Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Harvesting Sunshine

Blooming rows
rioting reds and yellows
nodding cheerful heads
Forming silent ranks 
between the plantain 
and the feldspar

“Fourth Sacred Sister,
in Vincent's vase
Mourning emblems
of water nymphs
Clytie, Daphne
We live 
to adore the Daystar!

Heralds of fortune, good health, 
Loyalty, Hope and Cheer.
Singer of the Golden Ratio,
Long days shall follow those 
gifted with our healing warmth
oft given when ill
 moving home
or beginning new career

In youth,
our smiling faces turn
with the wheel of passing Time,
following the Light
with our own
vital rays.

In maturity
we provide shelter 
for the meek
Support many wise Teachers
as our own centers ripen

In harvest
the eternal spiral 
of our Wisdom
turns on a parabolic dime
Fueling songs

Pleasant provender
Spread our love like sunshine
like butter,
feeding man, bird and beast.
Rooted in the Wisdom of the North,
our true bounty grew 
twixt setting in the West 
and rising in the East.”

For those new to the game, each poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a star, stone, animal, plant, etc that holds lessons of Wisdom for us. Can you guess who is singing today? (Congrats to Desert Dreamer and Bobbi Kuschel for naming this Teacher)

“Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul.” The Koran 

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.” ~Lady Bird Johnson, Public Roads: Where Flowers Bloom 

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” Helen Keller 

Helianthus Annus, this annual plant is native to the Americas. Distantly related to asters, daisies, and thistles, Sunflowers can grow as high as three meters with a 30 cm flower head full of edible seeds. This head is actually formed of multiple florets (disc florets in the center and ray florets along the outer rim) crowded together. These florets are arranged spirally, and in most cases will be oriented toward each other in a golden arc which will produce a pattern of interconnecting spirals where the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are successive. A typical Sunflower might have 34 spirals in 1 direction and 55 in the other. 

The Golden Ratio (or "Golden Section") is based on Fibonacci Numbers, where every number in the sequence (after the second) is the sum of the previous 2 numbers. This ratio was used by architects and artists throughout history to produce objects of great beauty (like Michelangelo's "David" and the Greek temples.) Within the Sunflower's flowerhead we can find this Ratio at work, determining the growth of the flowerhead's interconnecting spirals of flourets which will one day be seeds. These spirals illustrate Fermat's Spiral, also known as parabolic spirals, and we can see the mathematical Beauty of this in Nature over and over; sunflowers, pinecones, even the stars. 

Spirals are one of the oldest symbols of spirituality used by mankind. Individually, the religious connections to this symbol can often only be guessed at. However the spiral, like the Sunflower itself, has strong connections to the Sun and has often been placed where they will be touched by its first rays each morning. Spirals have also represented the Divine Feminine, the womb, fertility, feminine kundalini or serpent energy, continual change, transformation, birth, death and rebirth, time, and the evolution of the universe.

“I learned the real meaning of love. Love is absolute loyalty. People fade, looks fade, but loyalty never fades. You can depend so much on certain people, you can set your watch by them. And that’s love, even if it doesn’t seem very exciting.” ~Sylvester Stallone 

“Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” Martin Luther King Jr. 

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” Buddha

The Sunflower’s abundant individual yield, the many uses of its seeds, and their ability to thrive with little or no attention made them an early crop food here in the Americas. Current evidence suggests that the plant was cultivated by Native Americans in the areas now known as Arizona and New Mexico somewhere about 3000 BC. Some archaeologists even suggest that fertile Sunflower may have been domesticated before corn! Oddly enough, its commercialization as a crop actually took place in Russia, perhaps the last place one might expect to find this sun-loving plant! Removed from the Americas and introduced to Europe by the Spanish, growing sunflowers for oil in Russia is attributed to Peter the Great, with its popularity reinforced by the Russian Orthodox church which prohibited a number of other oils which had been used for cooking. By the early 19th century, Russian farmers were growing over 2 million acres of sunflowers! 

During its budding stage, Sunflowers exhibit heliotropism. At sunrise, the heads will face east and move with the sun throughout the day. Just prior to the blooming stage, the stem stiffens and is no longer capable of following the sun once it has moved from the east. Interestingly enough, wild sunflower heads do not exhibit heliotropism, although their leaves do! 

Sunflower seeds can be ground into flower to make cakes, cereals, butter, and breads. In earlier days, it was often mixed with other plants native to the Americas like beans, squash, and corn. Most often at this time, Sunflower seeds are simply cracked from their shells and eaten as a snack, or its oil is extracted and used for cooking. Non-food uses of Sunflowers and their seeds include: yellow and purple dye for textiles, body painting and other decorations, as a remedy for snakebites, an oil or unguent used for body and hair, dried stalks have been used as building materials, medicinal teas used to relieve coughs and bronchial infections or for the natural diuretic and expectorant properties of the seeds, as a poultice or simply eaten for the seeds’ natural pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory compounds to combat pain or relieving painful chronic conditions, such as arthritis. After flower heads are harvested the potash-rich stalks may also be burned and the ashes used as garden fertilizer! This favorite wild feeder of birds has many uses that are often overlooked by our people.

“Earth laughs in flowers.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Hamatreya” 

“A cheerful temper joined with innocence will make beauty attractive, knowledge delightful and wit good-natured.” ~ Joseph Addison 

“Had she been light, like you, of such a merry, nimble, stirring spirit, She might ha’ been a grandam ere she died; and so may you, for a light heart lives long.” William Shakespeare 

Magically, Sunflowers are associated with Sun deities of all sorts and were once worn by the Aztec priests as crowns. These flowers symbolize the healthy ego, the wisdom, and the fertility of the solar aspect. I believe it is this strong connection to solar energy and its own vigorous nature that brings the Sunflower association with health, especially the recovery of good health, and longevity. I love to include these in bouquets for friends who are trying to regain health (mental, physical or emotional), and the Sunflower’s ability to bring good cheer is never more evident than at such a moment. They seem to bring an instant smile to everyone’s face! 

Sleeping with a sunflower under the bed is said to allow you to know the truth in any matter, and those wishing to become virtuous might anoint themselves with juice pressed from sunflower stems. Sunflowers are grown in gardens as guards against pests, to keep the birds away from other crops, and to bring luck to the gardener. The multitude of seeds in a single flower make Sunflowers desirable for anyone seeking fertility in their lives, whether directly through conceiving children or indirectly through a prosperity spell, or some other working to increase fertility in some aspect of life. Perhaps it is their close association with all birds, especially blackbirds, that brings the Sunflower its strong connection to Wisdom. In the language of flowers, Sunflowers may represent Cheerfulness, Adoration, Haughtiness, Lofty or Wise thoughts, or Loyalty. 

Balanced Sunflower energy will show itself in a cheerful disposition, confident posture, loyal nature, good health and long life. Such people usually seem to have an inexhaustible supply of energy and optimism, which is usually their downfall. Everything has a season, and Sunflower people would do well to remember that sometimes energy won’t be available. Conservation and moderation are good qualities to cultivate. Unbalanced Sunflower energy would show itself in depression, pessimism, ill health, low energy, disloyal behavior, and in extreme cases, early death. To me the Sunflower is there to remind of the Beauty abundant in Life, to attract and pay attention to the messengers in my own life like this Teacher draws the birds, bees and butterflies in a garden, to smile back up at Grandfather sun and be grateful for all that he gives us. How does this Singer appear in your life?

“Ah Sunflower, weary of time,

Who countest the steps of the sun; 
Seeking after that sweet golden clime 
Where the traveller’s journey is done; 

Where the youth pined away with desire, 
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow, 
Arise from their graves, and aspire 
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!" ~ William Blake 

“As long as there is a chance of the world getting through its troubles, I hold that a reasonable man must behave as though he were sure of it. If at the end your cheerfulness was not justified, at any rate you will have been cheerful.” ~ William Shakespeare 

“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.” ~ George Burns

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