When I was a child, sunflowers rimmed our vegetable garden and in late summer, I would hide among them. Their ranks were my sentinels. The grackles, my scouts, would raise an alarm with a noisy exit, my cue to crawl and crab walk through the cornfield to the opposite side. Death by a thousand paper cuts from the razor sharp leaves was better than being found.
As a teen, my favorite charm on a bracelet I wore 24/7 was a cloisonné sunflower. It was my talisman until I left home.
In 1996, at 32 and freshly divorced, having a sunflower tattooed on my hip seemed like a good idea. Sunflowers have a history of healing and represent happiness. Maybe through osmosis I would find both. After the artist added the last petal, I ended the session and said, “The flower is fine without a stem.” The pain was too much. From the tattoo needle or the implosion of my marriage, I wasn’t sure.
Today I take inventory of the sunflowers in my life. There’s the 4’x4’ canvas on the wall with close-ups of windblown yellow blooms. I brought it home because I aspire to be that free when I paint.
The first piece of art I sold featured a sunflower. The summer after my transplant, I painted our drab mailbox and adorned it with one. On a road trip out west, at a rest stop, I discovered the wild native sunflower is the official state flower of Kansas.
In my studio, by the window, are the ones that mean the most, though. Years ago a friend gave me an empty wine bottle because, “It has your name on it” she quipped. My nickname, anyway, on the label. The olive green glass container became the perfect vase for a bouquet of silk sunflowers. From an empty bottle springs the happiness and healing I sought for so many years.
This is the 22nd story in the Objects as Waypoints Writing Project series.