I began planting mammoth sunflowers years ago because I wanted flowers in my garden to tower over my children. There’s an old photo I have of my toddler walking barefoot among enormous stalks. I planted a veritable swath of sunflowers this spring. Late summer is the pay-off season, when the first of these blossoms open. The first head is so enormous it can’t really do its follow-the-sun heliotrope deal — but its flower siblings shift all day.

One fall, a number of years back, I had just two of these beauties, so much taller than myself. After the snow fell and the birds cleaned every scrap of seed, I cut off the dried blossom and propped it on a ceiling beam. The sunflower remained there all winter.

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower…

Galway Kinnell

Gold, On a Rainy September Morning

Good lord, what a mystery this single sunflower holds — and how my creative attempts pale in comparison. This photo is a mere image — the beauty itself fell from a 10′ stalk, pecked where head joined stalk by birds. I picked it up from the grass and carried it into the house into both hands.

I first planted sunflowers many years ago, when I was a very young woman, after I admired a single enormous sunflower in a woman’s garden. The face of the sunflower was so heavy it hung down. I stood beneath this great bloom of pure gold, staring up. That sunflower’s size and beauty was improbable. How, from a single seed, from soil and water and light, did such a beauty emerge?

And yet, evidence to the contrary.

What a forest of sunflowers this year. Weeding in the garden, I hear the leaves rustling in the wind, like a canopy in a forest.

I don’t think there is any other solution than constantly coming to terms with the past, and learning from it.

—  Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness


Sunflowers, My Daughters, Their Stories

I remember when I first heard the phrase “he’s one of the old ones” regarding a small child, as though some souls could harbor more depth, or a greater history, than others. Surely that’s mistaken, that our judgement is clouded by our own misperceptions.

With my own children this evening, I sat at the kitchen table while my older daughter ate a late dinner as she recounted her babysitting saga. She told us about teaching the little children to write their names. Laughing and talking about the various strands of our separate days, I marveled at how my girls look at their own unique worlds, laying all the manifold pieces of their lives – wonderful and mysterious and outrightly sad, too – in ways and patterns I hadn’t considered, not at all cliched but fresh and newly alive, as they create their own female stories.

The Sunflowers
by Mary Oliver

Come with me
into the field of sunflowers….

each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,
is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.


Photo by Molly S.

How Time Shifts, or Doesn’t

In Hardwick, Vermont, today, a woman approached me and said, I know you. As she spoke, I realized she had worked, over ten years ago, at State Street Market in Montpelier. Although that market had long since closed, and I had only rarely gone there, she remembered me with a small child. She said, Your little girl was so darling.

I listened while this woman unwound her life for me, spinning from a broken, unhappy marriage to touring as a circus cook, then living in a Buddhist retreat. Her face gradually rubbed into familiarity as I remembered those days from so long ago, my daughter’s warm hand in mine, walking among the high shelves of that market, in a place I remembered as sunny. I had repeatedly purchased a few particular things: yeast for root beer I brewed in gallon jugs and sold at a farmers market, umeboshi vinegar, a carob-covered rice cake for my daughter. The hippiest, strangest collection. How she would laugh at this now.

While this woman leisurely told me her story, I missed my little girl, my ruby-lipped merry child, the world that seemed often merely the two of us. Listening as the woman told me of her cancer and surgery, her own healing, I thought of how my eyes often catch on my daughter these days, this tall and lovely young woman still suffused, chock-full, with that vibrant, radiant energy, yet blossoming into a flower with myriad, distinctive layers of petals. Within, though, that small child is folded within her being, as that younger woman with the packets of yeast in her hand is meshed through my own womanhood.

Unlocking the bookstore door this morning, above Hardwick’s Main Street in the clear blue sky, nine turkey vultures circled, near enough I saw their tail feathers flickering in the breeze’s constant motion.

On Columbus’ first encounter with the new world…

…he said that it was such a joy to see the plants and trees and to hear the birds singing that he could not leave them and return. He says that this island is the most beautiful that eyes have ever seen.

Photo by Molly Blume S.

Photo by Molly Blume S.