Foolhardy? Courageous and dignified? Or a case of simple blind programming, of life seeking more life, more oxygen, more photosynthesis even in the face of decline?
These two lone sunflowers poking up out of the colding November soil just outside the bedroom door look more than a little forlorn to this observant and anthropocentric human who sees clearly the fate that awaits them as the soil grows colder still and the sun toward which these struggling seed pods yearn retreats farther into the southern hemisphere.
Talk about a doomed mission. And yet.
Everything that is is first given a day—often not even that in the case of the mayfly, with a lifespan ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours. If we are fortunate, we get a second day and then thousands more after that. (Quickie glance to desktop calculator: 80 years X 365 days = 29,200 days of moving about and figuring out what to do with this life of ours over what’s considered to be a ripe enough old age.)
But none of those days are promised. Life aborts and ends at every stage of its cycle, prone to errors of genetics and accident and inattention.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,” goes the psalm. Sound advice.
These November sunflowers, their original seeds thrusting up and sprouting late, like an accidental pregnancy, completely at the “wrong” time, try mightily to “rejoice,” to fulfill themselves, straining toward their lifeblood the sun in the only situation they know: as struggling flowers in autumn.
“What’s the big deal?” they would surely ask, if they could form words.
They’re simply living the life given them, for as long as those lives shall last. Going about their appointed task, the progeny of seeds dropped here, dropped there, at this time and that time, no special time, really, sprouting as their nature willed, living the lifespan allotted to them.
Nature can seem cruel in this way, throwing bad timing and mutated genes and compromised pregnancies around with uncaring alacrity.
On the one hand—and at one time—an abundance of long-lived and lush sunflowers, sprouting in spring and erect in their mammoth glory through the warm summer, whole rows of them lined up like a cheerful, unbloodied cavalry on parade.
Other hand, other time: two lone and huddled lingerers of the species, autumn-born, days cooling, nights lengthening, marooned and doomed but yearning still, in the only way they know, seeking the promise embedded deep within the perfect seed that spawned them.
Click below for an utterly charming time lapse ode to the sunflower life cycle, complete with names for each flower and stirring music!
Thanks, as always, to the photographers: rotating banner photos courtesy of Elizabeth Haslam, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/
Sunflower field courtesy of Dean Ayres, Acton, West London, UK, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/deano/
Lone sunflower photos courtesy of yours truly, assisted by his iPhone camera.