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When You Feel Buried

During my incarceration experience I walked everywhere. It didn't matter that I fractured my ankle after rolling off the top bunk in the middle of the night. Still I walked, and I did so with 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 it wasn't a pretty shade of blue either. Not like cobalt or ocean or turquoise. Perhaps no shade would have been pretty fashioned as a state uniform.

My body acclimated during that time period. I learned to adapt to being outdoors often, and in all of Ohio’s unpredictable weather. During the sweltering heat warnings of summertime, 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, my favorite comfy sweaters, and carved pumpkins for the porch at home.

One spring day, when the sun began to show itself again, bringing hope of warmer weather, something caught my eye on one of the many walks. Inside a fenced demolition site of a condemned and torn down housing building, sat a heaping pile of rubble. I noticed something in the rocks and debris that caused me to do a double take. The way one does when spotting something on their everyday route like a new billboard or park bench that wasn’t there before. I couldn’t help but linger for a moment, even though I wasn’t supposed to stop “out of place.” (Ironic, because I wasn’t home and always felt out of place there). It was a dainty little thing, budding and pushing its way up into the light. A small white flower, with a yellow center, growing right there in the middle of all that had been demolished. As one who lacks gardening skills, I couldn’t tell you what lovely type it was. For all I know it could have been one of those weeds that grow wild and pretty. Regardless, I couldn’t help but admire its beauty. 

There are many different directions I could go to talk about the unexpected flower. I could tell you there is much good still present, even in the most challenging seasons of life, and that would be true.  I could explain that endless beauty can come out of the most devastating and heartbreaking things I have gone through in life, and that would also be true.  I could share the saying “bloom where you are planted.” I believe it to be so for myself and for a girl in prison who taught herself Spanish and French while incarcerated. Fluently.

Yet for this moment, there seems to be something more pressing. It starts with a Mexican proverb I once heard, 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 the wispy little flower blooming in the middle of the rubble. You see, I felt like I had been buried in my own life. Like the Sarah I used to know was gone, along with any hope for a future. All that remained were the memories of what used to be my life. My feelings seemed to mirror the lives of the women who had lived inside these razor-wired fences, now reduced to rubble on the edge of the compound.