Although I’m “not in Kansas anymore” I can recall the surprise and delight of the hot summer days and the wide wide prairies, and the sight of fields and fields of sunflowers. The contrast of the wide horizons of the prairies from the smaller, tighter space of Scotland took much adjustment. In fairness though, both places are filled with beauty and wonderful surprises. Now that the summer heat and humidity have arrived I sometimes long for the cool sea breeze of the many small harbor coastal towns along the west, north, and east coasts of Scotland.

The hot summer days offer us a slower rhythm, and to accompany this slower pace I turn to the short poems of Mary Oliver. With eyes for what is right there in front of you and for the wonder of imagination Oliver offers us a banquet, course after course, of images and imagination, of the simplest of things. Today and in the next two posts I will be using her poetry. Might you read and ponder her words as you rest a little from the heat and allow your imagination the space it needs to run a little wild doing its work.

Today I start with her poem The Sunflowers. In the opening line Oliver extends to us the invitation “Come with me” to join her in the walk through these fields of sunflowers. As you walk, remember how hot and humid it is, so rest a while and use your imagination and ponder her images and offer your own prayer. How are we like the sunflower? What questions are you eager to ask? How do we turn our lives into a celebration?

The Sunflowers by Mary Oliver
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,
they are shy
but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young –
the important weather,
the wandering crows.
Don’t be afraid
to ask them questions!
Their bright faces,
which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds –
each one a new life!
hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,
is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. Come
and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning.

Holy God,
today was never promised
yet it has arrived
and I am happy that it has arrived,
not so much on my calendar
or in my diary but
arrived right here in my heart,
in my breathing,
in my resting
and in all my doing.
Hear my prayer
of thanksgiving
for all that is precious in this day,
recalling all that was precious yesterday
and what might be precious,
if tomorrow
becomes its own day. Amen.

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