I awoke this morning to an orange-pink sunrise filtering in through our window, casting across our bed and the cat sleeping at my feet like a haze. I was the first one up. Instead of my usual mundane morning tasks or email checks, I wandered outside with my camera, eager to capture the fleeting morning light burning away the fog.
I would like to be the kind of person who has a yard full of sunflowers. This year, I planted two packs of sunflower seeds - along the top of our hillside garden in the front of the house, and along the fence-line in our backyard. I imagined how lovely they would look towering over the yard, welcoming our visitors, or lined up against our wood fence in the back. I envisioned their orange and yellow and red petals bending towards the afternoon sun, shading my other plants.
Only one sunflower survived, grew tall enough to bloom. It bloomed for the first time yesterday, a bright, beautiful orange surprise. This morning, in the fading morning glow, its petals were covered in dew, its large green leaves cupped with water from last night's rain. I wish they had all grown and bloomed this way, but they did not. One is enough - enough to make me try again next year, enough to make me imagine our yard surrounded by tall, gangly sentries, omens of summer and harvest and heat.
After work, I returned home with Dora to learn that a strange and sad thing occurred today in my hometown. The wonderful peace activist and farmer who I wrote about just yesterday died tragically in an accident on his farm. A friend thought perhaps I had written the blog because of his death, but I had, in fact, written it just before he died. Not long after I stood in this morning's orange glow, focusing in on dew drops on orange petals, a faithful, brave, loving, gentle man left this Earth in a most horrible, shocking way. This man, who stood face-to-face with an Israeli tank, who has lived in war zones, who has dodged real bullets, died on his hilly, rural farm in Southeastern Ohio, where war and tanks and bullets are just distant, unimaginable things. He truly believed that peace on Earth was possible, and he worked his entire life to see it realized.
About 5 years ago, I saw his wife speak about her recent experiences living in Palestine. She spoke of walking children to school surrounded by armed guards, of the fear of violence which soaked into every fiber of the fabric of that life. I remember being moved by her bravery and faith, her willingness to put herself in danger doing what she believed in. She said that, when she and Art would set off for foreign lands on peace-keeping missions, they would bid each other goodbye knowing it may be their last. In their faith and in their love for each other, they were prepared to die, prepared to lose each other, even. I take comfort in this thought, in my understanding of their deep faith, in their absolute belief in the power of love and of peace.
I don't really know what to make of this, except to be reminded once again that the world is connected, that the power and timeliness of our memories might be beyond our understanding, that this morning's orange glow and my solitary sunflower are somehow harbingers of a peace we may all hope for, while only a few of us have the strength to dedicate our lives to its promise. Is it better to believe that this is all just coincidence, or is it possible that it's not, that some energy in the world connects us in space and time in a way we can't fathom or explain? All I know is that a person who dedicated his life to peace and justice and walking a gentle path was welcomed into heaven today, and that is a moment of significance worth pausing for, like a lone sunflower in the garden covered in dew, basking in morning's early soft glow.
In memory of Art Gish