“Nothing gold can stay.” – Robert Frost

The sunflowers are blooming in my garden. Planted a few months ago, I watched them pop out of the ground, tiny green shoots reaching through the dirt, standing straight and tall through the mass of weeds and mulch that needed cleaning.

I left for Israel when they were just towering over me, green sentinels of the garden, their blooms waiting to open at the ends of the tall stalks, so I knew they’d be there when I returned, bright and full and staring at the sun.

And they were. More than I expected. They popped over the fence, looking at passersby with their goofy yellow faces, their yellow petals spread outward, their heads facing the sun and then drooping downward in the evening hours. 

I planted five sunflowers but the crop yielded so many more. Sunflowers upon sunflowers in that tiny corner of my garden, so many that I needed to prop up the stalks for fear that the top-heavy flowers would break them. Mutant stems sprouted flowers from everywhere and each morning I would walk outside with my coffee, count the flowers, and smile at my work. 

But I know I didn’t really do anything. I dug some holes and dropped in some seeds and watered the dirt. Friends commented on them and I smiled as if I was a master gardener, but deep down, I knew it was luck. And sunshine. And God.

Sunflowers are easy flowers to love. Bright. Cheerful. Perpetually aiming toward light. But they’re not perennials. Once they die, I harvest the seeds and can either eat them or plant them back in the ground. These flowers that stand majestic in my yard, will die. They won’t return next summer unless I repeat the process: dig, plant, water, sun.

When I went out this morning, I saw them drooping a bit, their centers drying up, visited by the last bees trying to find some nectar. Golden petals littered the ground and I knew that soon I would have to harvest – cut them down and take the seeds.

There was this moment where I stood in the garden, admiring my beautiful sunflowers, and, like the poem, wished the gold could stay. How sad that this small corner which I visit daily with my coffee cannot remain. I had the fleeting thought of buying fake flowers but knew that would never work. There is no substitute for something that is living. No picture, no statue, no artwork can replace it. Nothing gold can ever stay, and Robert Frost wasn’t the only poet to have pondered that sad truth. In my garden today, the dying sunflowers painfully remind me of my friend Miriam and the gold that is fading in front of me echoes that larger loss. 

She would have loved the sunflowers in my garden. They were her favorite flowers.

This past year, I’ve kept a running list in my head of times I wanted to call Miriam to share some bit of news or ask for some advice. There were times I wanted to share a moment with her, events she was supposed to be at where her absence was clear and tangible. Sometimes, in a kind of morbid turn, I would listen to a saved voicemail from her, and for a moment she was back –  playfully yelling at me – vibrant and real for that one minute. 

Once the sunflowers die, the only option is to replant. I don’t think I’ll get the same bumper crop as this year, and I don’t know if they’ll even bloom. But maybe the lesson of the sunflowers is the lesson of the poets. Nothing gold can stay, but that doesn’t mean we need to keep our gardens empty and devoid of life and color. It will never be the same, but it can still be beautiful. I can still watch the majesty and the miracles and marvel at what some seeds, some water, and some sunshine can create. I can find gold. I can find beauty. I can make sure to look for it even when I know it will never stay.

I miss my friend. It’s been one year since I stood at the water and cried bitter tears of loss and pain. And now, my tears are still painful, still sad, but reflect the temporary gold I’ve been privy to. I’d like to think that these flowers that exploded in my yard were somehow sent from her, waiting for me to return, a welcome home message of happiness and sunshine. But if that is true, then the inevitable wilting is also from her – a different message to not lose hope in the death of the sunflowers, but to replant. To dig, and water, and nourish. To appreciate the gold we can bring into this world and the gold we can connect to in this world, even though it will not stay. 

I miss my friend, but today, my heart is filled with sunflowers. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. “Sentinels of the garden”
    OMG Adina, you’re amazing.
    Thanks for this 😘
    (and my “allergies” are now acting up)

  2. Amazing piece of writing. It made me cry thinking of a close relative that I lost during the pandemic, but it also made me feel hopeful. I have read different articles you have written in the past that Yitz has shared. Let me tell you that your writing is admirable and touching to my soul. May God continue blessing you with this talent.
    – Lily

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: