Walking down a city alley a little over a year ago, I came upon a small field, a large patch, of sunflowers in full bloom, perhaps facing the sun through the course of the day. The weather was still quite dry last year, and food for wildlife was hard to come by. The sunflower blooms, with their great centers filled with dark seeds, were a gift for starlings that day. It's possible the seeds may have made a squirrel or possum happy too. Heck, I like sunflower seeds - toasted and sprinkled on salads! The sunflower blooms, with their rich yellow petals, were beautiful, swaying tall in the sunlight.
I have a little formula for human life that in part was birthed in the 1970s, during the era of the space race with the Soviet Union, when a Psychology Today magazine featured a test for readers where you prioritized what humans might need to survive on the moon. I no longer recall the details, but over time, I've tried to similarly itemize our priorities on earth. On the one hand, love seems to sum it up. With love for each other and for the world we share, all falls into place rather naturally. However, many find that a little vague or uncomfortable to focus on, so I have a more tangible list: Number 1 priority is air, without which we could not naturally live more than a few minutes. Number 2 is water, without which we could not survive more than a day or two. Number 3 is food, which is also necessary for survival. Some might survive a couple weeks, others a few months. Number 4 is shelter, and number 5 is reproduction. Without these, our species could not naturally procreate, survive into the future.
It was brought to my attention today, a missing priority that might should be tucked in there somewhere. The sun! Most species of flora and fauna on earth require sunlight to grow, to thrive, and perhaps to survive. We don't think of it much because we spend so much time indoors now. Without sunlight, though, food that manages to grow is missing vital nutrients. People and animals then suffer from ailments like rickets, which affects bone development. The milk of mammals is lacking, and babies fail to thrive.
I remember life in Pullman, Washington in the 1970s. Winters were typically very cold and clouded, well below freezing much of the time, dark for many months that far north, and many weeks buried in snow. Winters lasted well into spring some years. What comes to mind is that first day where the sun finally peeped out, and it warmed up to the 50s Fahrenheit. People unzipped their parkas as though it were 70 degrees. Students could be found on dormitory roofs, bathing in sunlight, taking in as much as they could drink. There was a kind of giddy joy with the return of the sun.
Sometimes it seems to me our priorities are confused. We prioritize money as first in life, or weapons before food, or rockets before air. We need expensive cars more than we prioritize raising our kids. We forget our relationship to the sun, and to the dark of night. Or maybe it's the love part we forget.
The sunflowers bowing in the sunlight brought all this to mind.