Barnes & Noble

Ronlyn's essay “Milkweed and Metamorphosis”
appears in this collection.

What is beauty? Why do women usually think they are not beautiful, and what do women and men find truly beautiful in life? These important questions are answered in The Beautiful Anthology: Essays, Poems & Art, the new book from the acclaimed literary site The Nervous Breakdown TNB Books. The answers will surprise you, shock you, amuse you, and make you think. Contributors to The Beautiful Anthology include best-selling authors Jessica Anya Blau, Melissa Febos, Robin Antalek, Greg Olear, and many more, for an eclectic, international combination of established and emerging writers and artists all riffing entertainingly on the theme of beauty. Declared a “stunning, unforgettable collection” by author Diana Spechler Who By Fire and Skinny, this groundbreaking anthology is not to be missed.


Excerpt from “Milkweed and Metamorphosis”

She knew what she was doing, that quirky native plant lady at the farmers’ market.

Every weekend, she stood behind her table filled with exotic-looking flowers and shrubbery. Nevermind that they grew in untouched perfusion in various parts of the state. Few nurseries carried hearty Louisiana swamp irises, American beautyberry, or Joe Pye weed. Unfamiliar to so many eyes, most plants in the containers had laminated signs with photos of mature blooms and foliage, sun requirements, soil preferences, and peak bloom months.

For years, I cultivated a traditional sense of aesthetics, what a proper garden should look like, what familiar plants belonged in groups together. My perception of beauty shifted when I saw my first Indian Pink. Clusters of crimson throats with yellow screams. I desired that wild exuberance, that fierce unexpectedness of color and texture, that proper nourishment for insects and animals. The plant lady fed my fix and soul. 

I coveted some native milkweed to add to our butterfly garden. Our neighbors, one block away, had a non-native patch in their front yard that had been devoured to the stem bases two years prior. That year, it was making a comeback. Prancing groups of monarchs brought delight at a distance, but the caterpillars would require closer proximity.

On the plant lady’s table that morning, I spied a lone milkweed plant, home to two tiny yellow and black striped caterpillars. One was the length of an almond, the other stumpy as a kidney bean. The emotional manipulation was genius. Who could resist something that cute?