Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Life Cycles

Everything on a farm involves a cycle of life or the cycle of a year and the changing lengths of days and temperatures, the rhythms of the flora and the fauna, the sun and the moon. But then everyone’s life, wherever you live – in the city or the country – is a cycle – a school year, a summer vacation, a work year. As a child, I never realized the cycle we were living even though I was living my way through it. Now, into my fifth decade, the seasons, the holidays, the rhythm of life has become familiar. I see in Julia how she loves the rhythms of the year – her Dad’s birthday, her birthday, summer vacation, my birthday, and then the wonderful family and harvest oriented holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Which all leads me to…… Oh my goodness, is it autumn again? Must mean the leaves will be changing colors, the air will be crisp and lovely, the harvest festivals will abound. I love this time of year when the sun is low in the sky and the colors around me positively glow... when it is cold enough to put on a sweater.,, when we can look forward to lighting the woodstove and keeping warm in one little room in our house while the rest of the house shivers. But we’re not quite there yet. The sunflowers are still blooming and I am still picking them and stuffing them into the buckets on the old haywagon. That is until the frost comes and ends it all.

On Saturday evening, just before sunset, I was madly picking sunflowers to fill up the buckets for Sunday. It had been a busy day at the sunflower field - I think everyone around here is anticipating cold days ahead and they all needed a little cheer in their lives in the form of a happy bouquet. I had been at Fibertwist trying to sell my books and postcards. It was hot there and barely conducive to warm and wooly things. Very odd for a late day in September.

It's funny but I barely ever meet any of our sunflower customers. I must be picking at odd hours when noone is buying. It's actually nice that way - I don't have to chat with anyone and I can have the beauty of the field to myself. I'm not alone though. There are so many birds hanging upside down from ripe seed heads picking out the seeds. And there are bugs, honeybees, bumble bees, grasshoppers and as I found out the other evening - lots of moths!

I was deep in the field Saturday evening and I heard a voice. I went out to the road and met a woman who wanted to know about the flowers. She told me she had never stopped or bought anything before. I told her a bit about the field and then went back into the rows. I heard her calling me again. I met her halfway down a row and she had a green glass vase with her. She told me her 92 year old friend had died and she wanted some sunflowers for her friend's family. She said they wouldn't be into flowers from a florist and our flowers would be perfect. I told her I would set her up and picked away. In a few minutes, I had a beautiful bunch of flowers and arranged them in the vase. She was really happy, handed me 10 bucks and she was off.

I still had more flowers to pick for Sunday. It was getting really dark and I worked fast. As the sun went down, I couldn't help thinking about this woman, about the older woman who had just passed away and about the cycle of life. It is an amazing cycle. Every year, as we plan the field, plant, till, weed, and harvest the sunflowers, I think about the cycle of everything's life. Some creatures grow old over a century, some grow old over a decade, and some grow old over just a few short months. It is reassuring to see the natural cycle of life and rather profound. It also is just darn cool that I can see this happening right before my eyes.

I have patched together a little photo essay of our sunflower field for you all.

Seeds emerging... Little leaves just beginning to grow up tall and strong....


A few months later, a sunflower blossom is getting ready to pop.....


A single bloom... with a bit of subtle coloration. This one is a hardy variety called Autumn Beauty. Seed this year was in short supply.


Sun shining down bright on a golden yellow Autumn Beauty bloom. You can see the very flat disk and the little protrusions all the way around the outside of the disk.


This striped bloom is starting to have some pollen on the outside of the disk. The bees will not be far behind.


I love all the wild abandon in the multi-colored rows of the Autumn Beauty Sunflowers. It really is a mass party of bloom and happy faces.

As the blooms age, they become rounder and fuller. The seed heads begin to grow and everything, except the petals, becomes round and robust. The petals shrivel away. This could be a poem if I was any good at writing them.


As the blossoms age, they take on another kind of beauty. They remind me of the ending hours of a late party. Everyone of them is a bit pooped - looking like they could use a good night's sleep.

As the seeds develop in the blossoms, the heads become heavy with seed. The plants can no longer support them and they start to fall over. They look so graceful to me - the light catching the different shapes that are developing from the spent blossoms.


Each plant continues to set more blooms, even though they are smaller and not as beautiful as the first blooms. They seem to be saying to me, "there's still time to produce, to make more beauty, to set more seed for the next year."

Finally the seeds are mature. The seed heads are brown or black, full of ripe, mature seeds that the birds come and pick out and enjoy.


And then they become picked over. They are done.


The plants then stand tall, decaying, soon to return to the soil. The earth will rest and next year it will all begin again.


It is earthy, raw, real, and lovely in its very own way and I am fortunate to witness it all so intimately. I am happy to share it with you all.

13 comments:

Deborah said...

I love fall, too. I like the story about the bouquet of sunflowers for the friend's funeral. Something from the heart.

Manise said...

Great post! Thank you. :-)

honeysuckleblue said...

I love the sunflowers!! I had to go dye up some burnt orange/yellow yarn and now I'm knitting some incredible fall socks. Thanks for all of the inspiration.

BeginningWriter said...

Thank you. I live in a city among people who sometimes seem to spend all their time fighting the cycle of life instead of celebrating it's beauty and grace. Thank you for your words and photos.

Bella said...

Beautiful post. Lovely photos.

Donna S. said...

Thank you Kristin

JackieLemon said...

Thank you for the beautiful post. Your pictures are lovely and although you say you can't write poetry, your words brought tears to my eyes.

Turtle said...

autumn has always been my fav season, so much magic to it. I know folks say the same thing for spring and i can't argue it, but fall does it for me!

Barbara from Nova Scotia said...

Wonderful!

PatB said...

How lovely. You made my already happy day even better.

Amy S. said...

I think you've just written another picture book here--something that would appeal equally to children and adults. This could be published as a book with pictures and text almost exactly as it stands. You are a genius, Kristin!

Anonymous said...

Lovely...actually I always feel a kind of sweet melancholy in fall. But it's favorite season.

Sara in WI said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of life....