The Ravaging of the Sunflowers

Though the fig tree does not bud and no fruit is on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the field produce no food, though the sheep are cut off from the fold and no cattle are in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Habakkuk 3:17-18

My sunflower crop got ravaged overnight.
Where I least expected it. On my back deck. Right outside my patio door.
This time it wasn’t my garden 50 feet out on my side yard with the more mature plants. It was the most vulnerable. The tiniest new growth, 150, still in their white paper cups.
I stagger the crop based on days to flower. This variety was my over acheivers. Slated to bloom in 50-60 days.

I’ve been watching my big garden daily, reapplying my very expensive repellent and turning on my hose when it doesn’t rain. I lost a half dozen in one corner to a hungry predator one night but sighed with relief that for whatever reason, it satisfied itself with an appetizer.
Never have I lost any plants off my deck where their failure to thrive wasn’t on me.
This morning, I walked outside ready to tend them with care. Lord knows, I needed the hope of their sunshiny future and found them 
Destroyed
Uprooted
Killed
Their roots pulled out of the soil, exposed and burnt, their leaves chewed off leaving a still greenish stem. Others had pinprick looking holes left where the entire plant had been consumed. For those yet to shed their seed and become real, the varmint had cracked the shell open, eaten the life and left the carcass behind.
Some were only injured—roots still intact but growth whittled down to the soil line.

For a few minutes I just stood paralyzed. Speechless. Until I couldn’t stand and so I sat down, right in the middle of the war zone and wept. I know they’re just sunflowers and I recognize that the loss I just described is absolutely trivial compared to countless other casualties but they matter to me and their untimely devastation feels like the deathblow on a week where I’ve already been beaten to a pulp. The particulars in my story and the stories of the ones I love are ours alone but everyone has had their own kick in the gut some fateful day, week, month, year, decade, lifetime even…. and for each and every one of us, it just plain hurts. It throbs. It’s a red, frowny, teary face on the pain chart.

So what do we do with our ravaged gardens. The ones we nurtured and loved and had such beautiful hopes for? Here’s the only thing I know to do. Start by sitting in the devastation for as long as you need or at least as long as you can. Look at your uprooted plants. See what has been lost and grieve that the hopes you had for them will not be realized. Cry your tears. They’re legit. Then, assess the damage and start cleaning up. Separate what’s salvageable from what has to be thrown into the compost bin. It’s not a race. Do it at your own pace. Let yourself re-assess the damage as you go and give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Dispose of what has been lost. It cannot be retrieved. Nurse what has been wounded with the tenderest care you are able to give.
Now, take your now seedless cups of soil and plant more sunflower seeds. Yeah, I really did say that. Choose courage to hope that the next effort, the next seed packet can live and thrive and bloom and be gloriously mature.
It’s an incredible risk. There’s a part of me that wants to just rototill my garden, let it grow weeds  and entirely give up. There’s no risk in that. There’s nothing I value that I can lose. But that is the path of despair and at the fork in the road, I will not choose to take it.
Today, I will sow. I will water my pinkish-red strawberries and and the other flowers in my porch pots. They’re alive and in bloom. They can’t take the place of my sunflowers because they aren’t sunflowers but they are a mirror— reflecting back the reality that hope is worth it and some times our good dreams are realized and they’re beautiful.

Here’s what I have to offer up to God today:
God bless my sunflowers.
Bless the tiny ones I just buried in the compost pile. 
May even their decomposition contribute to your plan for the earth and its regeneration.
Bless the injured plants with new growth and energy.
Bless the seeds that I poke into the soil today. May their life be full and may they bloom according to their design.
Bless my garden and all of the plants that are growing toward the sun amidst perils they cannot comprehend. 
Bless me, God, would you honor my courage to persevere as a gardener? 
Would you comfort me in my loss of my crop?
Would you enable me to hope that there will yet be beauty even though I’ve suffered devastation?
God, would you count my sunflowers, each and every one, just as you do my tears and the number of hairs on my head? And, would you tend them with your most gentle and protective care even though I cannot?
I trust the garden I love to you, God. You made the plants and you loaned them to me to steward, to appreciate, to nurture and enjoy.
I have done my part the best I can. With your help, I will continue to be faithful and wait to see what you will do.
Amen

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