The sunflower field came into bloom this week. A mere six days ago, the field was nothing but green. We obsessively greensunflowerfieldwatch it as the earth begins to make her shift from summer to fall and on Monday morning, JB sent me a text to tell me it was beginning to bloom.

Sure enough, as I drove by this morning on my way to Office Depot for paper, the field was ablaze with yellow and gold beauties. I promised myself that I would stop on my way home.

And I kept that promise.

I pulled in behind a silver minivan and she stood on the edges of the field trying to capture the colors. As I walked closer to the flowers, she smiled at me.”The ground is soft,” she cautioned.

We had a heavy rain yesterday afternoon and not enough sun yet today to dry the earth.

I am not dressed to explore today, so I carefully walked along the edges  of the field. Then I gingerly squat to get on eye level with the giant golden beauties and begin to frame the glorious field with the magic camera in my phone. I don’t consider myself a good photographer, yet I know that capturing images of my ordinary life helps me seize the present moment as it forces me to slow down and breathe.

The field is luminous and overflowing with life. A feast for my eyes and a nourishing feast for the bug world. I see bees, flies, ladybugs and grasshoppers exploring. I am regretting not having my regular camera, but I keep snapping safe_sunflower_anglephotos to share on Instagram and in the newsletter.

Then I see a butterfly making her way among the flowers. She settles on a giant bloom and treats herself to a banquet of pollen. I want to capture her, but I’m too far away.

I tiptoe between the rows, watching my feet.

When I look up, she is gone.

In focusing on being careful, I have lost her.

Not only have I lost her, but I discover that the ground isn’t just soft, it’s muddy. I’m not dressed for exploring and my black sandaled feet have sunken into the soupy clay.

I sigh in frustration.

The woman in the silver minivan leaves and a black jeep pulls in.

I snap a few more photos now that I’m deeper into the field. And then I see her again.

This time, I keep my eye on her and ignore the glop suck pull process of moving through the thick clay. She moves again, teasing me to continue following her.

I do.

Even after the earth becomes greedy and sucks one sandal off my foot.

It was then that she stopped and began fanning her wings for me. I hold my breath as I snap snap snap away, knowing that in order to get one good photo, I may need to take dozens. So, I do.

And then it’s time for my monarch friend to continue on her journey.

muddymessyAnd time for me to come back to the real world. I have writing to do, more errands to run and coaching calls to prep for.  I recover the lost sandal and make my way to the edge of the field towards firmer ground, yet my feet become mired again. I realize  only way I’m going to make it back to the car is remove and then carry my mud caked shoes.

As I stand beside the car in my bare grubby feet, I wonder how I’m going to make it home this way.

The woman in the jeep eyes me, shakes her head and drives away.

I am forty-seven years old and haven’t played in the mud since I was twelve.  Yet, as a child, sinking my feet into the earth was a gratifying experience. What has compelled me to try to stay so clean all these years?

I laugh and breathe in this moment. My inner child is curious and delightful. And messy. And that’s okay.

I dump my purchases onto the backseat and slip the filthy shoes into the Office Depot bag.  I find a few napkins in the console and wipe the bulk of the mud off my bare toes. Then I drive home, drag out the hose to rinse everything off and go into the house.

I am grateful there are a pair of slippers in the laundry room, just inside the door.

I love things to be nice and neat, but at it’s core, life is messy. It’s supposed to be gloriously flawed, yet I spent most of my years hoping that if everything was perfect, I wouldn’t feel sad or unloved or unworthy.

monarchbutterflyPerfection, though, meant I didn’t feel quite alive, though.

In order to live, we have to be present and allow for the muck. We have to keep our eyes on the butterflies of living, because staring down at the narrow path we’re trying to watch sucks all the joy out of us.

We miss the beauty of life when we’re trying too hard to make it perfectly beautiful. We will always miss those moments that take our breath away if we’re only looking at our feet.

We worry about what the strangers are going to think of us, so we don’t step as boldly into our lives as our soul is begging us to do.

A good reminder on a week that has frankly been challenging on the creative front. I’ve been so afraid of things not coming out perfectly that I’ve been doing everything I can to avoid the work.Afraid to step in, afraid to get messy.

But my inner creative force – that creative child – understood that life is supposed to be experienced with all our senses and therefore will be messy.

Because the results of that mess are worth it.

What about you? Do you stare at your feet and miss the sheer beauty in your life? How can we all listen to that inner child of ours?