Wildflowers of rural Saskatchewan ‘felt like a gift straight from God,’ writes Leah Perrault. Photo courtesy Blake Sittler

Barefoot and Preaching: Make space for wildflowers of the soul

By 
  • September 6, 2018

Growing up in rural Saskatchewan planted a special place in my heart for the wildflowers that grow in the ditches. Blue alfalfa, purple thistles, bright yellow brown-eyed susans. When I moved to the city to study, I saw them less frequently, and I did not realize how much I missed the wildflowers until I spent several weeks at a youth camp this summer, thanks to my husband’s working there and my maternity leave.

No one tends the soil for the wildflowers. They are not watered if it doesn’t rain. They flower regardless of whether anyone sees them. And still they grow, and bloom, and make the world richer and more beautiful. They felt like a gift straight from God every time I drove the gravel road.

The time at camp with our family was a fallow season for me. While Marc was working long hours, I got to chop vegetables beside my kids, play in the sand, read to kids piled in my lap. I heard the birds sing and sat still enough to see a mouse run across the floor. The kids and I got bored and found something to do.

There was enough quiet in my soul to see wildflowers bloom there. I found songs I had forgotten how to sing. One evening, I spent three whole hours drawing with pens. I was able to watch people from the sidelines and see them growing. 

Somewhere along the way in the last 15 years, my life became so full that every spare inch of soil was carefully tilled, meticulously planted and radically harvested. The garden of my life has been producing so hard for so long that there was no room for wildflowers. Grief broke the soil open, but only after the garden had been planted, so I hauled my tired hands out to reap the neglected but still salvageable harvest of the last year.

The wildflowers simultaneously mock me and invite me. There’s another way if I want to choose it. And I do.

All the great things that I schedule into my life crowd out the space for the wildflowers: impromptu Saturday morning pyjama play dates with families in our neighbourhood, messy science experiments on the deck, hunting for caterpillars, experimenting with new cookie recipes, repotting succulents to give away as gifts, time to play my guitar (not just try to get an hour or two a week to practice before my lesson). 

I think I’m learning that the domesticated plants of my life pour out my soul and the wildflowers fill it back up. I thought that I could schedule space and time for hobbies and fun and play and it would have the same effect. Turns out, I was wrong.

Wildflowers require empty space, exposure to sunlight and rain, and a most precious commodity in our world right now: time. 

As we head back into the season of sharpened pencils, alarm clocks and pumpkin spice, we are choosing an extended fallow season with less activities. We want less obligation, less rushing, less pressure. We are choosing more space for surprises, more choose your own adventure, more time for each other. We want more wildflowers.

Puzzles on the kitchen table and wrestling on the floor. Making cookies and delivering them. More weekend hours in pyjamas building blanket forts. Siblings arguing and parents having time to let them work it out. 

Picking up the phone instead of wishing I was. Cooking with the love of my life. Walking the dog until she’s tired. Sitting on the couch with tea and a novel. Letting the house get messy because we are living in it. Having time to visit with the neighbours.

I suffer from an acute case of fear of missing out. My head knows that when I say yes to one thing I say no to everything else. My heart needed a big step off the treadmill to remember what I have been missing. It took the brown-eyed susans to remind my fingers that they have to stop working to be painted in the sunshine on the deck with lemonade.

The worst part is that I never meant to crowd out the wildflowers. There were just gradually fewer of them, and I failed to notice they were gone. When I saw them again, I realized how tired the soil of my soul was. And I realized that I had lost something that could be found. 

Here’s to more fallow space and the weeds and wildflowers that God will grow in spite of me. May the harvest be richer for the time well-wasted.

(Perrault works in Catholic health care in Saskatoon and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com)

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