Come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
Their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky
sugars of the sun.
Come with me
to visit the sunflowers … 
– Mary Oliver (from the poem “The Sunflowers”)

Vincent van Gogh, “Sunflowers” (1888), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Many people see sunflowers as a spiritual flower, since they resemble the sun. Vincent van Gogh painted the sunflower more frequently than any other artist. His paintings, he wrote to his sister in 1890, were “almost a cry of anguish while symbolizing gratitude in the rustic sunflower.”

Sunflowers have different meanings for different cultures. For example, in the American Indigenous culture, sunflowers have always symbolized harvest and provision. Similarly, sunflowers have represented a lifeline food source for Ukraine since the 1700s, when the Russian Orthodox Church banned many foods during Lenten fasting season. Sunflower oil was the only oil permitted to consume during this time.

The sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower.

As a result, sunflower oil and seeds continue to be a major agricultural export of Ukraine. They are also the national flower of Ukraine and have become a symbol of the Ukrainian people’s resistance to the invasion by Russia. 

Besides their practicality as a rich and healthy food source, sunflowers have the magical ability to lift our mood.

Below is a series of pictures I collected from Easton residents who visited the giant sunflower field at SSES planted by Irv Silverman as a tribute to the people of Ukraine. Thank you, Irv, and thank you to all those who shared their beautiful pictures. 

Photos courtesy of Gale Papageorge and Easton residents.

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