Not Just a Sunflower

I love flowers, especially sunflowers. I grew the giant variety when I lived in Illinois where the dark, rich soil combined with the rain, sun and climate made for a gorgeous garden with the tall giants towering over the other colorful array of flowers that lie beneath them. I could walk through that garden and get lost as the plants were about twelve feet tall and the flower itself was perhaps twelve inches or more in diameter. They were marvelous flowers I grew from seeds. I enjoyed planting, watering and nurturing them, and watching them pop their tiny bodies out of the ground as they made their way from seed to mature plant. Even as they reached adult age and the flower beamed with pride and beauty it still held its value. People would stop as they drove past my home just to smile in appreciation of that happy flower, nod and wave with approval. Gravity would eventually take its toll on the giant and it would no longer be able to stand up straight but slightly bent and leaning down toward the ground, still worthy nonetheless. For as the season moved from summer to autumn the flowers now bent from the force of gravity would produce hundreds of perfect seeds and the circle of life would continue into the next year. Some would be eaten and appreciated for their great flavor, and some would go on to be replanted next season. Oh, the magnificence and triumph of the giant sunflower!

I began growing sunflowers again this year in my southwestern desert location with its hard packed soil, blazing hot sun and dry air. I wondered how this plant would take to this environment, and knew I would have to be an active part of its growth if it were to really thrive. I chose what I believed to be the perfect location for the plants, sunny but mostly early day sun, conveniently located where I could water frequently, and in the front yard so they could share their beauty and magnificence with every passerby. It took much effort on my part in comparison to the natural growing environment of the Midwest. With the right surroundings and all the care and attention I showed those sunflowers they began to grow and get strong enough that I could let them take off on their own with a little less attention. They were thriving. One day a group of preschoolers were on a walk through the neighborhood with their teachers and stopped in front of the house to admire, chat and giggle about them. I watched from my window beaming with pride. But, the sun grew hotter as summer progressed and it became more challenging to get those beautiful flowers to keep their heads held upward. Soon the giant flower would grow too big for its under-developed stem, and gravity would take its toll on them. My once happy flowers didn’t look happy at all. I started to neglect them, only watering occasionally and feeling they were not going to survive this environment. They drooped more each day and no seeds developed. Slowly I would start cutting them down so their appearance was not offensive to the neighbors. In a short period of time I decided it was time to give up completely, and sadly pulled each one out of the ground feeling as though they just couldn’t adapt.

On a recent night tour of the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix we were handed a packet of seeds as we were leaving. I stopped in my tracks as I noticed they were the giant variety of sunflowers. I looked, stunned, at the woman who handed me that packet. “I love sunflowers! Do these grow in the desert?” I asked. I’m not sure if it was the sheer delight of the three-year-old that came out in my expression and voice or that it was a slow night with not many visitors, but she handed me 4 more packets and said “yes they thrive here”. Well, then I must try again! Armed with seed packets in hand, a new found motivation and desire within, a little research, and a closer observation on my part I went on to try to grow these beautiful flowers again. I chose a new location, a rich fertilized soil, raised beds, lots of water and nurturing and watched my flowers grow with pride. I stayed with them this time, watched and waited patiently. They were thriving! As I sit here today, following an evening of rain, I look out in my yard on their strong, thick stems and newly forming flower, and I know they are just days away from unleashing their inner beauty to the outside world. The flowers and I will both be very proud in a few days.

The only difference this time was that I sought help, in the form of encouragement (from the woman at the botanical gardens), with planting (my husband), feeding and watering (my husband, son and daughter when I wasn’t available), with information, resources and advice from material I read and people that knew more than me. This time compared to the previous I am able see their strength where I saw weakness, their success where I saw failure, their growth where I saw stagnation and their continuation of life as I will undoubtedly harvest their seeds to reuse next season. For myself I saw a willingness to try again and accept that what was seen as failure may be simply a learning experience. I was willing to take a new and different approach, to solicit help. I refused to see the failure and I didn’t give up,

The sunflower and my family have much in common. When my children were young I saw their strengths, I encouraged them, I advocated for their rights, I nurtured, I accepted and I saw their value and wanted everyone else to see it also. They thrived; they grew, got stronger and more able to do for themselves what I used to do for them. Their inner beauty was beaming for the entire world to see. As we moved to a new location and lost our support system, and found a new system very different from the previous, with different processes and terminology, I began to feel defeated, content with status quo, and let things become stagnant and inactive.

As my girls became adults their achievements slowed and I was tired of fighting the system only to be rejected. Happiness eluded us and I began to see our failures, our unwillingness to try new approaches, and stagnation rather than growth. Recently I grew tired of feeling defeated and having to accept the unacceptable for my girls. As we began to move through the seasons of life, I realized I needed a new approach. I opened up my heart, asked for help from an already existent team, lost some team members and gained new ones. With willingness, continued effort and unending support from a variety or people and sources we are able to see what may have appeared before as failures were simply learning experiences. With patience, love and nurturing we see strength and growth, with the willingness to solicit help and form a team or support network it is easy to see what a difference asking and being willing to receive help can make. My adult children are once again thriving, changing, adapting, growing and continuously evolving, and I see their brilliance and worth. Oh, the magnificence, value and triumph of my beautiful family!

In gratitude,

Pam

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5 Responses

  1. Reading your story about the sunflower reminded me of Gwen and how much joy she got from watching her father plant his garden each year.She was also fascinated with ,of all things…house work!! She loves to dust and pick up things.She really is smart.Her disability is much worse than your daughter in that she moves by hopping on her knees.Her arms are fixed in a hug shape,yet there isn’t much she want try.Whatever you imagine to try,you will hopefully see some results.Don’t forget..they are an extension of you.God bless!!

    • Linda, our children offer us so many valuable lessons! Gwen sounds as though she sees no limitations in herself…what a wonderful gift! Melissa has that same enthusiasm for life and attitude which doesn’t allow her to feel defeated. It is a lesson for me to continue to see all the possibilities. I appreciate your response very much 🙂

  2. I love how you made me think of the “flowers” in my own life…thank you!

  3. Bob, I know the flowers in your life and you have much to appreciate!

  4. Your sunflower story reminded me of when my little six year old bff, Maebry was helping me water my garden. I bent down to pull our a weed and she said, Don’t pull it – it is so pretty.” May we all see the world through the eyes of children as their innocence and joy finds beauty where others only see weeds! Maebry has moved away but her “flower weed” continues to flourish in my garden and is a constant reminder of what all children can teach us…everything and everyone is beautiful in their own right.

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