Consider this...

By Mike Johnson


It was a race all summer.

The sunflowers weren't planted until mid-June and the Wyoming climate would stop cooperating about the first of September. The miracles contained within those little seeds would have to work their magic in 10 weeks.

Why teenagers cling to one thing over another is as much a mystery as the inner workings of those seeds, but our 16-year-old had become fixated on sunflowers. Sunflower notebook. Sunflower shirt. Sunflower poster. It seemed about time to give her the real thing.

So it became a family project. Proving their burning desire for results, our two daughters set to work digging the sod from a 10 foot patch alongside the house. With a little help from Mom, the patch was soon cleared, aerated and planted. The rest was up to nature.

Within a week, the little shoots had sprung from the soil. Maybe ten weeks WOULD be enough time. As I watched those little plants struggle toward becoming eight-foot stalks capable of proudly bearing two-pound flowers, I collected a summer's worth of metaphors.

The biggest is not necessarily the best. One stalk had a clear advantage over the others - a better position in the sunlight. It was the first to pop through the soil and remained the tallest all summer. Yet, despite its advantages, it flowered last, and less impressively than others.

The crooked can flower before the "normal." Mowing around the patch, I accidentally crushed the stalk of one sunflower, bending it at 90 degree angle. Each week I mowed, I considering pulling it up because it appeared to be hopelessly mangled. Yet it hung in there. I was as surprised as anyone when it became the very first stalk to flower.

The smallest can be the most magnificent. The runt of the litter was in the shadow of the largest stalk. Even with its disadvantages in size and sunlight, its flower was the grandest of all 16 plants.

Half the sun doesn't mean half the results. A week after planting, us sunflower rookies discovered we'd selected a western plot of ground that only received the afternoon sun. By poor planning, we'd effectively cut our already short growing season in half. Never mind - all 16 plants found a way to beautifully flower before that first September freeze.

Our timetable is not nature's time table. Watching those sunflowers in July, it seemed impossible that there'd be enough time for them to flower. But life always finds a way. And our thoughts about a thing, are not the same as the thing itself. The thing is real, our thoughts are merely illusion - something nature clearly proved by following its own timetable.

So the project was a success. Our teen-aged daughter got her sunflowers and the now-dried stalks and flowers are hanging in the garage. If she noticed just one of the metaphors I identified above, then sunflowers weren't the only thing we grew last summer.


Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at