The Sunflower Myth

The heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close;
As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
The same look that she turned when he rose. –Sir Thomas Moore

I read several versions of “the sunflower myth” a few days ago, and I can’t say any of them are pleasing. The story generally follows the plot below:

Clytie, was a water nymph. She was the daughter of the Titans, Oceanus and Tethys. She was the lover of the sun god Helios, who eventually deserted her to pursue Leucothea, the daughter of Orchamus. Clytie was enraged and told Orchamus about the love affair. He sentenced his daughter to death by burying her alive. Clytie thought that the death of Leucothea would make Helios return to her, but it only made him think less of her. In the end, Clytie lay naked for nine days on the rocks, gazing at the sun when he rose and as  he passed through his daily course to his setting. Her tears and the chilly morning dew were her only food. On the ninth day, her limbs rooted to the ground, and she was transformed into a flower, the heliotrope or turnsole [sunflower], which turns towards the direction of the sun.  –from Greek Mythology

Like the Disney princess stories, which either vilify or victimize women, this story bothers me for many reasons: the rivalry between women over a “man;” an overprotective and abusive father; a daughter’s punishment [in this case, murder] for disobedience(?); the scorn of a former lover.

The contradiction between the cheerfulness of the sunflower and the misery and rejection that birthed it in this story is troubling, to say the least. What bothers me most, though, is the romanticization of pain that sends the message that there is beauty in mutilating oneself or pining away for love.

I’ll spare you the full rant and focus on the sunflower’s devotion to the sun as described in the lines (above) from Moore’s poem–without the backstory.

Note on the image: The photo sunflower above comes from a “suburban sunflower field” growing inside my favorite grocery store (also known as potted sunflowers for sale). 🙂 I captured the sunny blossoms last summer. How could I resist their happy greeting? I isolated the central flower and post-processed it using 3 different apps. The original image is below.

Until tomorrow…

Sunflower Surprise!

About a week ago, my guys and I encountered sunflower fields during an early evening drive. I’m sure you can imagine my reaction. I was giddy. Seriously. I almost jumped out the car while it was moving.

The fields are part of a farm that was closed for the day. We parked. I swooned for a few minutes, zoomed in as much as I could, took a dozen shots, and made a note to start carrying the 300 mm lens.

Fortunately, the farm is only a few minutes away from home, so I plan to visit later this week for a closer look.

“Who’d a thunk it?” Sunflower fields in Northern Alabama. A beautiful surprise.

Get your shades ready. We’re going to have another brilliant week of sunflowers.  🙂

We Are Infinite Because of Love

The last several days have been incredibly difficult–five deaths affecting people near and dear to me. It takes its toll. Yesterday, I wanted to blog about something hopeful, but I didn’t have the energy to pull a bit of light out of me. After a fitful night, I woke up and recalled a stack of mail I hadn’t gone through. In that stack was a postcard from my penfriend, Trang K, featuring the tomb of Frédéric Chopin at Le Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris. The image is part of the Oases of Silence 2018 collection.

On the postcard, Trang describes her walk “with deep solemnity” through the cemetery. Her words are appropriate for this moment:

Life has no beginning and no end as we each carry the memory of each other through our love and hearts. The sadness at the sight of the graves left me and I was left with the joy of celebration to be in the presence of [Frédéric François] Chopin, [Ferdinand Victor Eugène] Delacroix, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde.  May [we] celebrate each moment of [our] glorious [lives] knowing [we] are infinite because of love.

Few words comfort in the immediacy of a loved one’s passing. Action takes the lead when words fail: “When you can’t look on the bright side, I will sit with you in the dark” (Alice in Wonderland).

Hang in There…

Someone needs this today…

Daydreams Illustration by Hanna Karlzon. Colored by Rebecca M, a Love Notes pal.

When Difficulties Arise…”Hang in There”
by Douglas Pagels, from Positive Thoughts Every Day

Difficulties arise in the lives of us all. What is most important is dealing with the hard times, coping with the changes, and getting through to the other side where the sun is still shining just for you.

It takes a strong person to deal with tough times and difficult choices. But you are a strong person. It takes courage. But you possess the inner courage to see you through. It takes being an active participant in your life. But you are in the driver’s seat, and you can determine the direction you want tomorrow to go in.

Hang in there…and take care to see that you don’t lose sight of the one thing that is constant, beautiful, and true. Everything will be fine–and it will turn out that way because of the special kind of person you are.

So…beginning today and lasting a lifetime through–Hang in there, and don’t be afraid to feel like the morning sun is shining… just for you.

 

Kindness Week Day 7: Charge Your Inner Light

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Be kind to yourself.

When I began “Kindness Week,” I knew the prompt for the last post would focus on kindness to self. The words were in my spirit, but tonight as I was typing them, I realized the words felt familiar because I’d already written the post a year ago! I started to scrap the topic, but decided the words bear repeating.  After all, even the kindest among us has difficulty being kind to ourselves.

Here are the words from last summer’s post:

The common misconception is that loving ourselves is self-centered and weak, so we pour all our energies and kindness into others and leave little or nothing for ourselves. Many of us typically miss that the fine point in the “second great commandment” is to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). If we reserve only scraps, disapproval, and unkindness for ourselves, eventually this starvation of self-love will manifest in our acts toward others.

Hollow and mechanical acts of kindness don’t always feel like kindness. So love yourself. Be kind to yourself and you will find that the kindness naturally spills over into your interactions with others.  —Pics and Posts, June 20, 2017

Kindness to ourselves often requires changing the language we use to speak to ourselves. It requires taking care of our minds, our bodies, and our spirits.

Marelisa of Daring to Live Fully offers a list of ways to get started: 17 Ways to Be Kind To Yourself. You can also find a lot of ideas on my self-care board on Pinterest: Take Care. Just recently I encountered a young blogger, a college student, who features a self-care post almost every Sunday. You might want to check out her blog too: The Introvert’s Escape Maneuver.

Earlier this week my son suggested that I close out the seven days of kindness with the message, “be kind to everyone.” It really is that simple.

I encourage you to live with a spirit of kindness. Walk with it. Breathe it. Look for the good in people. Help people in need, including the disheveled stranger who asks for a dollar or two. Drive with courtesy. Give the benefit of the doubt. Forgive easily. Love freely.

Make kindness more than a habit. Make it part of your character.  And remember–we can be heart and light to others only if the inner light is glowing.

 

Note on today’s image: The postcard above was made by Terry L. who participates in both Love Notes and the Global heART Exchange. She sent the card in April, shortly after receiving happy heART mail from me. Her message is clear: “Be kind to yourself. You are amazing! You’re good enough. You are worth it!”

Previous “Kindness Week” posts:

Have a “kind” week!

Kindness Week Day 6: Listen with Your Heart

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Listen with your heart.

Earlier today, I listened to gospel artist Jessica Reedy share a bit of her story before performing her song “Better.” She told of going through a difficult period in her life and keeping the pain to herself. She wondered if people could see her pain, if they could look in her eyes and see that she needed help. They couldn’t, and she confessed, “that made me sink lower.”

Her words cut deep.

We are daily walking with people who are privately coping and functioning through ridiculous pain, hoping someone hears their silent pleas. But we are so busy with our own lives or so focused on our own struggles that we don’t hear each other or take the time to notice the cues when others are hurting.

So today, let’s listen. Give little consideration to the “apparent” happiness. Tune in. Listen keenly. Not just to the words people say. Pay attention to their eyes, their body language.

I’m not suggesting that we probe for information. I’m not suggesting that we solve problems. We must learn how to connect and listen without becoming overly curious and without trying to fix things or save people.

Leave the saving to Jesus.

Today, let’s listen for what’s not said; let’s listen with our hearts and show that we care. Sometimes, that’s all a person needs.

Note on today’s image: The watercolor and ink artwork above was created by my Love Notes pal, Trang K. It is entitled “Golden Rose” in honor of the beautiful rose bushes her husband planted for her. She writes that the “pricking just lets me know that I am alive and that is the greatest gift and joy.” She urges, “Embrace life…with thorns and all.”

Just joining Kindness Week? Be sure to check out the previous posts:

Tune in tomorrow for our final Kindness Week post.

Kindness Week Day 5: Be Small Business-Minded

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Support a Small Business.

It’s no secret that “big box” stores have pretty much pushed smaller stores out of business, but that doesn’t mean they all have to end that way. Some prefer the larger stores and chains because of convenience, lower prices, and product availability. However, in my experience, small businesses generally offer a far better consumer experience. They are personable and are able to tailor their offerings to my needs. They offer quality products and services and excellent customer relations. Sometimes, things cost a little more, but that’s made up for in so many other ways.

So–whether it’s a mom and pop store that has managed to survive the Walmart takeover, the local hardware store or farmer’s market, an Etsy shop or the neighborhood artisan, the friend who’s self-published a book or the cousin who recently opened a restaurant, the independent musician selling CDs in a strip mall parking lot or the 13-year-old pushing a lawnmower to fund a trip to Disney World–be kind to a small business.

Not convinced? Check out this 2016 Forbes article featuring 43 Reasons to Support Small and Independent Businesses.

Note about today’s image: The image above was produced from original art by Paul Nzalamba. Working in the medium of batik, Paul creates images drawn from Uganda, his native country. His images reflect the strength, struggle, and beauty of all people. If you’re interested in seeing more of his work and/or purchasing cards, prints, or lithographs, be sure to visit his site : Nzalamba Artworks. It would be so kind of you to do so.

If you’re just joining Kindness Week, please be sure to check out the previous post:

Mpaka wakati ujao…