You learn which plants grow well in your plot of earth. Sunflowers are among my “reliables.” Unlike sowing the tiny seeds of many flowers and greens, sunflowers oblige digging unique pockets for each seed. Somehow this makes them feel more like “individuals” as they poke through the soil. Like trusted friends, they nearly always show up. Once emerged, they zoom skyward so fast you can feel them growing by the day. It’s hard to fathom the amount of energy packed within those little seeds, powering leaves to sprout like rungs on a ladder, toward those showy blossoms. Plus that amazing feat, each day turning their radiant faces toward the sun.
They give in so many ways. Like true companions, they brighten my life. They’re a delight to see, and they aim toward the light, stabilize the ground that they grace, the energy they gift to others pollenates all manner of life, and even after their blossoms fade they offer nutritious food for further growth. Despite their stout stalks, I’ve noticed they do better as a community supporting each other.
In the area of earth where I garden, they must make it through all types of critters eager to feast on their energy. From the outset, voles, mice and squirrels will go for the seeds. Then rabbits want some of the tender sprouts, and untold insects eat the leaves. Like some people I’m honored to know, they just keep going and growing.
Occasionally I have volunteer plants show up in the garden—ones I didn’t plant. Who knows what circumstances gave them their start. They don’t fuss, they just honor the situation, accept their duties within this vast unknowable system, come forth and give. A few months ago, one came up in a bed where tomato plants had run their course. It was fenced and so safe from most furry critters. Though well behind the flowers in the nearby bed, it bravely climbed upward, solo. I happily watched it gain leaves, despite some insects pecking some holes, like the small challenges we all face.
As it crested a meter tall, I saw a small green bud had formed at its top. Its first nascent flower was on the way. I wasn’t sure what color it would be, and looked forward to seeing what burst it might share as it came into its own. One day a terrific storm came through, giving it a steep lean, and threatening its roots. I propped it, and gently tucked it back upright. It recovered. Suddenly, a few weeks later, the bud was gone and all the leaves were stripped.
We all know friends whose lives have been radically disrupted by unexpected events. Perhaps it’s happened to us. Storms come out of nowhere; sometimes roots hold fast; other times, if not for a bit of support, the blossoming ends. Sometimes a few leaves are lost, perhaps an accident causes some broken bones, or an argument unravels and deeply wounds emotions. Or it may be a more severe loss. Literally one that cuts a person to the core, stripping what we might have thought was our identity, leaving only a bare stalk.
Sometimes there is little support one can offer. I recall looking with some degree of sadness at the once vibrant and promising stalk. Resigned to accepting that hungry deer, and storms, and great loss were all part of the deal in the cycles of living. I went on appreciating what was still intact in the other beds, but was tugged by the lonely stalk whenever it caught my eye. I decided to water it every couple days.
There’s a miracle to the mysterious and unknown reserves that power life. An errant seed, after expending great energy to emerge, unaided, on its own in a barely tended spot, had drawn through its roots what the small patch of soil could provide, valiantly grown, and then was rendered a bare stalk with literally no above-ground way to draw energy. Then something extraordinary happened. Tiny nodules of green re-emerged on the stalk. Soon after, another bud appeared. Within a few weeks, a stunning crimson-gold flower had opened.
I can think of three people I love who are steadily recovering through major transitions. Maybe they are drawing upon unseen support from others, enhanced by their sheer grit. Though I believe they affect everything, I’m not privy to how the invisible dynamics of energies in the universe work. Nonetheless, these folks all continue to show hints of buds that I’m confident have an opportunity to blossom. Resilience is an incredible, astonishing life force.