Wow, as I sat down to write about my day, that title came out of nowhere, and immediately made me think of two men in my family who died, years apart, of heart attacks while working in the hot sun in their yards: my Uncle Ray and my grandfather-in-law (he would be my ex-grandfather-in-law now, but he will always be dear to me no matter what his grandson does… or refuses to do). May they both rest in peace.
But that wasn’t what I was going to talk about. I was going to mention the sunflowers I ripped out of the ground today before I mowed. They were big ‘uns, a few of them over six feet, maybe seven, I should have had my husband stand next to them so I could measure. They had been done, hanging over, some laying on the ground, for a week now.
If I owned my own home and had planted them in the backyard, I would have left them awhile. As I grow older I find I enjoy even this stage in my garden and am loathe to hide it by removing the evidence of the plant’s death too soon.
It has always been easy to love the spring groundbreaking, getting sore muscles and blisters from working that shovel. And of course the new sprouts are very exciting, the tall strong stalks very pleasant, the flowers and fruit then being the climax of summer’s joy. I can’t think of many better ways to spend an afternoon than wandering barefoot in the garden, sun on my shoulders, and grazing on the sweet goodies.
But the decay is special too. There is a magic in watching life turn back into dirt. The quietness, the lack of excitement that lets you think straight, really contemplate the whole circle. I have come to appreciate the sight of jack-o-lanterns rotting on the compost heap, bean vines drying into a brown lifeless maze on the trellis, and yes, the tired, nodding heads of sunflowers, sinking to the earth to release the gems that will be next year’s flowers.
But I don’t own my own house and my back yard is a small slit of grass in perpetual shade at the bottom of a hill. I am not anxious to hear any neighbors whine about my “neglected” front yard or have any of the other renters call the landlord to tattle.
So I’ll just have to find something else to remind me. Maybe when the leaves turn and fall, maybe when it starts to be dark early, and cold, maybe that will give me the inspiration to remember what so many people try to hide: that we’re all heading back into the dirt, slowly but surely, and we should bloom where we’re planted now, while we have the chance.
Maybe I’ll try to keep those two special ancestors in my thoughts, along with all the others, so that their flowers can live on.
Sidenote: I read the phrase “bloom where you are planted” somewhere once, and though I don’t know who to give credit to, I don’t want to take the credit for it myself.