in a hurry to bloom

In May, I held the dead-looking embryo of this plant in my hand.  It doesn’t seem possible that I am now watching the culmination of its life cycle.  I feel like a proud parent, having watched this particular sunflower with avid attention, as it was so much stronger and faster than the others.  It couldn’t wait to bloom, and opened its petals almost 8 days earlier than its siblings, revealing that swirling inner pattern which is at once so perfectly geometric and organic — a rare combination.  The bees clung to each ring of tiny buds as it opened, day after day, spiraling in toward the center.  I could have watched them for hours as they circled the golden-brown surface, pressing their dark faces into each individual floret, their legs fuzzy with pollen, their movements almost erotic.

Of course, because it bolted out of the starting gate and never slowed down, this is the first flower to fade.  It is probably time for us to cover the seedhead so we can eat the seed later and not lose it all to the birds.  I’m reluctant to cover up such beauty, though.  Somehow it seems even lovelier to me now than when it was newborn.  A sunflower might be the best lesson in graceful dying I have ever witnessed.

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