Here Comes the Sun(flowers): A Post From the Archives Resurfaces and Brings With It A Poem

Cheers to the official first days of summer! This week, here in the Vintage Kitchen we celebrated our own set of happy firsts too. The first volunteer sunflower of the season bloomed on the balcony just at the very same time that a sunflower re-bloomed on the blog. The balcony blossom was planted courtesy of Paul and Julia, our resident mourning doves.

The blog blossom was plucked by the editor of a Canadian poetry journal who discovered the Vintage Kitchen archives through a 2012 post about growing red sunflowers. That blast from the past featured this particular homegrown delight…

From the archives – a sunflower blog post from 2012.

Both sightings added unexpected sparkle to the week, but the blog blossom brought along an extra something special. It was selected to appear alongside a beautiful poem entitled Black SunFlower written by Redgina Jean-Paul. The two were published in the Juniper Poetry Journal on Tuesday…

Black SunFlower

by Redgina Jean-Paul

I am

going over
every single
little thing
every single—
 
And I wish I could
turn it off
stop the train
in its—
 
Track my thoughts,
pull them back,
nocked-arrow’s fletching,
set them—
 
Free to choose,
I wish…
I want it to
End. I do. I want

perfect pitch
black sun
flower bed
fellow man
made   disaster.

— from Juniper Volume 5, Issue 1

With her remarkable way of illustrating longing and need, Redgina’s poem is quite a lovely collection of words. Even though there is always a sense of poetic movement and association when it comes to cooking in the Vintage Kitchen, it is not often that an actual poem comes home to roost among the pots and the pans and the foodstuffs collected on the counter. So it is with great pleasure that I have the opportunity to introduce a real-life poet who added beauty to the week with her turns of phrase.

To highlight the dramatic tone of Redgina’s poem, the editors of the poetry journal added a filter to the 2012 sunflower photograph so that when it was published in Juniper this week, the garden glory looked like this…

Side by side, picture with words, the two tell a little story…

If you are a long-time reader of the blog, you’ll have noticed that sunflowers pop up on a regular occasion around here. Idyllic companions in the kitchen garden, I love them especially for their sunny dispositions and their continuously cheerful color.

Cultivated by indigenous tribes in Arizona and New Mexico long before explorers ever set foot on North American soil, sunflowers have been brightening up our landscape for over four centuries. Not only are they a fantastic food source for bees, birds and people but they also offer lots of possibility for creative gardenscapes too.

A long-time love affair:) This was a garden photo taken in 2014.

Tall enough to offer shade to smaller plants, sturdy enough to act as borders for visual interest, and easy enough to grow in almost any type of soil, sunflowers are equally at home both in the city and the country. In our neighborhood, this city cottage grows them so tall every year they almost reach the roof…

And the birds help spread their seeds in empty city lots. Each summer, it is fun to walk around town and spot their handiwork…

The 20th century Rutgers University gardening professor, Victor Tiedjens believed that sunflowers were such a common sight and essential component in gardens, it was practically impossible to think of them as merely a decorative flower.

Every part of the plant contains additional uses. The stalks, thanks to their fibrous composition, can be used to make a wide variety of useful products like trellises, instruments and utensils. The flower heads can be sauteed or grilled with butter, olive oil, and garlic in their immature stage, where depending on preparation methods, can taste similar to artichokes or corn on the cob. And the seeds can be consumed in their natural state or processed for their oil.

Multi-clustering blooms of the Del Sol sunflower. The more the merrier!

When it comes to the red varieties, it wasn’t until I started doing my own gardening about 20 years ago, that I discovered the dynamic array of shades of the red sunflower varieties. Ranging from rust to almost-black, I became so smitten with them in 2012, that I ordered seed packages of all the red varieties that I could find online and then planted them all over the garden. Two months later a few hundred bloomed! These are some of the photos from that magical summer…

Sunflower love!
Moulin Rouge Sunflower
Autumn Beauty Sunflower
Moulin Rouge Sunflower
Rouge Royale

That was back when I lived in another state on a lovely rural farm with cows for neighbors and my favorite camera always in hand. After some time spent in this country setting, we moved to the city and sadly, my camera died an untimely death a couple of years later. Our last big photo adventure together was a trip to Seattle where I was trying to track down my great-grandmother’s doughnut shop (read about that adventure here). But I am happy to still have the sunflower photos and the memories of those colorful patches of red faces dancing on the breeze. They added quite a bit of drama to the garden in 2012, and it’s nice to see that they are now adding a little drama to the field of poetry too.

If you have some extra time this weekend, pop over to Juniper and get lost in some modern poetry. You might just discover some new favorites of your own. And if you like Redgina’s poem as much as we did, please share it with your friends and family. The poets at Juniper do not get paid for their work when it is published, so their efforts are a true labor of love and self-expression. Around here, we think the world definitely needs more poets. And sunflowers too for that matter.

If you are looking to grow your own sunflowers, I recommend seeds from Botanical Interests. They are not a sponsor of the blog or affiliated with the Vintage Kitchen in any way, other than being my most favorite seed company. That is a love affair that has been going for over 10 years now! Their seeds always have a great success rate, they offer many heirloom varieties and the packages are really pretty and informative too. Browse their sunflower collection here.

Pretty packaging!

Cheers to Redgina and to Juniper, to Paul, and to Julia for planting seeds of joy and inspiration. And to the sunflowers who remind us to keep our faces pointed towards the light each and every day. Hope your weekend is a sunny one!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

ll1

Today Mr. Jeannie surprised Ms. Jeannie with this love poem. 17 lines. 67 words. 2 people. 1 romance. Ms. Jeannie is ever grateful to be ever in love with this giant heart of a man who matters so much. On this happy day of love dear readers,  may your words be equally as prized by others, whether it be for a spouse or a sibling, a friend or a furry four-leggeder – never underestimate the power of the alphabet:)

Happy Valentine’s Day! Cheers to making the feeling last all year through!

Hope Is the Thing with Feathers

If you remember from the last post, Hope Is the Thing with Feathers was the book written by Christopher Cokinos  that inspired the artistry of Todd McGrain. Ms. Jeannie just realized that the title came from a poem by this woman…

Do you recognize her?
Do you recognize her?

Emily Dickinson. She wrote the poem in 1861 at the age of 31.

Here it is in full:

Hope is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul, 
And sings the tune–without the words, 
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard; 
And sore must be the storm 
That could abash the little bird 
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land, 
And on the strangest sea; 
Yet, never, in extremity, 
It asked a crumb of me.

 – Emily Dickinson

It was written during the time in her life where Emily was just beginning to withdraw from public life. She spent her days at home, her birthplace,  the Homestead house in Amherst, MA surrounded by family and a few close friends.

Emily Dickinson's Homestead in Amhearst, MA
Emily Dickinson’s Homestead in Amhearst, MA

The house sat on 14 acres and was surrounded by trees and gardens where Emily drew inspiration for her poetry and writings.  There were plentiful garden beds where she would watch the birds dive and dart – the notions and assimilations fluttering about her mind.

It’s wonderful to think that Emily’s writing is still cause for inspiration over 150 years later and for such a noble book and equally noble art project as commemorating the lost birds of America.  Here she was, a reclusive soul,  interpreting the world how she saw it by putting thoughts to paper in Victorian era America, and now, free like all birds are, her words have taken flight to protect the very subjects she so admired. Ms. Jeannie just loves this. How one bit of creativity can spark another. You just never know how your words can affect others – so pick good ones, dear readers – they might just bloom into something extraordinary when you are least expecting it:)

Emily Dickinson, the wise. Photo via pinterest.
Emily Dickinson, the wise. Photo via pinterest.