A few summers ago while driving back after helping my youngest son move his belongings into temporary storage, I happened upon a sunflower field. I immediately stopped the car and wandered out among the stalks of yellow. This field soothed my soul and brought peace to my ragged self. 

Earlier in the day I was pulled over for going 75 MPH in a 55 MPH zone, which is never ever ever a good thing. I had been singing loudly to the music on the radio and enjoying the late summer scenery. The two-lane country road appeared to be all mine, so I wasn’t paying close attention to my advanced speed. The county law enforcement officer had no patience or humor for my story. My license was taken, a ticket was issued, and my day appeared to be ruined. Oh, but there was more in store for me.

After I got to the college town, I went to the U-Haul store to rent a truck and a storage unit, but the clerk informed me I couldn’t do this without a driver’s license. I told him my story. He said, “I’m sorry, but this is company policy.” Well, crap. What was I going to do? He thought for a moment, and then said my son could rent the truck. Really? He’s just a student, but the clerk said their policy was different for college kids. So I picked up Jack, brought him back to the store, and watched as he filled out the forms. I, of course, still had to pay, but that is what mothers do. Oh, the irony of it all. We drove to his dilapidated rental house and proceeded to pack his smelly belongings into the truck. He needed to store his stuff for just a few weeks because there was a gap between rentals. 

We were sweaty and cranky, but were able to squish everything into the cramped storage unit. After the truck was turned back in, Jack did treat me to lunch, and for that I was grateful. He was going to take the train back up to Chicago later that evening, so we hugged goodbye and I was on my way.

What a day. On the three hour drive home, I wallowed in a self-imposed pity party. I was filthy and exhausted. My driver’s license was gone. I had a $75 fine waiting for me. The Thai food we had earlier wasn’t sitting well in my stomach. I missed my kid. I missed both my kids. Shit. Shit. Shit. But then…there it was off to the east. I hadn’t noticed the field earlier in the day. I spied rows upon rows of flowers, bright yellow heads bowing to the late afternoon sun. I plopped down on the edge of the meadow and breathed in their simple beauty. My melancholy lifted. My heart regained its joy. 

Sunflowers have that healing ability for me. Even on the worst of days, they lift the darkness. They are nature’s grace. Since that encounter, I have been on a determined quest for another sunflower field, but to no avail. Perhaps it is something that should not be hunted. Perhaps sunflower fields are just meant to be quiet miracles.

I think I may have missed my sunflower field window again this summer. I have the memories of that moment, though, to fill me with simple bliss. Another exquisite surprise may be patiently waiting for me. Perhaps I will stumble upon it today. I only have to open my heart to the magic.

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.

— Helen Keller

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