The sunflowers of 2019

I wrote a poem last October called “Petals” (it’s posted on this blog) which was an articulation of some things I have been wrestling with as an artist (worth, trade, dignity, and flowers). It was a lightning strike piece of work – one in which I realized I could create art that did exactly what I wanted, art that broke past the filter artists face between concept and execution.

That experience prompted me to do something I never thought I would do: apply to grad school for the second time in my life (I did that seven years ago, was accepted, uprooted my life and moved to Colorado, then had a depressive breakdown before my first major assignments were even due and moved home). I have debt that is impossible – so impossible it has made me wonder about suicide and whether or not killing myself would be worth the mess of pain I left behind. The answer to that was always no, by the way…and even if I had fewer to no people in my life to hurt by killing myself, I would be cutting short the crystal blue sky that shows up some days and the laughter and flowers that show up some days too.

I digress. The point of saying all that was just that taking out any more loans to try grad school again seemed pretty stupid.

But the Creative Writing and Environment program is fully funded, so I decided it was worth the cost of a GRE test (actually, my dad paid for that) and application fee to give it a gamble…and I got in! Which has brought me here, at the latter end of my first semester, which has been both beautiful and extremely challenging.

Between the acceptance in March and the start of classes in August, I took pictures of sunflowers when I saw them in honor of the poem I wrote that changed my life.

Collage inspired by “Petals”
Processing new sunflowers (whose petals need reviving) at Hy-Vee Floral
Pricing bunches of sunflowers
The sunflowers our downstairs neighbors planted when our backyard garden was well-tended
A sunflower across the sidewalk from my neighbor’s house around the block, planted alone by a whimsical person or a whimsical wind
Sunflowers and daisies I used in an arrangement on my last day at Hy-Vee in August
Sunflowers for sale in the boutique flower shop across the street from a cafe where my husband and I had lunch in Iowa City on a rare weekend getaway
Research plot at Iowa State University
Random fallen sunflower at the research plot

…tiny creative acts of kindness: workplace gifts

The other night, I created 11 tiny drawings for my coworkers at the floral shop. I stuck them inside their aprons yesterday morning (since they were so small, I didn’t want anyone to miss them, so I told them all to check their pockets when they got there. Everyone always steals everyone else’s tools, so I think — judging by most of their expressions — they may have thought I was wondering if they took something of mine! But they smiled when they realized the gifts).

I stayed up until 4 am making them, and I had spent some time on them the previous night as well, working a total of 14 hours or so on this offshoot of the larger “creative acts of kindness” project.

This one was my favorite. McKenzie, my coworker, actually did check her pockets right away and thought someone had stuffed candy wrappers in there. She was pissed for a moment!