Growth, change, and the all-powerful California bush sunflower

Happy pandemic-versary

Every year at the end of February, or sometimes at the beginning of March, a flower called the California bush sunflower starts to bloom all over the bluffs a couple hundred or so footsteps away from my neighborhood. The flowers get brighter and bigger and expand their reach across the coastline for months, and then in June they shrivel up and away and the cycle repeats.

Concepts like change and progress and growth and decay have taken up substantial real estate in my brain for as long as I can remember. At the height of my teen angst, I would wander wistfully through the bluffs and romanticize these sunflowers to death, thinking about how the next time I’d see them bloom again would be a whole year into the future. Who will I be? Will things be different? Will things be better? I would always hope that things would be better.

Then I went to college and spent three consecutive springs in New York where nothing really bloomed at all. The years became blurrier instead of better and I gradually cut back on my romanticizing. But when the pandemic forced me to flee campus last year, I got back to California just in time to see the sunflowers at the height of their beauty, and it all came rushing back.

Since then, I have been in what feels like an endless loop of growing and shriveling – It’s annoying but only fair that the most rewarding and meaningful evolution and self-growth requires so much painful shedding and unpacking.

And somehow, in the midst of all of the growing and shriveling, the sunflowers have made their debut for the year and March is knocking on the door again. And I am choosing, against all of the cynicism and suspicion and anxiety that has functioned as my armor until now, to welcome it with open arms and maybe even offer it a cup of tea or something.

I don’t think I’ll stop worrying about the future any time soon – every single day it is confirmed to me that we live in a hell world, and the types of worries that people used to write off as ‘catastrophizing’ have instead become real and reasonable fears.

Fear persists, but even so, there is still so much love out there battling against everything bad. I see it every day, in myself and in my friends and in strangers and in nature. Lots of things feel out of reach or gone completely these days, but love is not one of them. And so, one day away from the month that is now burned into my mind as our pandemic-versary, I am just as afraid as ever. But for every bit of fear in me, there is an equal amount of incredibly stubborn hope. For every negative thought that flashes in my head, I yell something wildly optimistic back – hope and fear must find a way to coexist.

Yesterday I went to the bluffs and saw the bush sunflowers for the first time this year. I thought about all the generations of flowers that existed before them, and all my past selves that walked along those same pathways and hoped for the best. With nothing but love, the me of this present moment is cheering on the me of last year, and somewhere, in another world or alternate dimension or corner of my mind, the me of the future cheers on the me of today.

Things of the week:

This song:

Happy March eve-eve (Like the way people call the day before Christmas Eve ‘Christmas eve-eve’),