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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY:   The sunflower of our hearts

© Another Day in the Country

A friend stopped at my door the other day on his way to a funeral. He was holding a big bouquet of flowers.

“Oh, how lovely,” I exclaimed. “Are they for Karen?”

“They’re for you,” he said. “Karen can’t see them, so I brought them to you!”

It was a beautiful thought — a beautiful bunch of flowers, too. Appropriately, for a Ramona girl, and especially at this time of year. He brought sunflowers interspersed with orange lilies and sprigs of harvest-ready wheat. It was a Kansas bouquet for a couple of Kansas girls of about the same vintage.

“This is such a sweet gesture,” I said. “Now, here’s the deal. Someday when I die, give flowers to someone else. I’m already enjoying these!”

Then we made our way out to the cemetery to pay our respects to a gal who supported Ramona and anything good happening there, long after she’d moved out of town. This little town had a piece of her heart and she will always live in ours.

When school started this year and I was about to head for my favorite job — teaching art to elementary-age kids at Centre School — I looked around for some sunflowers to take for the children to draw.

Like many of you reading this column, these children had never really had the chance to examine a sunflower up close.  For most of them, sunflowers were pretty much just a weed growing in the ditches along the road.

To begin with, I asked the kids to tell me something about sunflowers beside the fact that they grew wild in Kansas ditches.  There was a chorus of voices in 3rd grade saying, “They’re yellow!”

And then we looked closer to find the shape of the leaves and the attitude of the stem. We counted petals and examined the rich brown center. Some of them had crown-like stamen circling the outside, some crowns were in the middle. We tried drawing the shape of the tiny leaves encircling a bud and noticed how it opened to eventually turn loose of the petals. We talked about all the fields full of agricultural sunflowers that farmers are growing this year and where they are located and did they see them this morning on the way to school and do they know whose field it is.

They could have talked all day but art is about looking, again and again and eventually really seeing something new in this weed from the ditch — something miraculous and beautiful.

I let a few of those wild sunflowers thrive in my flower beds just so that I have a ready supply in the fall when it’s time to introduce a new batch of 3rd graders to the wonderment of sunflowers.

This year when I went hunting in the ditches the middle of August, sunflowers were few and far between and I wondered if the summer drought had affected their survival. But by the time September rolled around, they were beginning to show their bright faces and right now they are in their prime, lining the roadsides like sentinels of joy, calling out to us to take some time to enjoy the view while we may.”

Driving home from Lindsborg the other day I saw the first of the tall graceful windmills that will soon be dotting our horizon in Marion County.  It’s a new look. Something to get used to, just like any change on the landscape that we hold so dear.

By the time huge grain elevators were a norm on the Kansas prairie, I was a child. They were just part of the normal view as we approached a town and I loved the way they towered over everything. I’m sure when they were first built, they were something to get used to — but then again they spelled progress and in hard times, with fewer farmers, “progress” was really important.

Before silos, it was often the church steeple that was the highest thing, towering over the trees and the rooftops. And times keep changing and it is part of life to grieve what we’ve lost and adjust to what is new — even to see beauty in that change.

I took a picture of those towering windmills rising up over the landscape and sent it to my daughter living in California.

“Look what we’ve got,” I said.

In the photo there were sunflowers blooming in the foreground.  Something old and something new on another day in the country.

Last modified Sept. 13, 2018

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