A couple of hours north of where I live there is a nature park that has a 10.5 acre field that they plant with sunflowers every year. And around this time they begin to bloom and the park hosts a 10 day Sunflower Days which brings about 90,000 people in. So, last night after work I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed up to try and catch the sunset.
While I was waiting for the sun to go down, I killed some time taking random photos of the sunflowers. Now, I’m not a professional photographer but I am an enthusiastic hobbyist with too much spare cash. What that means is that my equipment looks, perhaps, above my actual level of expertise. At any rate, several people throughout the afternoon asked if I would take pictures of them, which I was more than happy to do.
At one point, I was taking some pictures and noticed a group of young women nearby. There were three of them and they were rotating around in such a way that only two of them were ever in a picture together. So, I offered to take a picture of the three of them, which they politely declined. As I walked back to where my tripod was, I heard one of them comment on how nice everyone had been that day. It seems I was not the first person to offer to take their pictures. However it was another in the group’s response that stuck with me the rest of the night.
“It’s the sunflowers. They make people nicer.”
I’m not going to lie, there is something about sunflowers. Whether it’s their cheery yellow color. Their unexpected size. Or the massive bumblebees floating lazily among them coated in pollen. Something about visiting the sunflower fields does make you happier. In fact, looking around at the other people milling about, with the exception of a few overtired toddlers, there were only smiling faces.
Wherever you fall politically, I think we can agree that we’re living in dark times. It can feel difficult to escape the news and the realities of day to day life. But last night I saw a diverse group of people simply enjoying nature. A variety of ages, races, cultures, and probably religions all in the same space and nearly universally happy.
There was another amateur photographer there. We ended up in similar spots in the fields on several occasions and struck up conversations about equipment or lighting. There was an older woman with a paint set and a notebook who was admired by one and all as they wandered past. People helped each other out, complimented each other’s appearances. Strangers pointed out good photo spots to others.
It’s a reminder that, to quote Albus Dumbledore, light can be found in even the darkest of places if one remembers to turn on the light. At the end of the day, we are much more similar than we are different. Despite what pundits and demagogues may try to get us to believe, on a very basic level there is so much that unites us. If nothing else, sunflowers make us nicer.