My miracle sunflowers (Kimberly Barber, October 2022)

In a post-Thanksgiving vibe, I’ve been reflecting lately on the small miracles and the daily gifts that can easily be dismissed in the hectic pace of life. With a brief time-out (Reading Week in our neck of the woods) and an opportunity to reconnect with (and be inspired by) my eldest daughter (who has been living on Salt Spring Island for the last few years; visits have been sporadic since COVID), the opportunity to notice the little joys and be grateful for them has been more present.

To whit: these sunflowers, photographed this morning in the planter in my backyard. I have since cut some of them for the vase, but they emerged in a clump in mid-August or so, 7 or 8 little shoots all bunched together in a random bouquet, and not planted by me. In fact, I have tried to no avail to get sunflowers to grow in this spot, and yet here they were. I suspect it was the squirrels who put them there, and their late emergence didn’t bode well for their blooming. And yet here they are, their own simple, beautiful, smiling small miracle.

It’s made me think about how much we overthink (!) (a constant conversation with both myself and my students) and try to influence outcomes with our cognitive thought processes. We are so unwilling to allow things to unfold, to be quiet and present with our sensations, our feelings and our intuitive inner artist. If only we just “tried” a little harder! If we could just FOCUS! Technique, technique, technique and more technique! I need to work harder!!! These messages are so pervasive and so valued in our culture of scarcity and lack.

Back to the sunflowers…without any prompting or willing on my part, they rose from the soil toward the sunlight. I let them be, and allowed them to unfold (I was secretly cheering them on, even though my partner was skeptical that they could possibly bloom before the frost!). They are perfectly imperfect, all clumped together and disorganized as they are. But they are so delightful, so sunny, so optimistic and defiant! They have still refused to succumb to the cold, and daily invite the last of the bumblebees to worship at their nectar-ing altar. What if we allowed more unfolding, more encouraging-into-being in our artistry and our teaching? What if instead of “trying” and “working hard”, we were more playful, more able to surrender to what is, letting it simply emerge? What miracles might we behold?