Tuesday, October 31, 2023

October Sunflowers

As the first deep chill of winter starts seeping into the season, the sunflower patch in the front of my yard is dying.  Almost all of the brilliant yellow blooms have been trimmed away as they faded, their seeds either feeding the birds, falling to earth, or seedsaved and stored in a jar for next year's sunflowers.  The largest stalks rest drying amidst the ivy on the front of the house.  They'll become kindling for winter fires, or stakes for the garden in the spring.  

I have harvested all that I require.

A few wan stalks do still stand by the sidewalk, lingering where once there was a riot of canary petals, one last splash of bright summer against the darkening days.

This morning, as I clacked away on my laptop transcribing an old written text, I watched an older man slow as he approached the fading display.  He walks through the neighborhood most mornings, clad mostly in black, his beard neat, a backpack on his back.  Sometimes he'll stop, as if something is caught in his mind.  There's an intensity about him.   When he stopped, abruptly, he brought that same focus to the dozen remaining blossoms.  I stopped typing, and watched him more closely.

I saw his eyes dart from flower to flower, his head shifting birdlike with each change in his gaze.  Then he stopped.  All of his attention, on one badly wilted compound flowerhead.

There was a pause.

Then, just as abruptly as he'd stopped, his hands lashed out.  One grabbed the flower, the other the stalk, and with the flower clenched in a fist, he twisted and wrenched at it.  Sunflower stalks are sturdy things, but he was not to be denied.  It tore away in his hand.

He looked at it, for a moment, considering the wreck of petals.

Then he raised the flowerhead to his mouth, and took a bite.  

Sunflowers are technically edible, all of them, although my one attempt at roasting and eating a whole head was only a reminder that "technically edible" is true for a surprisingly large array of objects.  My heliovore passerby began to walk on, briskly, still chewing, but then stopped.  He turned, walked back to the patch, where he stood, staring into the middle distance as he continued to munch on both seeds and flower.

Having preached out of Leviticus this last Sunday, I was reminded of Torah's injunction not to harvest to the edge of your land, and to leave what grows there for the stranger and the hungry.

I hadn't thought that'd extend to flowers, but apparently it does.