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:: self-love lessons from a sunflower field after a heat wave ::

The first time I ever walked through a sunflower field was 3 years ago (almost to the day.) My second time was today. Both were through the very same field, though the experiences could not have been more different. 

Even the sunflowers are feeling the effects of that 2020 stress, y’all.

I mean, literally? I understand that it was the heat wave we’ve been having in these parts that’s taken its toll on them.

But as I walk between the sections of sun-parched flower stalks doing their best to hold up heavy drooping blooms ringed in tresses of wavy wilted petals mussed and dampened from the briefest of long-awaited light morning rains, I feel a special sort of kinship.

These flowers have seen all sorts of better days. Still here they stand — bowed but by no means broken.

A field full of flawed, hard-won growth and tender heart-weary cheer — gently defiant, fatigued and fierce, like so many crumpled and tossed self-portraits unfurled and arranged on stage, these haggard blooms dare to quietly take up space and offer themselves up on display.

They remind us to love ourselves not in spite of but for our sundry wounds and scars, the weathering of which has brought us to exactly where we are.

They invite us by example to be so bold as to stick around and be seen in the muddled fullness of our experience, as imperfect and wrought and beaten down as we may feel to be.

And they urge us, too, to turn a fresh eye on what feels like failure and broken dreams and what we call wrong because it’s not what we thought it would be.

Have you ever really looked at the backside of a sunflower bloom? The part that cradles the blossom and connects it to the stalk?

It’s freaking beautiful. The curves and cuts of the leaves attached to the stalk are simply magnificent.

Although I’ve seen some of the spiky tips poking out from behind the big flower heads before, I’d never gotten to see the whole intricate beauty of what holds those babies up before. But today, as blooms drooped downward these normally hidden treasures were revealed.

Little is turning out as we thought it would these days, and it’s enough to wanna curl up and cry sometimes.

So cry. Wail and rage and weep and plead for change, for a break, for grace.

But don’t you dare be ashamed.

No matter how bowed you may be, you are not broken. Stand as you can with dignity and self-acceptance, and the quiet strength that comes with knowing that you do, indeed, got this.

And let your sunflower squad stand with you, also gently bowed and tuckered if that’s where they’re at too. To witness, to help hold you up, to be counted as one of many on your side.

post-script:

When the sunflowers finally got some of the rain that they needed, they hadn’t been equipped to fully receive it.

Some had been so hardened by the fight that their skin hadn’t been able to take it in right away, so the water must have run down, sometimes pooling in the weariness-exposed nook at the back of their bowed heads. You can see some of that in the pics.

Others went the opposite route and, spurred by their need seemed to bare and open every surface of themselves to the rain. This left them with mushy centers and sodden petals, already starting to rot as the sun rose higher and hotter in the sky. I didn’t take pics of those ones, feeling no need to expose them at their very most vulnerable.

The point here is this: Sometimes we go so long without what we need that we don’t know what to do when we get it.

We reject it. We hoard it. We willfully abstain or hungrily gorge on it. We find ourselves unhappy with it, without knowing why.

And we make ourselves wrong for all of it. 

But there’s nothing wrong with us in this. It’s just us being human. Or rather, it’s just us being a living, growing thing. At root (heh), we’re all the same.

Head on over to Instagram to see the pics from this year and 3 years ago.

Pics taken at Buttonwood Farms Ice Cream in Griswold, CT. They have a sunflower fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation every summer and then let their dairy cows into the fields to graze when it’s done.

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