Suddenly sunflowers

Where I live
rolling fields
of soybeans, tobacco,
and occasionally cotton
are the familiar.
I imagine
it all looks like
a patchwork quilt
of various textures
and patterns,
from the sky.
Driving by
the pastures
where the pair of old mules
lived and died,
on my way back to school
at summer’s end,
I see something
unexpected.
Sunflowers.
Tall and tangled,
bordering a garden.
Light-seeking sentinels
with open faces
and inner resources
as myriad
as seeds.
At sight of these
yellow-petaled suns
my heart leaps
a little.
Is this what they’re mostly for,
sunflowers?
Beyond seed, oil, fiber,
beyond cleansing the soil
and waters
of nuclear radiation,
burning with their own
silent, mysterious fire
just to inspire?
I realize as I drive
backroads I’ve not driven
in a while
that they are everywhere.
All around me.
Whole fields of them
where I’ve never seen them
before.
They buoy my spirit.
Whatever task
lies before me,
I am up to it.
I stop at a store
to buy sunflower seeds
for my workday lunch salads,
as if channeling
the power of the sun
while remembering
what Van Gogh said,
as he painted:
The sunflower is mine,
in a way.

*******

My first encounter with sunflowers was in childhood summers spent deep in the countryside. My grandmother’s brother, who suffered trauma at birth and who lived alone in the old homeplace with his siblings looking after him, planted sunflowers in his garden. I marveled at their towering height and how their faces always followed the sun. Fields of sunflowers have indeed been planted to remove toxins from the soil after nuclear radiation. They are cleansing, healing, and surprisingly buoyant: their stems were used as filler for the first life jackets.

There could hardly be a more encouraging motif as the new school year gets underway.

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the space and invitation to share these noticings in the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge.

25 thoughts on “Suddenly sunflowers

  1. Oh Fran, again, just perfection. Tall and tangled so lovely. I did not know that they cleansed the soil. I know they cleanse my soul. I adore them in fields and could look at them for hours. How lucky they surround you and always have. When we need to remember how lucky we are, I think sunflower gazing helps. I am grateful for all who plant them. Such golden happiness. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for this “golden” response, Janet! Love this thought of yours, that sunflower-gazing helps to remind us of how lucky we are. That goldenness and goodness and hope remain in this world.

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  2. I read this poem like the long stalk of the tall sunflower and stopped here:
    “They buoy my spirit.
    Whatever task
    lies before me,
    I am up to it.”
    Yes. I, too, am up to it. Thank you for such beauty in words and thoughts which lift me as I prepare for another year of the unknown. Sunflowers are good teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sunflowers are a favorite of mine. I planted seeds this year that made a minimal show. My favorite line is “Light-seeking sentinels
    with open faces” These flowers do uplift spirits. A friend of mine grew them in fields during the 2020 shut down and would deliver to people’s homes. Healing for both giver and receiver.

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    • “Sunflowers feel so steadfast” is a line of poetry, Erika! As is “workhorse flowers”. Love these phrasing and a bouquet of them would surely illuminate the grayest day. Thank you for these rich images.

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  4. You have this unique talent, Fran, of writing posts that I want to respond to right away, but know that it would be better to let your works sink in, seep in, marinate. I’ll be back with another comment, but I just…want…to let your words travel in my pocket for a bit. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A two-part treat for us today–your observant, hope-filled poem, and some new facts to store in my brain about sunflowers. There is a wholeness to this piece, the way you take in the fields, then literally take in the seeds for lunch, finishing with beloved family connections. It’s been a long while since I grew sunflowers, but now you have me contemplating the possibility…

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    • I am going to have to ask the local farmers why so many of them have planted sunflowers around here this year, Chris. Whole patches and fields, some bordering a cornfield around the bend…just, why? Why all around and why now? I can’t recall seeing any here before! I hope you will plant sunflowers again. I want to know what would come of it… and many thanks for your words.

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  6. Fran, three re-readings and each reveals new words to love and ponder. I’m printing this poem to place in my writer’s notebook. Your words call to mind fields of sunflowers in Kansas where my husband grew up. We haven’t been there for a long time. Here’s my latest favorite phrase: “…light seeking sentinels…”
    Your words always bring light to my days and remind me to turn to the LIght as these flowers do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ramona – I’m delighted that you would keep my sunflower poem in your notebook. I’ve noticed since writing it that the sunflower image is popping up everywhere – just like actual ones in the fields around my home! I still need to inquire of local farmers as to why this unusual abundance has been planted… anyway, after writing and posting I went to school and the first teacher I met with was wearing sunflower leggings. I took it as a a promising sign. I’ve even discovered that sunflower seeds are an ingredient in my favorite emollient. Who knew. Sunflowers are so resourceful, such encouragers, vibrantly reminding us to follow light-seeking suit…many thanks for your words!

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