Two million sunflowers wave their bright yellow heads from a field that stretches along highway 90 in Avon, Ohio to remind people of Maria, a six year old girl who died of brain cancer in 2006. While she was in the hospital she was praying for other children with cancer. Her parents call the sunflowers, Prayers from Maria.
A few evenings ago as I was reading from The Vintage Collection of American Poetry, I came to an Allen Ginsberg poem called Sunflower Sutra, which of course brought to mind the field on highway 90 that I have been wanting to see.
When I looked up the word Sutra in the wonderful but old dictionary that I keep handy at my desk, I found the word was not in it. That prompted me to see what Wikipedia might offer and sure enough there was more information. I had some vague thoughts about it reaching way back to a class I took on East Asian Literature at Foothill Junior College in Los Altos Hills, California, but nothing specific. Wikipedia said Sutra is a Sanskrit word that means “string, thread”. In Indian literary traditions, it also refers to an aphorism or a collection of aphorisms in the form of a manual or, more broadly, a condensed manual or text. sutras are a genre of ancient and medieval Indian texts found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
It took a couple of readings for me to decide that Ginsberg’s use of the word actually worked and that it was not that he just liked the word. By this time the business of the sunflowers was becoming more intense and I felt like I had to get there.
When someone at work asked what I was doing for this Labor Day holiday weekend, I said I was hoping to drive out to see those sunflowers and coming into the office behind me, Colleen, our boss said she wanted to see them too, we could go together, which I thought was great, because alone I could easily have talked myself out of going.
By ten thirty in the morning, cars were filing into the parking lot and families were walking through the rows and rows of sunflowers. Many of us were taking photo after photo and the bees were clearly thriving in these fields. While this may not actually be holy ground, there was definitely something spiritual in the air.