Yesterday, Tim and I went to the Sunflower Field, which is about an hour and a half away from where we live. My favorite flowers are sunflowers- in fact, when we had our stationary business, it was called Sunflower Cottage Designs.
I have always wanted to see a sunflower field although the first time I thought that, I was reading a book about Tuscany. I knew that I would probably never get to Tuscany at just the right time to see such a sight, so I let it go! When I realized a few years ago that there were fields like this in Alabama, I told Tim that someday we should go check one out.
A few weeks ago I saw a Facebook post about the Sunflower Field south of Clanton and the thought went through my mind that although the post said they would only be open for a couple of more weeks, “someday” we should go see the large fields full of my favorite flower.
Last weekend, I was checking social media and there was my son and his new wife standing in a field of sunflowers! I was hit with several emotions- joy that they were so happy and experiencing so many things together, jealousy that they were there and I wasn’t, and finally anger at myself that I continually say “someday” when it comes to things I would like to do- especially when over and over again, “someday” never comes!
From the very first time I met her, I knew that my daughter-in-law Laurel was not one to let the grass grow under her feet. She grabs life by the horns and hangs on. At first, I thought my quiet, shy, reclusive son would never draft in with this dynamo. After all, before he started dating Laurel, every time we went to his house the first thing I did was open the curtains and turn on some lights, because Jon would stay mostly in the dark either working on the computer, watching TV or playing video games.
I hoped that someday he would find someone who would push him out of his cave-like existence and get him to see the light of day a bit. Laurel certainly has done that. And not just for him, but for me as well.
When I saw the pictures of them in the sunflower field and then dripping with sweat when they got back to the car, I realized that I have to stop waiting for “someday.” If this pandemic has taught me one thing, it is that more often than not, we don’t get a second chance.
After my last blog, I stirred up a few people and finally got some responses, mostly private. One thing that I heard over and over was how we as a theatre community took our strong theatre scene for granted. So many have said they will never take their time on stage for granted ever again! I think we all take so much for granted every day.
When I was a child, we traveled a lot. I had been to almost all 50 states and a few other places as well when I married Tim. Although the way we traveled when I was younger would not be my idea of a fun vacation now, it was certainly adventurous and memorable.
When Tim and I got married, he had not traveled much and had always wanted to, so we did a little traveling, especially after Jon came along. I accomplished getting to all 50 states and added some more countries as well. I always got sad when it was time to head home and would pout as we neared Alabama.
Yesterday, as we got stuck in a traffic jam on the way home and sat for over an hour in one spot, I was anxious to be home. I have noticed that in the last few years, when we travel, I no longer got depressed when a trip is ending and I am actually eager to be back in my home.
I have pondered why I have changed and I think it is because I have made a home that I finally love coming back to. I think I have learned to appreciate the mundane, the cooking which has become my artistic outlet these past few months and the vacuuming and laundry, which have become expressions of love, not only for my family, but for the things in my house that bring me joy and sustain me. I no longer take my house and my life for granted.
Laurel gave me several books for Mother’s Day. She knows I love to read and with the pandemic, I have been able to read more than before. One of the books was “Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies” by Tara Schuster, the others were a set of books by Marie Kondo, which I think I have mentioned here before.
Of course, I immediately began reading the Marie Kondo books because tidying, organizing and controlling my environment speak to everything I am. It took me forever to finish the books, because every new page sent me to a new part of my house to reorganize and clean. It calmed my controlling, neat freak spirit to slowly redo the whole house in terms of how I stored and kept my things. Kondo also teaches you to honor your things for what they have done for you and although it seems pretty ridiculous, it turns out it is pretty inspirational.
Talk about not taking things for granted! She urges us to honor our stuff even as we give it or throw it away. She asks you to think of something positive an outfit or kitchen utensil did for you, even if you no longer want or need it. She points out that even if an object was a gift that you hated from day one, you can find something about it that taught you about yourself in some way.
Did it teach you that you should never buy that particular type of thing again? Did it teach you that you are indeed better served with the old kitchen tool as opposed to the newfangled, shiny tool? Did it teach you that you have too much stuff, or that one picture is enough- you don’t need 20 pictures of the same place? If you work at it, there are lessons to be learned from every item we have.
Once I had finished both of Kondo’s books and reorganized every shelf, closet, cabinet and drawer in my house, even my husband’s underwear drawer, (which I don’t think he appreciated as much as I had hoped he would!) I looked at the Tara Schuster book and decided to save it for later.
Last weekend, when I saw the pictures of Jon and Laurel at the Sunflower Field, I told my husband Tim that I had always wanted to see a sunflower field and I was a little envious that they had gone. At that moment, Tim looked at me and said, “So why don’t we go? They are open one more weekend.”
I had all sorts of reasons- it was too hot, it was too far, he didn’t need to walk that far, we had other things to do. He looked at me and said, “We can go Saturday.” And with that, he turned and left for work.
Yesterday (Saturday), we loaded up a cooler full of water and headed to the Sunflower Field. It was further than we expected and it was definitely hot! The GPS took us around the world to get there and there were times we wondered if the crazy lady yelling at us from my phone even knew where in the hell she was going! Eventually, there it was, right in front of us!
We got a bucket and headed to the field which was not far from where we parked, and although it was terribly hot and the bugs were hungry, it was fun to take pictures, choose and cut flowers and walk around looking at the beauty of not only the fields, but the huge diversity of people walking around with us.
The honeybees were bigger and more numerous than I have ever seen. Being allergic to honeybees and not sure I would survive another sting like the two I had in my younger years that nearly did me in, I walked around scared and yet curious as to what the honey from bees that lived in a sunflower field would taste like as compared to the clover honey I often eat.
Tim kindly scared the bees off of the stems I pointed to and cut them for me so I didn’t get too close to the bees, although I knew they could come get me if they had so wished.
On the way out, Tim asked the man selling buckets of water to put your flowers in, about the old trailer we had seen driving in. It had belonged to Tim years ago and still had his racing team logo painted on the side. The man and Tim made a few connections of who had sold whom the trailer until it ended up there, proving once again what a small world it really is, and we headed to Peach Park for some ice cream, fresh peaches and some honey butter.
Even though we got stuck in a traffic jam and the late season sunflowers I had cut wilted in the bucket, it was a successful day of time away, time together and time to soak up the beauty of not only a sunflower field, but the myriad of people who were there with us. My “someday” could have kept us at home Saturday, scratching a few chores off of our list and staying safe in our house. I am so glad we ventured out!
It is always good to have people in your life who push you, challenge you, lead you to do more than you might would have done otherwise. Months ago, when I asked Jon if he was enjoying being around someone who took him to see and do so many things that he never would have done otherwise, who pushed him out into the light of day when he had always hidden in the shadows, he said that he was doing all of the things he had always wanted to do, but hadn’t even realized were out there to do.
I still believe that there are some things in life that you have to wait for. If you have your dream house and your dream car and your dream life right off the bat, there is nothing to work towards, no “anticipatorial joy” as one of my friend’s dad used to call it. Sometimes savoring the possibility is as good as just jumping into something. And if you do everything you want all of the time, then the specialness of certain activities just kind of goes away- it isn’t special if you do it every day.
I try to celebrate things all of the time. During the past few months we’ve had many Taco Tuesdays at our house, we have “at home date night” dinner on Friday and “at home movie night” on Saturday. I have tried really hard to make the days special so that we don’t go too crazy being stuck at home. There is a fine line between too much and not enough.
As for taking theatre for granted, I guess I am having the hardest time with that. Although I started working onstage at the age of 5, it was taken away from me several times in my life, by others sometimes, but mostly of my own doing. When I made the decision to acquire the knowledge I needed to help me feel more comfortable in the theatre, it was a huge commitment of money, time and determination. I pushed myself more than I ever thought I could and learned a lot about myself along with learning more about the theatre.
Even after graduation and 8 plays in the year following, it took me a few years to realize what I might actually be good at (and I never say I am good at anything!) Once I admitted to myself and a few friends that I had a direction, that I had the positivity and confidence to go full steam ahead with my newly rediscovered love, the world shut down. And even as it reopens, my possibilities are closed and seem like they will be for awhile.
When people tell me that they will never take theatre for granted again, I realize that I had come to that realization way before the pandemic. I had fought for the little bit of theatre I had done growing up, I had often put myself in the background when I did get an opportunity to be around a stage, and I had struggled to keep up with 20 year-olds in my 50s while never missing putting a meal on the table for my family or having the house clean and the laundry done. Anything less and I would have felt like a failure.
I already knew not to take it for granted, but I lost it for now anyway.
I am learning not to wait until the time is perfect, although my perfectionist ways push me in that direction. I am learning that close enough is ok sometimes, that usually the perfect time isn’t going to ever present itself. I am learning that if I am not the best actor or the best director, I am still worthy of trying. I can still step out and do my best, learn from the experience and move on.
My daughter in law makes horror movies. Again, something that my son never liked and I refuse to watch (although I did go see her last one!) She wrote a new movie and shot her first weekend of scenes only a few weeks before the stay at home orders. As soon as the order was lifted, she had made a plan on how to finish shooting while keeping people apart, on separate schedules and in masks between takes. She finished the short movie in one more weekend and now, well over a month later, it seems not one person got sick on her set.
She took precautions, but did not let it stop her. I am learning that there isn’t much that can! And again, she is a good example to me. Instead of thinking of the 100 reasons why something can’t be done, she thinks of the one way that it can. And she does.
As we left the Sunflower Field, there were T-shirts piled on the table near where Tim talked to the owner about his old trailer. He motioned to me, asking in gestures if I wanted a shirt. I shook my head- after all I had just spent a week weeding out and reorganizing way too many T-shirts stacked in my closet. Although these shirts were brightly colored and I could see a little bee printed on the shoulder, I did not need one more T-shirt advertising some business.
Last night, as I lay in bed thinking about the day, I looked up the Sunflower Field Facebook page for research, knowing I wanted to blog about it today. There, among the photos of successful wedding proposals and close ups of flowers with the bees sitting on them, was a picture of their T-shirts- the bright colors and the little bee I had seen from afar. Instead of an ad for the place, there was a sunflower with the words Be Kind in a cute script. Underneath in small letters it said simply- The Sunflower Field.
I realized once again, that my shyness, hesitation and practicality had kept me from getting something that made me smile when I saw the picture! I guess it is time to read “Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies” and quit taking for granted that I will get another chance next year- because I know well, there is no guarantee of that.
Over the years, sitting back and waiting has gotten me the opportunity to watch other people do the things that I long to do. I have realized that what usually stops us is fear, which is a sad reason to not do the things you long to do. I am slowly learning that it is OK to put yourself first sometimes, to jump in before you are sure and to realize we don’t always get a tomorrow. I am learning the time is never right if you can’t bring yourself to try. Taking anything for granted is pretty bad, taking time for granted is just plain foolish.