You Belong Among the Wildflowers.

By: Jen Shoop

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by

-Tom Petty

I listened to this song (covered by Drew Holcomb) by chance last week and found myself, improbably, moved. My life is pretty far from wildflowers at the moment. Raising two children and running a business leaves little room in the margins for the kind of wanderings Petty invites. Listening to the lyrics, though, I found myself instinctively chiseling away at the things on my mind that did not matter, as though a student simplifying a fraction. And I was reminded, too —

Of how much “Wide Open Spaces” (by The Chicks) meant to me as a teen. I must have listened to it hundreds of times on my Sony Discman, laying on my stomach on the blue carpet of my childhood bedroom. “She needs wide open spaces / room to make her big mistakes / she needs new faces / she knows the high stakes”: I’d listen and I’d listen and I’d beg for life to happen to me.

My high school year book quote ran: “She wanted to be alone, where it was high and cool.” (From a Fitzgerald novel.) It was a horribly affected choice, but not untrue. I had spent most of the summers of my childhood in Colorado, and I knew exactly the sensation I was after: I wanted a livable transmogrification of the intensity and expansiveness of the blue skies in Aspen. The way you’d feel yourself drawn in, then out, in a pleasant kind of vertigo. Elizabeth Bishop captured it perfectly:

The world is a mist. And then the world is

minute and vast and clear.

I’d live to experience it.

When I was nineteen, Mr. Magpie took me driving through the sticks of Virginia. We were going tubing, and had to offroad to the launch point. I’ve written hundreds of times about that core memory, the way my bare feet looked on the dash, the cut of his profile at the wheel, branches of hornbeams and blackgums thwacking the side view mirrors. He used to rest his hand on the gear shift of his Jeep casually, absent-mindedly, and he’d intermittently reach for my fingers. When we’d jostle over a root or divot, he’d yell: “HANG on, baby!”, and the way he’d say “hang” would come out like howl. I can still see him standing on the bank of the James, holding my sandals. It felt like we were the only people on earth. Everything seemed to blur around the periphery, even the time of day and the year, and yet it was though I was seeing water up close for the first time.

I’d live to see more moments like that, most with Mr. Magpie, some entirely alone.

I remember driving home from work one warm spring night when I was maybe 22 or 23. Mr. Magpie was going to take me out to dinner that evening, and I had just “purchased” my first car. My parents had actually paid for it, used, in cash and offered me an interest-free loan to remunerate over the course of a couple of years. The sun was setting on the Potomac, and I was driving over Key Bridge with my sun roof open, and I felt as though my soul was radiating outside my body. How could one person have so many good things? I saw the seagulls, and the cherry blossoms, and the reflection of the waterfront on the water, and I felt the wind in my hair, and the sun on my face, and the sensation of unencumbrance born of the license of my own car, as though it signified my adulthood. I imagined Mr. Magpie’s imminent arrival on my doorstep. He would appear as he always did: freshly-showered, tender-eyed, expectant. I felt recklessly happy.

Those experiences of near-heedless, ecstatic open-heartedness are fewer and further between these days. This is not necessarily a demotion; I find joy more frequently, but in much smaller doses, in my current life. Happiness arrives in startling sips, in little dots along the seams of my days, rather than the enormous gulps of my younger years.

And maybe this is the way of aging? Things settle and shift and shrink in some places?

But maybe, too, it is good to endure the agita of Tom Petty reminding you that you (still) belong among wildflowers, because —

well, maybe it’s a good idea to cut bait and do less today,

to play hooky with your husband,

to go somewhere you feel free.

Maybe the wildflowers aren’t so far afield.


+On offroading.

+On Mr. Magpie’s Jeep! (“His foil and ferry.”)

+More on the early days with Mr. Magpie.

Shopping Break.

+Another gorgeous Easter dress option. I ended up having to return the Horror Vacui dress I’d bought because my tailor thought it would be too difficult to take in without altering the style.

+These Zara sandals give major YSL vibes.

+This striped button-down comes in such pretty colors! Love the pink especially!

+This $100 bag is reminiscent of Pam Munson.

+I’ve been looking for a pretty planter for a small plant we keep next to our sink. This one is elegant, but I’m also eyeing a pretty tole option.

+Pretty sarong to pair with your favorite new suit.

+An attractive baby playmat.

+Such a pretty coffee table book. I gave this to my MIL one Mother’s Day — she is the QUEEN of cut flowers.

+The details on this top!

+Precious crib sheet for a little one for $10.

+Lusting after these new earrings from RDR.

+Fun party/vacation dress alert.

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2 thoughts on “You Belong Among the Wildflowers.

  1. catching up on posts today but ooof this one hit me. i, too, remember that earnest feeling of begging for my life to unspool – can distinctly recall wanting to fast forward to an adult life where i envisioned wearing high heels & lipstick EVERY DAY. which, to be fair, i do most days now (!) and love, but also recognize is not quite the norm for the majority of professional adults (DC is such an anomaly!). however, i can also internally chuckle at my teenage-self vision of adulthood equalling nothing but business formal *importance* daily.

    similarly, i felt this to my core: “I felt as though my soul was radiating outside my body. How could one person have so many good things?” i find myself arrested by that fleeting realization & questioning the same thing near-weekly, even still. it’s almost unsettling to feel so overfilled and grateful for so many wonderful things in life… i keep waiting for that Big Bad Thing to happen, which may not be a healthy mentality, but i truly recognize how blessed and blissful my life has been & remains. that’s not to say that daily frustrations, anxieties, spirals, etc. don’t occur (oh, they do!) but on the whole, i find myself almost helpless in gratitude at how many things have clicked into place, from my partner, to our extended families, to our daughter, friendships, careers, comfort, privilege, all the things. hopefully the conscious recognition of that abundance, in and of itself, is something to grasp onto.

    1. I completely relate to this, Erica – the sense that there is too much good and something bad must be lurking around the corner. Hard to really remain present sometimes! I agree that focusing on gratitude is the best path forward.


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