You may know that the peony is Jeannin's, the hollyhock belongs to Quost, but the sunflower is mine in a way.
~ Vincent Van Gogh
A Walk in the Woods
Rome and Juliet
SUNFLOWERS, CORN AND TOMATOES
1 August 2004
Since I'm still in the "change the look of this journal each month" mode, I was looking around for an idea for August and decided that I'd go with sunflowers, since everywhere I drive these days there are fields of sunflowers.
You know, we live in the agricultural heart of California but, growing up a city girl, I rarely notice all the things that are growing around me.
Nowadays, fields are being replaced by housing developments. We used to be surrounded, for example, by tomato fields. You couldn't miss them because everywhere you drove, at this time of year, there would be smashed tomatoes on the ground where the huge tomato trucks that you encountered on the freeway all summer long had taken a turn too sharply, spilling a bit of its cargo onto the ground.
We also had the Hunt cannery in the middle of Davis. The first summer we lived here, I remember asking my friend Michele, who had gone to UCD, how long the tomato smell lasted. You'd wake up in the morning with this overwhelming desire for cream of tomato soup. The smell of cooking tomatoes permeated the air for what seemed like months.
But the Hunt cannery is closed now and I haven't smelled tomatoes cooking in years. Most of the tomato fields are gone too, replaced by too expensive new homes. Once in awhile I still see tomato trucks on the highway, but they are a rarity rather than the norm now.
And I still don't really notice crops growing in the fields, unless it's a field of corn, which seems to spring up overnight. I can't drive from here to Woodland without the song lyrics about corn being as high as an elephant's eye, and wondering if the corn in the field I'm passing has reached elephant's eye height yet.
There are film memories of fields of corn, people getting lost inside the field. It's easy to see how you could do it. If you walk far enough into a field, you must surely lose your sense of direction.
Peggy had this burning desire to see what it was like to be in a field of corn when she came here and it took us the better part of a month to finally find a field that hadn't been ploughed yet, so she could experience being in a cornfield. (Of course it had been groomed to be a maze for children, so there was little danger of getting lost in that particular field of corn!)
But the most noteworthy crop are the sunflowers. For a city girl like me, they are indistinguishable from all the other green crops that you pass along the highway and I never really think about them.
And then one day you're driving along on a sunny morning and suddenly you're struck with this field of incredible beauty, as all the flowers have awakened and are nodding in the sun.
The photo does not do them justice. They are so much brighter than this. Sometimes it just takes your breath away. Or it takes my breath away and I have to stop and pull off the road just to sit and look at them.
Peggy wanted to take pictures of sunflowers when she came here and I remembered a field I'd passed on my way to the airport to pick her up. But, of course, it was a week later before she mentioned wanting to photograph sunflowers and by the time we went back to the field, they were well past their prime and already starting to droop from the heavy weight of those seeds which would soon be harvested and packaged into little bags for school children to chew and spit at each other.
I was afraid we were past the peak of sunflower season but then one afternoon as we were driving home from a walk in the redwoods I spied this field of sunflowers, tall and shimmering and we stopped to take photos.
I think about that each time I see a field of sunflowers--my disappointment that I couldn't find a field for her to photograph and the fun of coming across this field in the middle of nowhere.
The fields of sunflowers around here now are already past their prime and starting to droop and it will soon be the end of sunflower season again. I haven't seen a single tomato spill on the roadway in a very long time, and the cornfields are being harvested.
The seasons pass so quickly these days. It seems like summer just barely arrived and already there are signs that it will soon be over. But I guess that's what life is like when you get older. To everything there is a season and we need to enjoy each season while it's here because too quickly it has passed.