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.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things. 


  1. Raynard Shellow

    Good Morning Julia. I’m reminded of the poem The Autumn Wind. As Mary and I and two fur babies just came back from West Virginia via A Cannonball Run. The bbq was good as the mountains were many. Put a lot of miles on in 2 days. The only noise was both dog on their first ever road trip We also made a stop in Western P.A to see my parents. Oh by the way the trip was to see our grandson who got a college scholarship to play football. His older brother just joined the army 3 weeks ago. Hope to hear from you soon. Many pictures will be arriving in your email.

    • Hello Raynard, always a joy to hear from you and Mary and TWO fur babies! (I had forgotten about the second one – just remember Destiny.) BBQ and mountains sound like a great combination, and I’m so glad you were able to see your parents and grandson! I’ll have to go back through my email box, I don’t remember getting any recent pictures. Have a great summer and give Mary my love! (The dogs too, of course.)

  2. Good morning, Julia!
    I think this page didn’t load properly for me this morning, and I couldn’t see the name of the quoted poet. But her words were so compelling that I had to Google it, and read more of the poem.
    Recently, Mom told me why she feels so discouraged, because she feels “everything is a fight.”
    Yesterday I realized that I am feeling that way lately, too, from “fighting” with the Turbo Tax software, to resetting passwords, to fighting my way into and out of a bra, to fighting to pull my sheets up over me and my rotator-cuff-post-surgery-sling.
    Thankfully, only ONE MORE DAY of wearing this awful thing, and then I can start fighting my way through Physical Therapy.
    I hope your most recent surgery was a success too, although at this point, you probably feel you are also fighting with everything.

    • Hi Susan, hope your recovery is going well. Good luck with the physical therapy! Based on my secondhand knowledge from my sister and Matthew, it’s painful, but worth it.

      At this point? Not exactly. “Everything is a fight” goes way, way back for me, all the way to the day Matthew was born nearly 38 years ago. And the fight is on so many levels. Not just with uncaring or inattentive hospital staff, government bureaucracies, unethical insurance companies, intransigent school systems deliberately not implementing IEPs, or other impersonal battles. No, the worst fights are the ones that involve ignorance, prejudice, or even “polite” turning away of family members who are never there for us, or well-meaning but unintentionally insulting remarks from people — (e.g., one acquaintance who told me “my husband can’t stand to be near someone with [intellectual disability] — (she probably used the R word) — “he’s a wonderful person, but he just can’t stand to be around those people.” I didn’t know whether to be hurt at her for saying that to me despite her knowing about Matthew, or respectful of her honesty at voicing what was plainly obvious, though unspoken, for the vast majority of people we have ever known. This is just one of many stories I can’t seem to erase from my brain. And I don’t stay quiet about it. “We are the last of the loud.” 🙂

      And yet, NOT EVERYTHING is a fight. It just feels that way sometimes. Exhaustion does set in, but in our saner, more well rested moments, we count our blessings and find the strength to go on, blooming in the noise and whip.

  3. Judy

    This is such a timely post in that the US Surgeon General has spoken out this week about how so many Americans are feeling lonely:

    Some of us know that old familiar shadow of loneliness more than others do. It follows us around, sometimes behind us and out of sight and other times right there, long and evident in front of us. It’s an emotional loneliness.

    I remember when I first read Gail Sheehy’s book, Passages. Maybe realizing we’re solitary beings is just a reality that’s to be incorporated into a larger life-view, and even the beginning of wisdom and spiritual awakening. For me, faith in God gives it all a deep, meaningful perspective. We’re really not alone at all.

    • Judy, thank you for your always thoughtful, wise and helpful words. And thanks for providing that link! I found it interesting and not surprising. As you know, I have always sought to extend my digital friendships with face-to-face meetings, as the wonderful time I spent with you and Stew. I hope that more people are waking up to the understanding that quick clicks and “like” buttons and instant, undemanding online “relationships” can never replace human contact. The irony of writing this on a blog is not lost on me, but I stand by it after more than a decade of blogging.

      I definitely agree that being solitary is a gift to be embraced. Your last three sentences distill into a few words what I have learned in the nearly seven years since Jeff died, and to some extent, even before that. Many years ago I remember reading Thomas Moore’s Dark Nights of the Soul, and finding solace and intuitive sympathy with his view that melancholy isn’t something we should automatically rush to quell with distractions, medications, or other potentially therapeutic choices. There are gifts in sorrow – and indeed, God himself, in taking on human form, became known as the “man of sorrows.” Deep lessons in that, I think– the kind that take a lifetime to learn. Thanks so much for your steadfast presence with me on this journey!

  4. Mary Ellen Davis

    I get it.

    • ❤ ❤ ❤

  5. Debbie

    Powerful words, and oh so true. I had never read this quote before, thank you for sharing it.

    • I loved it the first time I ever read it, years ago. Glad you like it!

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