can still bloom, not be overcome and stuffed out by adversity, then we’ve achieved a special place and even accepted our life. There are so many walking with you, with Jeff, during these days.🙏 I just looked over at the ocean, which is now being blocked, somewhat from view, by the building dunes. Many years ago, when the beach was renourished, it was a flat, sandy shore and we could see the waves breaking clearly from here. Then came the sea oats, coastal vegetation, and roots to hold the sand. The dunes are now a wall of protection against the powerful ocean that could be raging towards it, during stormy conditions. I’m just thinking how that first little seed thrived and has become grand. Great post, my friend! 💛

    • Sheila, I seem to be seeing dunes in more and more beach areas; apparently, they are quite beneficial as protection. I also like the way they look from the shore, even if it does block some lovely views for those lucky enough to live behind them. But that beautiful surf sound cannot be blocked, and just knowing what lies on the other side of the dunes makes the view lovely in my eyes.

      I’m so happy you like the post, and you “get it.” ❤ Here's to those seed that take root and thrive!

      • Sheila

        Good Wednesday morning, with java and oatmeal in place! ☕️ Out on the porch, never dreamt I’d see “I’ll fly away, oh Lordy, I’ll fly away”! Love it, thousand memories, love it! Sending smiles and hugs….. 💛🙏

        • Sheila, I enjoyed the chorus of “I’ll fly away” (a song they sang at Daddy’s memorial service, how fitting!) but I kept wondering whether you would smell the wood smoke and think I was crazy to get a fire going inside fireplace in the little cabin. It was a chilly morning and a small fire just felt cozy with the java and oatmeal. I know you understand. 🙂 These Club Verandah moments are such a joy! Thanks for being here with us. ❤

  4. Julia…oh yes I get it. Some days more than others, that loud voice inside my head won’t be quiet….

    • Merry, it astounds me how many of us tend to play back those negative messages to ourselves, like some sort of diabolical repeating tape. On days when my inner critic just won’t shut up, I find it very useful to put on some happy music or listen to a cheerful or inspiring audio book. When I talk mean to myself, I am learning to talk back!

  5. Kathy

    Wow. Wow….this just brought tears to my eyes. So powerful. Thanks Julia.

    • Thank you, Kathy. I am so happy you liked it, and I appreciate your taking the time to let me know.

  6. Cherie

    Thank you Julia for this post. I do get it and always have. Your words have helped me through this storm of life and I love you for that. May your day be a lovely one in the midst of the storm. Love to you, Matt and Jeff. Always in my prayers! Love and Light. Cherie

    • Thank you, Cherie. I am so happy to think that I have been able to help you in some small way. We all depend on each other for support in the storm. It makes all the difference. Love and light to you both!

  7. Julia, such a powerful post and dear friend, I get it. Beautifully said. I will be honored to bloom next to you amidst the storm. Big hugs xo

    • Thank you M! You have been one of the earliest and most steadfast people who have lighted the way in the blogging world. I so appreciate your being here with us.

  8. blseibel

    Thanks for these thoughts. I am trying to adjust to my new life at my dads and sometimes these thoughts do float around my head. I am glad for a new perspective on “normal”. The silver lining is being able to be here for dad. I would like to get my own place WHEN I get a job but I’m conflicted on whether staying with him is the best thing for him. Wait and see how things pan out I guess and pray.

    • B, I think “wait and see” is usually the best approach in such situations, as long as the situation is tolerable. It can be so hard to know what is best when one is too close to think clearly. Sometimes I pray that the answer will become VERY obvious to me, and often it does. Also, it can help if there are others to consult (doctors, friends, family members who know a good bit about the situation) but in the end, you and he are the ones living it daily and should have the most input. The hard part is seeing it objectively, but time can help us in that regard.

  9. I can’t begin to tell you how this spoke to me today. Wonderful! Thank you.

    • Thank you Jena. I am so happy you are here. ❤ My forget-me-nots are in full bloom! A bit of Alaska right outside my back door.

  10. raynard a shellow

    Julia I’m going to take you back to March of 1969. We had just moved from a tenement apartment to a two family house. As you went into the attached room on to the backyard patio there it was. A small crowded yard. What makes this yard unique wasn’t the neighbor to your right or front. It was the neighbor to your left who’s grapevine overflowed into your yard. In front of that was a rose bush. But the second most beautiful sight to see was these almost purple powder blue flowers. It would take years of trips in my mind and Google to find the name of those flowers. Hydrangea. I just looked up and still see them in my mind over 47 years ago.. Yes I did woke up and smelled the roses lol be blessed BTW this was back in Brooklyn NY..

    • Raynard, thanks so much for that time travel. I LOVE hydrangeas! It would be so pretty to have those alongside roses. I have been told that the hydrangea flower ranges in color from pink to blue, depending on how acidic the soil is. So yours really may have been almost purple – blue with a bit of red mixed in. We planted some pink ones in our back yard and they are slowly morphing into blue, having passed through a purple stage. 47 years ago I was reading about Brooklyn (in one of my favorite books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) and dreaming of going there someday. Little did I know that I’d be sitting here at nearly 60, talking online to a Brooklyn native about a flower I had never heard of in those days either. Life is so cool that way. BTW I had a friend who lived in East New York (on Dumont) and I went to see her in 1973 which was my first trip to Brooklyn. We went to the river and looked at the Manhattan skyline at night from across the water. It’s a wonderful memory.

      • I love that book, Julia. It’s one of my favorites.

        • Really? That is so cool! That book holds the distinction of being the one I’ve read more times than any other, with the possible exception of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. I lost count of how many times I read those two books, but I have many sentences from them memorized (not intentionally, just that they’re so much a part of me). I don’t think I ever identified quite as much with any literary characters as I did with Francie Nolan and Bonnie Green. Maybe their pluck and determination in the face of adversity sowed the early seeds for this blog. 🙂

          • Rene

            A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was one of my favorite books as a teen as well. My grandfather owned a pawnshop in Yuma and would bring (or send) books home to Riverside. When I was about 15, we helped tear down an old shed at my grandmother’s house & I found an old copy (with a war bond ad on the back cover). I’ve read it numerous times since. I remember going through a trying to read every book in the library phase a la Francie.

            • WOW, how cool to have such a vintage issue! I too used to imagine trying to systematically read every book in the library as Francie did, but I could never manage it since I did not live in walking distance to a library, and actually, never have yet…one more fantasy I have yet to live out. But I did admire the way she let herself have a “skip” on weekends and ask for a recommendation! 🙂 Sometime we’ll have to exchange more “Francie” notes…

  11. Aren’t they just the most wonderful words Julia, ‘Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.’ I painted it out once and had it on my fridge door when I first began living in the here and now and practising gratitude and letting things be and go – it was such a powerful line to contemplate then and remains so! She is a wonderful writer – as are you! xoxo

    • It’s so fascinating to me, the way some poets and writers can string simple words together to create such an impact. I’m happy to know you had this poem on your fridge! I had not heard of it till just recently, though I was familiar with Brooks and the power of her work. Thanks so much for your kind words. I appreciate your encouragement!

  12. Dorothy

    Thank you for today’s blog, and all the other days as well. Nevertheless live! Not always easy during trying times but so true. About a month after Neil passed away I remember waking up one morning and saying to myself, this was how it was going to be from now on, just me, so get on with life and live. Our family and friends need us as we need them. Speaking of hydrangeas, we have white, pink, blue and almost purple! I just love them, they have a clean fresh perfume. Ours look sad at the moment as autumn approaches, at last, after a prolonged summer. Will be cutting them back shortly so they’ll be blooming beautifully about November here. Gardening is such good therapy as is music. Hope your day is good. Love and prayers. Dorothy.

    • Dorothy, thanks for sharing with me about your own journey. It does help to learn of how others were somehow able to survive and keep going. How wonderful that you have so many colors of hydrangeas! I first became familiar with hydrangeas from seeing them on Lombard Street in San Francisco. In fact, according to at least one account, that’s how it became such a famous tourist destination: “Bercut’s plantings did not hold back the erosion until, after a trip to his native France, he had the idea to plant hydrangeas. The brilliantly-colored block became known by people living in the neighborhood, but was not a tourist destination until, in the late 1950s, a photograph showing the hydrangeas in bloom was published, and in 1961 was printed on a postcard. Soon thousands of tourists were driving down the street.” Hmmm, maybe we’d better keep your address a secret! 😀 YES, gardening is wonderful therapy. Maybe the best there is. Thanks so much for sending your love & prayers – you have mine!

  13. Beautiful, powerful and oh so true. Arms around you, Julia. I suspect this post will resonate with many.

    • Thank you, Alys. ❤

  14. HarryS

    Be careful of the Monkey-brain.

    • Harry, you will be relieved to know that I have obtained a copy of the book Monkey Mind from my local library, and plan to read it soon. 😀 I have an idea that much of it will be familiar!

  15. You wrote this beautifully as did you with the other other post about what we say to ourselves. It resonates and it’s possible I don’t have the full understanding of what you are saying here as I’m still coming to consciousness this morning. I am usually alone in a room full of people which Is why spending a great deal of time alone physically actually feels better. What you are going through, no one else can comprehend. It’s unique to you in so many ways while they may have had similar experiences, it’s still just your experience and it’s different than theirs. Hugs.

    • Thank you Marlene! Sometimes I think I am constantly “still coming to consciousness” especially lately. I agree, it’s often preferable to actually be alone rather than surrounded by groups of people. I never feel alone anyway; that’s why I love connecting through reading and writing. People can be with us whenever we want, as we read their words. It’s a paradox: each of us has unique experiences that no one else can totally understand, but somehow this draws us to each other. Giant hugs! ❤

  16. Susan

    Thank you Julia, your words are powerful and strong, I get it. You are a beautiful garden. Our prayers are with you in the midst of the storms.

    • Thank you Susan. Your presence here and your words of encouragement give me strength. ❤

  17. You’re right J, I don’t entirely grasp the innuendo within. But I do know, “you are a force”. No gale nay roar could stifle your tenacity. All for those you love most and I’m constantly in awe. Carry-on, I shall try to keep up. xo K

    • My goodness, you are ahead of me, but thanks for those kind words. It’s much easier to carry on when I am surrounded by such good examples. 😀 ❤

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