Sunflowers (Himawari)

Hello all!

The subject of all my emails and posts used to be bits of Engrish I found around town.
But recently I think it's better if the subject has something to do with what I'm writing about.
So I recommend joining the facebook Engrish in Japan.  It never fails to make me laugh.  If I'm having a bad day, I just scroll through the site for a while.  Even if you don't use facebook, I recommend scrolling through this whenever you have a bad day.


Next item up.  My art email inspired so many interesting comments!  Thanks everyone for all your insight and personal stories.  My dad sent me this picture of one of my first works of art.  I was between 3 and 4.  I'm glad we still have this physical evidence of the beginning stages of my hobby.  And I'm thrilled to know my parents noticed it, took a picture, and held on to that photo.  That means a lot to me.

Some other interesting comments and questions.
When did you give up art? (if you've given it up)  Was it when you were a kid or later in life?
Why do people say, "You should get back into it!" long after you give up art or piano, but not if you give up collecting baseball cards, or playing rugby or something.
In Japan, many people say, "I don't understand art so I don't like it."  Is this a Japanese thing, the idea that it has to be "understood" in some specific way?  Or do people say this kind of thing in other countries too?
Anyway, I'm not done thinking about this topic and thanks for all the food for thought.

So let's talk about sunflowers.

The person I share my garden with, Mr. Ono, asked me in the spring, after my carrot patch failed, what I wanted to grow next.  I said, "Sunflowers!"  I imagine a field of sunflowers and people would come by and get excited to see them.  Mr. Ono said that I'd better do a lot of research before planting them, and think about which type to buy, and after I did so he would go to the store and get the seeds for me.  I thought that sounded like a bother, so I just went to the store myself and got the biggest looking seeds they had, planted them in the ground, and sunflowers started growing!

The lady with the garden behind mine stuck out her lower lip when I told her they were sunflowers.  She said, "Japanese people don't do that."

I explained to her that in my country there were big fields of sunflowers that people grow for seeds and oil.

"They're going to be very tall," she warned me, as if this was something to disapprove of.  I call her Hana Obasan.

Mr. Ono showed up a few days later with seeds from the store and a printed pack of papers about how to best grow sunflowers.  I told him they're already planted and coming up.  But I planted his next to mine.  His are a smaller, more decorative variety.  It turns out the ones I planted are more for gathering the seeds from.

I asked Mr. Ono if I should invite people to the garden and charge them money to take pictures with American sunflowers.  It was just a joke, and he laughed and tried to tell it to Hana Obasan.  She just said, "Hmph!" and went back inside.

So a few weeks later, the plants were sprouting their first real leaves.  It was getting time to cull the weak ones.  I was planning to just rip them out, but suddenly Hana Obasan came out of her house and said, "If you don't need the smaller sprouts. . . Could I put some in my garden?"

Haha!  Sure, go ahead!
I gave her the culled sprouts and she planted them up on the hill.
Take that, Hana Obasan!  I've won you over!

My sunflowers grew much taller than I imagined.  Mr. Ono said he was worried such tall plants would easily fall down.  He started trying to tie them to each other with twine.  I told him not to bother.  It's not typhoon season, they'll be fine!!  Now the stems are as wide around as my wrist.  I remember this from my childhood.  These are sturdy plants.

Eventually they started making buds.  I went up to the garden one day and Hana Obachan was there complaining about the weeds.  She said to me, "Look at your sunflowers!  They're all facing the wrong way."

I looked and she was right.  They all face east toward the sunrise.  The problem is, I planted them on the east side of the garden, where it then drops off to the wall of the next person's house.  So there's no way I can really step back and admire my flowers.  They're too tall to stand under and look up at, and they're facing the wrong way to see from a distance.  So I took a few awkward pictures with my phone, and that was pretty much all I could do.

Once my sunflowers started to bloom, I figured sunflowers would be blooming elsewhere, so I took a trip with some acquaintances to see the large field of Kasaoka sunflowers.  It's part of a farm that has its own farmer's market, local food trucks, and events from time to time.  Sunflowers stretched as far as the eye could see!  There were a few different fields, with varying stages of growth, so that people could go see the flowers all summer long.  They weren't as tall as my flowers, so we had fun touching them and taking pictures.  There were a couple varieties of bees enjoying the blossoms as well, which was exciting.

At one end of the field was a man who came on his own volition with his three pets.  What kind of pets?  He had 3 parrots sitting on his shoulders!  He taught them how to shake hands, lay down, and spread their wings.  He was just hanging out, showing off his pets, and letting everyone touch them.  Their feathers were gorgeous.  I thought that was a great hobby!  Retire, get some pets, hang out in public spaces and let people have fun with your pets, make some friends, enjoy life.

Back at home, Mr. Ono asked me, "So what are you going to do about your sunflowers?"  What kind of a question is that?  Do flowers need to have something "done about" them?  But I started thinking about that.  I don't have the chance to enjoy my flowers enough.  So I hacked one down and took it home with me.  I tied it to a chair so it wouldn't fall over and stuck the stem in a giant plastic cup that I got in Las Vegas.  I was very curious about what my husband would say!

Well, I didn't need to be curious.  He didn't even notice it was there.  But the next day it was really obviously there because it started sprinkling pollen all over the floor.  Lots and lots of yellow pollen!  It was trying so hard to reproduce!  I apologized to Yossi that my sunflower was making everything dirty.  He said it was no problem, it was natural.  My sunflower stayed alive in our house a good 2 weeks and I cleaned up a lot of pollen.

Now the sunflowers in my garden are making seeds.  As sunflowers aren't native to Japan, the people here have no concept of eating seeds that come from a flower.  If I ever eat sunflowers seeds, people make jokes that I'm a bird.  They think it's funny because they don't realize that the last 5 people have already told me the same joke.  But I found a Korean woman who understands that the seeds are food.  She wants to use my seeds to put in her home-made bread.  So this weekend I'm going to harvest the seeds and give them to her.  I hope I can enjoy sunflower seed bread soon!

When I was young and judgmental, I thought that appreciating flowers sounded boring and lazy.  Something silly girls did in story books.  Now I know that life is hard, having too much to do is a standard, and appreciating flowers is a noble goal.  It can even bring people and parrots together.



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