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.  🙂

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 3: Time with a Senior

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Visit, call, or write to a senior citizen.

This sounds like a kindness to them, but in many cases, you will soon find, you’re the one who’s benefiting most. Our seniors are wise and funny and full of history, experience, and stories. If you have children, take them along. This is a perfect opportunity to teach them to respect older adults and to learn that everyone has value.

Today is a holiday (in the USA), so start today. Take a break from the fireworks and hotdogs and give a senior a bit of your time.

After a certain age, growing older can be lonely and scary, particularly if family doesn’t live nearby. So be kind to our seniors. Stand in the gap, brighten a day, and become someone’s friend. In whatever form it takes, your company will be sincerely appreciated.

Be sure to make a visit, call, or letter a part of your life, not just a one-time thing. This week isn’t about random acts. This is about making the practice of kindness part of who you are.

If you’re starting with “Kindness Week” today, be sure to go back and look at the two previous prompts:

Note on the image: The roses above are from a senior (now retired) colleague’s garden. Along with another colleague, I had a brief visit with her recently. She had just turned 80! Beautiful roses grow in her front and backyard gardens; she excitedly shared them with me. I’m sure I’ll find an opportunity to show off more of her roses on the blog.

Hasta mañana…

Kindness Week Day 2: Be Nice to the Meanies

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Be kind to a person who isn’t so kind to you. I’m referring here to someone you see or interact with regularly–the acquaintance who always finds something snarky to say about you, your hair, your clothes, your goals. The coworker who works to criticize you, invalidate every word you speak or ignore your presence.

I know. I know. It’s so much easier to pay “evil for evil,” but think about what that does to your character and soul.

People’s meanness comes from a wounded place inside them. For some, it’s easier to strike out and hurt others than it is to deal with their inner demons.  In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz counsels us, “Don’t take anything personally.” It’s the second agreement and one I embrace wholeheartedly. Very little of what others do is because of us. As Tarshia, one of my besties, puts it, “It’s not me. It’s them.” 😀

Bad behavior toward us can’t be justified, but how we respond can make a world of difference.

Like bullies, mean people need someone to stand up to them–not someone big and bad who can match them hit for hit, but someone who can hit them with nice. Think of it in terms of the phrase we’re all familiar with–“kill them with kindness.” Of course, we’re not literally harming anyone, but we’re killing the meanness, healing the hurt, or undoing the wiring that makes them behave terribly toward others.

This doesn’t always work, but at least your kindness will disarm them and you’ll get to walk away–hands clean and character intact–without the icky residuals of stooping to their level.  At most, you’ll change a heart and gain an amiable relationship, if not a friend. Besides, kindness always takes the high road, and you can always feel good about that.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you run out and buy the big meanie a cup of coffee or curry favor in any way. I mean, respond to the slights with kindness–forgo the quick retorts, eye rolling, or backbiting. When the person who seems to be out to get you strikes, strike back in the most unexpected way–with kindness. You know what to do.

If you’re just joining “Kindness Week,” be sure to start with Day 1.

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Note about the postcard: Becky aka Dragongirl on swap-bot  sent the postcard for a swap in celebration of International Women’s Day 2018. It was purchased from postcardfair.com.

Until tomorrow…

Kindness Week Day 1: Kindness at Home

About a year ago, we “celebrated” kindness on Pics and Posts by featuring seven consecutive days of posts on kindness. The world can always benefit from a bit of kindness, so it’s Kindness Week again. Instead of sharing kindness-themed postcards and messages written by senders, I’m asking that we do more than read pretty words and inspiration. This week let’s focus on kindness at work.

I’ll drop in every day with a brief post and a general “kindness prompt.” I won’t be too specific because we all have our gifts, our ways, and our sense of what someone (or something) needs.

Since genuine kindness is altruistic, there’s no need to report or share your acts of kindness with others. This is not about show and tell or about social media and selfies. It’s about developing and exercising a truly kind spirit with no intention to gain–not even attention.

We’ll get the ball rolling by taking the advice of Mother Teresa and starting at home.

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Show kindness to your family members. You know them best, so you know the kindness they need. Keep in mind that kindness isn’t always tangible. A kind word spoken at the right moment can be all a person needs.

In addition to the prompt, I’ll share postcards, art, and photos because every blog post needs a bit of eye candy. 😉

Note on the image: A little more than two years ago my hubby and son planted zinnias outside my home office window. It’s the gift that keeps giving. For three summers the zinnias have bloomed beautifully and have beckoned the butterflies. This year’s first flower opened today. The image above was shot the first year the flowers bloomed; it is edited, of course.

If you’d like to (re)visit last year’s kindness posts, see the links below:

Quotes Challenge Day 2: Wild and Free

Today’s quote–All good things are wild and free–comes from “Walking,” an extensive essay written for The Atlantic by Henry David Thoreau, the American essayist, philosopher, and naturalist best known for Walden and “Civil Disobedience.” The essay, published after his death, was a combination of two lectures, “Walking” (1851) and “The Wild” (1852), which Thoreau combined, separated, and combined again for publication (1862).

The opening of the essay provides a clear snapshot of the content:

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil— to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society.

When I shot the photo above (last year, late spring), my “real” camera was out of commission, but I was determined to still take advantage of photo opportunities. As a friend and I were leaving a bookstore late one morning, a mini-daisy field caught my eye. How odd it seemed in the middle of all the commerce! Neither the magazine purchased nor the hot beverage consumed could evoke the good feelings that a moment with the daisies yielded.

The one sentence from Thoreau’s essay captured my feelings–“all good things are wild and free.”

The full quote sums up preceding paragraphs in which he valorizes the “untamed” or natural over the “civilized” and cultivated.

In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something in a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human voice—take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for instance-which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so much of their wildness as I can understand.

Take a moment to read the entire essay. If you want to know more about Thoreau, see the Walden Woods Project. There’s a series of links near the end of the Thoreau background information page that you will find useful.

“The Spirit of Sauntering,” a Brain Pickings article published a few years ago, offers an analysis of Thoreau’s “Walking.” You might want to check that out too–or instead, if Thoreau’s writing style does not appeal to you.

Today’s challenge nominees (see previous post for rules):

It’s almost the weekend! Be sure to tune in tomorrow for my final quote of the challenge.