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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Significance of Sunflowers

Photo: amoreint.com
Monday was the Monday-est Monday I can remember for a long time. This week, they're doing work in my building too, so the space invasion is feeling extra invade-y Yet somehow, I remain somewhat philosophical about it. Perhaps it's because I'm fully and properly caffeinated, or maybe because I know it's temporary. All thing in life can't be cool and groovy all the time. Not only would it be boring (though I will admit to being all set with nail-biting, tooth-grinding events. ALL set) but there would be no contrast. There's lots to look forward to, not the least of which is "spooky season". I get giddy just thinking about it. Besides, (okay, awkward and lumpy segway) I hail from the "sunflower" tribe. I didn't always, but I surely do now. It's all good.

People often overlook sunflowers. They aren't popular in bouquets and when you think of beautiful things, sunflowers may not immediately spring to mind. But they actually ROCK.

Whenever I could, I planted giant sunflowers somewhere on my property just to have them around. Just looking at them made me happy, so why not? A few years ago, I had five of them growing in front of my home. It was August, and they were tall and strong and AWESOME. In an exceedingly unusual turn of events, we had a small tornado (an EF-0) kind of stroll right past my property (on rt2 in Grand Isle to be more specific). It was TERRIFYING. My dogs were glued to my legs and I could hear the ripping and tearing sounds of siding and shingles being forcibly removed. I saw all kinds of greenery flying past my kitchen window horizontally at an alarming rate, and hear the sounds of hail threatening to break glass. I had enough time to think "Holy crap, I'm going to die" a few times when it all suddenly stopped. Everything was a mess. It was kind of surreal. But my sunflowers still stood in my front yard. Their heads were bent over and their leaves were shredded, but they were the only thing I planted that year that wasn't just gone.

It was sad to see them looking so forlorn, and I was sure they were dead too, but I waited a few days to pull them up. Well, I never DID pull them up. Within a few days, their upturned faces were looking resolutely towards the sun again. They were renewed. From that time on they became my favorite flower.

There are flowers that are much more beautiful to be sure. But as a reason for existing, beauty alone doesn't mean much. When I think of beauty for it's own sake I think of orchids. They are delicate and unique. But when their exotic and ephemeral beauty is gone, there's nothing left. Some folks think of roses when they think of beauty, and they ARE beautiful. They are not quite as delicate as an orchid, but they have thorns. Some say the thorns are worth it for they joy the flowers bring, but long after the blooms are gone the thorns remain. Something to think about.

I want to be a sunflower. I want my beauty to be about my strength, a determined kind of joy and a desire to keep my face turned to the sun. I know that life's tornadoes (and forgive this clunky metaphor) have beaten me around and torn me up, but I was not left destroyed with my head hanging, at least not for long. I love the happy yellow petals of sunflowers, they are the color of joy. I love that when the summer is over, they aren't just dying and done, they have more yet to offer. With maturity they feed the birds, they feed us. They have something yet to offer beyond the way they look.

Last year, I was going through a bout of uncertainty. I was just about to finish my manuscript and I didn't know what would come next. What if I had done all that work for nothing? What if I had experienced all those sleepless nights, relived that nightmare, for no useful purpose? Then, inexplicably, I saw that a giant sunflower was growing in the small patch of grass near the dumpster behind my building. I don't have a yard anymore. I live on the 4th floor of an apartment building. As grateful as I am for manageable expenses and a safe place to be, I am really out of my element here. But there was a familiar sight sight in such an unlikely place. It was like seeing an old friend just when I needed them most. I felt a sense of reassurance as I watched it grow in such a inhospitable place, it's happy yellow face turned resolutely toward the sun. True or not, it felt like a sign just for me. The rest, of course, is history. I published my book and it's been a whirlwind of crazy-awesome since! It seemed unlikely (bordering on impossible) that a sunflower would just grow on that small patch of grass, and just as unlikely that my book would sell like it has, that I would get my picture in the paper, that I would be on TV and have a chance to think of my book being turned into a movie, and yet there it is.

Sunflowers, to me, represent resilience in the face of impossible odds and a fierce and determined joy. There's no bad there. Who know what's to come, but whatever it is, I bet it's good!