A Rose & A Sunflower

What Happens If...

Roses and sunflowers do not usually go together. Roses are a roseful bunch – they love to group together and sunflowers like rising tall, waving in the wind.

One day, a garden-keeper decided to drop some rose seeds and sunflower seeds side by side, curious to see what they would look like next to one another. The redness of the rose, the yellowness of the sunflower. Would they clash? Or would they look quite beautiful?

Now out of these seeds came a rose called Herbert.

Herbert is a very sensitive soul and though a male rose, he loves to talk to the female roses and see what’s the thought of the day. He likes the ease with which they talk amongst themselves, their smells, their laughter and the way they leap from subject to subject.

Herbert's other love is Petal Surfing. Now Petal Surfing is an extreme sport in the flower world. Let me tell you about it.

The rules of Petal Surfing are simple. Rule No.1: Do not turn back. Rule No. 2? There is no Rule No. 2. Rule No.1 says it all. You see once you have started Petal Surfing you better see it through, or oh boy the other roses aren’t going to let you live it down.

Typically Petal Surfing will only take place on the days when the wind blows at its most ferocious, on days when the rains slaps the ground and when the sun retreats so far away you wonder if it will ever come back.

So as the wind roars, the roses huddle together safe for a few moments in their groups, refusing to let the others know how their stems shake. Laughing that the wind is indeed strong but of course, it could be stronger!

And then the first rose goes. Flash! The rose will open its petals to the wind - the thrill is exhilarating! Soon another rose spreads out his petals like a fan allowing the wind to slice through them, intoxicated by the knowledge that for this moment their life dances so close to death. Maybe four or five roses do this at the same time and the winner of the game is the one who dares stay open the longest.

Herbert, or Herb as his friends call him, has never won a game of Petal Surfing. Something always seems to pull him back. Unlike Ronald who has had so many petals ripped off that he only has his bud left.

“Why do you stay so long Ronald?” Herbert asked one day. “Why do you stay so long, even when all your petals have been ripped off?”

“Just livin’ the dream man,” Ronald muttered in response.

“What dream?” Herb asked.

“Freedom man.”

“Freedom?” Herb replied, slightly bewildered, “Freedom from what?”

But Ronald didn’t reply and Herb didn’t ask again, scared to look stupid in front of such a praised rose, so he smiled in what he hoped was a wise manner. And then promptly changed the subject.

On other days, Herb just liked to stare at the sunflowers. He noticed their bright yellow petals with their big buds all exposed - not hidden like a roses. And he liked that. The daringness of it. He thought them open-natured. But of course this is a mistake all roses make, for though sunflowers expose their buds to all, their real hearts are revealed to only a few. For sunflowers are shy creatures and the thought of letting anyone too close scares them more then a rose can guess.

Sunflower mandala

But to Herb, the sunflowers looked incredibly alluring and independent. So tall! And at the same time just ever slightly so alone as well. For what other flower can grow as tall as a sunflower? To him their lives seemed to be one giant Petal Surfing competition. One too often lost. For frequently Herb would wake some mornings to find yet another sunflower flattened against the soil, too old or weak to withstand the nights winds. And so the garden-keeper would come and bind the sunflower tight against a wooden pole.

You & Me - forever maybe entwined

“To give you strength my lovely sunflower,” the garden-keeper would smile, thinking she was doing a good thing. Unaware of the jail she had placed this one particular sunflower in. For as every flower knows there is a hell few can imagine worse then the pain of being tied to one thing, for even to be flattened for a while (for as every sunflower knows, all things, no matter what things they are, are only for a while) is to experience something different, it is to learn of a way not yet lived, not yet known.

One morning Herb awoke to the sound of a sobbing sunflower who had just been tied up by the garden-keeper. She looked so sad, Herbert wished he could do something to help, but he felt helpless. How could a rose help a sunflower after all? But as he looked around at the other sunflowers he noticed a particular sunflower that lived quite close to him that for some reason he had never seen before. That's odd he thought, I must say hello to her. And so he did.

“Hello,” he said.

The sunflower turned around. She smiled with surprise at seeing that a rose was saying hello. For the truth was she had never even realised that there were a bed of roses so close to her.

“Hello,” she said back, “how are you?”

“I am sorry about your friend, will she be okay?”

“I don’t know,” the sunflower girl replied. “I hope so.” And with that a big smile broke across her face which made Herb beam back at her.

“My name is Herbert. Or you may call me Herb”. Herb said bowing his head slightly in greeting.

“My name is Lucy.” Replied the sunflower and from that moment on Herb and Lucy became very good friends indeed. Such good friends that Herb forgot all about Petal Surfing, keen to spend as much time with Lucy as possible. He wanted to know everything about her.

“Isn’t it lonely up there? Isn’t it boring up there?” He asked his Sunflower girl one day.

“Oh no, how can it be boring when the view is so good?” Replied Lucy. And Herb smiled, thinking this a very good answer indeed. And he looked up at his friend and felt something in his heart that he had never felt before. It was as if for the first time he was really feeling his heart. He felt his whole body in fact and it felt extraordinary and he knew that he had never looked at another flower and felt this feeling before. But it felt so great he didn’t know how to tell Lucy about it. It might scare her away, he thought. So instead he chose to say nothing at all.

"A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose"(Gertrude Stein)

Then one day the garden-keeper walked over and seeing how beautiful the sunflowers and the roses had become growing next to one another smiled and said to them.

“Tomorrow you will all be going on a trip.” For everyone now and again the garden-keeper would collect herflowers and give them away to friends who lived nearby.

“To human homes!” squealed Lucy with excitement. “Oh Herb we are being taken to human homes! What an adventure!” Perhaps forgetting all about the adventure that was beginning to blossom between her and her rose.

Herb tried to look happy in response, when the truth was there was a great ache in his heart so painful he didn’t know if he could even breathe. He looked up at his beautiful sunflower girl and wondered how he would be able to spend day after day without her. How could he express this thought to her? But now it was too late as tomorrow they would be separated and Lucy would never know how he felt about her.

Herb’s eyebrows furrowed and the gaze of his eyes sunk to the earth below, in the way that happens when your thoughts swirl and you wonder about a million things all connected to just the one thing that you are thinking so deeply about.

“Pretty selfish to have so many thoughts and not at least share one of them with an old friend?” Ronald nudged Herb with a kind smile in his eye.

“Oh Ronald.” Herbert replied. “It’s Lucy. Tomorrow… we’ll be separated and I will never see her again. And and…”

“You love her?” Herbert’s old friend with the one petal finished the heart sick roses’s sentence for him, for it was clear to all the other roses what had been growing between the sunflower and the rose. And then Ronald said something that made something in Herb ping and his petals unfold like a sunflowers!

herbert's heart

And it was this: “Herb if you don’t say what you want to say now, when are you going to say it?” And in that moment Herb knew that his friend was right and so he turned to his beautiful sunflower girl and called up at her.

“Luuuuuucy.” He called. “Luuuuucy.”

“Yes Herb?” And for a second Herb could have sworn that he saw a look of sadness gallop across his friend’s eyes but Lucy blinked and the moment passed so quickly he wasn’t sure if he was imagining it. But he hadn’t. The sadness had been there, but being of a sunflower disposition Lucy had pulled herself together before Herb could see what she was feeling. For Lucy had suddenly stopped making all her plans for tomorrow to realise what she felt today: that she loved Herbert. That the rose beside her was the rose she wanted to be with for all her days.

“Lucy.. I…” and for a second of a second Herb almost stopped, feeling fear stomping around in his belly. So he swallowed and took a deep breath and then looking up at Lucy told her that he loved her that she was his sunflower girl and she made him happier then even Petal Surfing did.

And when he finished Lucy stopped and looked at her rose, his face open and a little nervous and she smiled and in that smile Herb knew. He knew that his sunflower girl loved him. And then they started a conversation that felt as if it had been waiting to be let out since they had first met, they spoke rapidly and in hushed tones throughout the night, sometimes giggling, at others groaning at their own silliness and shyness.

Late into the night the garden-keeper woke.

“Something is happening,” she said to herself as she stepped out of bed and pottered over to her window, pulling back the curtain and peering out into the black of the night to look at her wild large garden. Whereupon her mouth fell open and her hand came to her heart. For there in her garden it looked as if the sun were rising in her flowerbed where the roses and sunflowers lived. For at the line that separated them, two different flowers had become entwined as if to appear as one. The redness of the rose, the yellowness of the sunflower coming together to create a glow so brilliant that it looked as if the sun were rising right there in the garden-keeper’s garden.

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And in that moment the garden-keeper realised that she would never be able to cut down these flowers and separate them. And so she left them next to one another for the rest of their lives and Herbert and his sunflower girl grew old together and people from all around would come to the garden keeper’s garden to come and look at the flowers that made a little garden look as if the sun was always rising and never setting.

In fact, I feel like a trip right there now…

Over to you...

Have you ever been scared to reveal the truth of your heart? I'd love to hear - and you can share it in story form! - if  you have ever had an experience similar to Herbert in the comments below. (thank you...)