Sunflower Number 38

It started with a couple of potted plants on my balcony. They made me happy every time I looked out my window so I wanted a couple more. And then a couple more again.

There are now eight pots filled with various mostly-shade-friendly plants on my balcony. And they delight me. Sometimes on sunny mornings I’ll go sit cross-legged in the patch of morning sun and drink my morning coffee with my plants. Well, I don’t actually drink coffee, but it feels like what I imagine a morning coffee ritual feels like, just sans the coffee.

The reason I’m telling you this is so that you understand that I’ve become somewhat of a plant lady this year. I saw somewhere that plant lady is the new cat lady and I’m so on board for this because I am a cat lady in so many ways except for one key problem: I don’t like cats. They scare me. Also I’m allergic. But plant lady is something I can get behind.

So I’m becoming this plant lady.

I come by it honestly because my mom has a beautiful garden. But when I asked her towards the end of May if she was planting sunflowers this year she realized she had forgotten about them. And so I, in my new role as plant lady, decided I would make the sunflowers happen.

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Plant lady. Overalls. Sunflower seeds.

I bought some seeds, I put on my overalls, and on May 22nd I planted 40 sunflower seeds.

Yes, I have overalls. I learned this year that overalls are back in style which is most exciting because I went through an overalls phase as a child, around 6 or 7 years old, and I am sad about the lack of overalls in my life the past 20 years. My overalls phase was followed by my cargo pants phase, however I am not sad about the lack of cargo pants in my life since then.

Alright. So plant lady. Overalls. Sunflower seeds.

The packet said it would take 7-14 days for them to come up but you guys I must have planted magical seeds or else wearing overalls is the secret to gardening because they started coming up on May 26th!! 9 of them!! After just 4 days!! There were 27 the next day, 35 the day after that, and by the 29th, 37 of the seeds had sprouted. I was not expecting such success!

I was pretty ecstatic. And totally enamoured with my little sunflower sprouts. Anyone reading this who also follows me on Instagram can attest to this because I was posting a lot of story updates about them. Still am, actually.

So my sunflowers. All 37 of them.

Except!!

On June 2nd, when those 37 sprouts were now a couple of inches tall, guess who started to pop up out of the soil?? Sunflower Number 38!

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I was having a horrible day that day. It was a Sunday and I was barely able to move due to severe side effects from an infusion, but when my mom told me she thought she saw another one sprouting, I slowly and painfully hobbled my way outside to see for myself. Sure enough! There it was! In all its unexpected glory! 38 out of 40 seeds? That’s a 95% success rate!

(These detailed field notes are courtesy of the photos saved on my phone thanks to the previously referenced Instagram oversharing.)

I almost cried in excitement. I might have actually teared up. It might have actually been from the pain. I know it will probably sound a bit weird, but I was so proud of that 38th seed. I was proud of all the seeds-turned-sprouts! But especially Sunflower Number 38.

When I realized how proud that last sprout made me, it gave me pause.

Was I supposed to see myself in that last sprout? Making its way more slowly than everyone else, at times not sure if it would ever find its way out of the dark soil, fragile but feisty…? Nah. This is not one of those it’s-okay-to-go-at-your-own-pace-don’t-worry-about-what-anyone-else-around-you-thinks-or-is-doing posts.

The pause was because I realized I was more easily proud of a sunflower seed-turned-sprout than I usually am of myself. Not just more easily proud, but maybe even prouder overall.

I’m a very loyal cheerleader. For other people. I’m not just talking about the big achievements and the milestones, but the smaller things, too. Like when someone prioritizes their mental health or makes time to learn something new. I love when the people I love do cool and meaningful things, of large or small magnitude, and I don’t care about the pace they’re going at or what the people around them are doing.

But when it comes to my own life, I do get caught up on the timeline and the dark soil and the fragility. I am bothered by the slow pace and distracted by the seemingly bigger and better things the people around me are doing.

And I can’t help but wonder if maybe you’re the same way? Maybe we’ve all forgotten how to cheer for our own new leaves, and our own tiny but steady increments of growth, or even just the fact that we managed to avoid getting eaten by squirrels for one more day.

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Sunflower transplant day. All grown up moving from the planter box to the ground.

I said this was not one of those it’s-okay-go-at-your-own-pace-and-don’t-care-what-anyone-else-around-you-thinks-or-is-doing posts, and okay maybe it is a little bit, but not because that’s what Sunflower Number 38 did. It’s not about how and when Sunflower Number 38 made its way out of the soil, it’s about how proud I was of it for doing so, how much excitement I felt watching it. I want to start seeing myself more in the way that I see Sunflower Number 38, and Sunflowers Number 1-37, and the people in my life for whom I am a cheerleader.

Everyone deserves to have someone root for them and celebrate with them the way I root for and celebrate with my plants. And we owe it to ourselves to be that someone.

And so I’m going to make an effort to be my own proud plant lady, to look at myself more the way I look at my sunflowers. With care and concern and wonder and excitement. And pride, even if it seems like all I did was not get eaten by squirrels.

Because that’s enough.

I am enough. You are enough.

Seed to sprout to stalk. At any pace. We are always enough. And we see that in each other.

So now let’s put on our overalls and get some dirt on our hands.

And start seeing it in ourselves. 

6 thoughts on “Sunflower Number 38

  1. Wonderful post. Thank you. You really have a gift for writing. You are helping us all through this as you write and think and cheer yourself (and us) on. Much love and thanks to you.

  2. Very timely Catherine. We need to stop regularly to acknowledge and be proud of our achievements. There’s a great poem “You get proud by practising” May it motivate and strengthen you, me and all the tender little seedlings in our lives!

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