Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mine, In a Way

“The sunflower is mine, in a way.”

(Vincent van Gogh)

Perhaps van Gogh has most famously made the sunflower his own, but it seems that that’s the inclination of us all, artists and children and yearning adults alike.  We want to share in that glad-heartedness, to bask in the sunflowershine.  To have the flower light our paths, our days, our hearts.

Further stories tell of the bright flower’s appeal, always peculiarly personal—
“The new country lay open before me: there were no fences in those days, and I could choose my own way over the grass uplands, trusting the pony to get me home again. Sometimes I followed the sunflower-bordered roads. Fuchs told me that the sunflowers were introduced into that country by the Mormons; that at the time of the persecution when they left Missouri and struck out into the wilderness to find a place where they could worship God in their own way, the members of the first exploring party, crossing the plains to Utah, scattered sunflower seeds as they went. The next summer, when the long trains of wagons came through with all the women and children, they had a sunflower trail to follow. I believe that botanists do not confirm Jake's story but, insist that the sunflower was native to those plains. Nevertheless, that legend has stuck in my mind, and sunflower-bordered roads always seem to me the roads to freedom.”

(Willa Cather, My Antonia)

“I need sunflowers! I walk many miles, trying to find some. If they're fresh, I kiss their honey faces. If they're dried, I put them on my windowsill, where they continue glowing.

I saw a gigantic sunflower in a garden in Tempelhof. I can't risk stealing it, so I ask the owner to sell it to me. He lets me have it for free.

I carry it by its light-green six-foot stem from Tempelhof to Brandenburgische Strasse. Its black, sticky face is framed by radiant yellow petals, while I wear jeans as blue as cornflowers and a T-shirt as red as poppy. I got both items from someone who has a friend in America. Since it's summer, I go barefoot.

It's Sunday, and the streets are full of strollers. I try to escape people by using side streets, for no matter where I go they all laugh at me and my sunflower.”

(Klaus Kinski, Kinski Uncut)

image:  Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers

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