Grace in a Line of Risk

Grace is the bud of a rose in late summer risking the security of self to burst forth as a blossom that cannot close again.

Bud Before the Risk 0814

…and the day came

 when the risk to remain tight,

in a bud,

became more painful

than the risk it took to blossom.

(Elizabeth Appell)

This line has been appearing for around 35 years on journal covers, inside greeting cards, on opening pages of published books and, of course, on the Internet.

The only attribution I had seen was to Anaïs Nin who did not, it seems, write these words. There is a tangential reference to a bud in one of her novels but these words do not seem to appear in any of Nin’s work.

As much maligned as Internet resources are, this misattribution precedes the pervasive use of the worldwide web. I had to reach way back into my memory but I remembered first seeing the quote in the mid 1980s. This time, my memory was accurate.

It seems Elizabeth Appell wrote these words in 1979 when she was known as Lassie Benton, Public Relations Director at John F. Kennedy University (Orinda, CA) and editor of its adult education brochure.

Appell maintains she was “on deadline” when she scribbled those twenty plus words for the opening page of the brochure, perhaps determining their destiny to appear on other opening pages.

As editor, Appell would have not provided any personal attribution. In the ensuing years, the single line would Bud Opening 0814also be offered as a poem with the title “Risk.” Yet, life and truth have a way of revealing their sources, ultimately.

In 2009, the Anaïs Nin Blog received an inquiry about the risk line’s source but it was not until 2013 that Appell decided to offer her story as well as provide a copy of the brochure page that first featured the line.

Appell revealed that she has known of the confusion as far back as the 1980s having read her words in a greeting card. She wrote to the card’s publisher who never responded.

There does seem to be one instance of the poem attributed to Appell as Lassie Benton as well as some anonymous attributions but mostly, the poem is attributed to Anaïs Nin.

It was only when two of Appell’s friends brought her their published books with the quotation attributed to Nin that Appell decided to correct years of misattribution.

And she did so with the grace of the line she wrote. Honored that her hastily scribbled words to meet a deadline have meant much to many, Appell may have taken another risk in her response to a comment on the Anaïs Nin Blog:

I have been writing for a long time. Every now and then I hit a chord, but never like the chord I hit with the “Risk” line. To be in the literary circle of Anaïs Nin is a thrill. I’m proud and grateful.

(Elizabeth Appell)

To me, this story of grace in a line of risk demonstrates the lifetime that unfolds in each moment we experience. Rarely can we know the impact of the series of snapshots that are the moments of our lives. Yet, some snapshots will return revealing their source.

May we have the grace of Elizabeth Appell in the face of risk and blossom.

The Blossom 0814

17 thoughts on “Grace in a Line of Risk

  1. That is a very graceful and generous way of correcting the misattribution. It’s intriguing, too, how misattribution can gain a life of its own; and I think it’s something many of us will encounter with the advent of the web, with its uncanny ability to present both reliable fact and unreliable rumour without no way other than our own credulousness to distinguish the two. It’s something I live with, due to having such a common – er – popular name. I discover through Google, for example, that my best-selling book of all was apparently written by a Professor with the same name as me at the University of Exeter. So far I have been unable to get this corrected. Your post gives me pause for thought; there are two ways forward here – the graceful and the graceless; and I think, by any measure, that the way has been clearly led by Appell. Thank you, Karen, for highlighting her story!


    1. I thought of you as I wrote this post, Matthew. Oh, and just the other day, I did search for your books on Google–for the title of your soon-to-be-published book on coal–your blog was the top entry (and I found a link to the book title there) but within the top three was the professor. Have no idea whether or not that search result is progress. To me, you have always handled the issue with grace, and yours is much more than a single line. Appell’s story has certainly broadened my perspective on writing. It is a story I will remember, I suspect. Thanks, Matthew!


    1. For me, this story warms my heart every time I think of it but beyond that, it broadens my perspective on just what a writer gives to the world. And yes, may all of us, writers or no, have the grace of Elizabeth Appell. Thanks so much, August!


  2. “To me, this story of grace in a line of risk demonstrates the lifetime that unfolds in each moment we experience. Rarely can we know the impact of the series of snapshots that are the moments of our lives. Yet, some snapshots will return revealing their source.”

    🙂 lovely, lovely revelation.


    1. Ah, thanks, Meredith! Until Elizabeth Appell’s story, i don’t remember considering grace in risk but now, I cannot imagine why I never did. Again, thanks for the kind words.


  3. Amen to this. A wonderful lesson in grace, and Elizabeth Appell is obviously a class act. This made me wonder how I would react in a similar situation, should I be so fortunate to craft such a brilliant passage. I suppose we could all take a page from her book, so to speak. Another thought provoking post. Thanks, Karen.


    1. Oh, you got that right, Stephanie! Like you, I wondered how I would react. I do know this. In my younger years, I would have raged about it but now, I know I would not rage, which is not to say how I would react. I do not yet know the grace of Elizabeth Appell or (in the above comment) Adrian of slowdancejournal. Thanks, Stephanie!


    1. It certainly seems a “quest for grace.” Thank you for that phrase, Beth. I wonder whether ethics and balance require grace–it seems so –at any rate, Elizabeth Appell seems a woman who has all three. Appreciate you coming by, Beth.


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