Wednesday, August 21, 2013


This has been a good summer for spotting sunflower paintings in museums!

Sunflower Tango
by Gina Litherland
Seen in May at the Chazen Museum of Art
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Magically entitled and magically realistic, Litherland's painting is just a touch eerie yet most enchanting. The central figure is mesmerizing from head to toe. I love the way in which her hairstyle is a continuation of the sunflower petals; and those darling yellow dancing shoes are the perfect choice for a tango!

Seated Female Figure Seen from Behind
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
Seen in July at the Minniapolis Institute of Arts

Chavannes' title -- which could be better! -- pays no mind to the delicate bouquet in the subject's hand. Yet, the sunflowers are what caught my eye in the first place, and they remain the detail -- along with the model's charming French twist (can my hairdresser do that for me?) that makes the painting such an elegant and memorable representation of Botony (see musuem note above).

In my search for just the right words to accompany these painting, I located poems by William Blake, Allen Ginsburg, and Mary Oliver; plus quotations from Oscar Wilde and of course Vincent Van Gogh, who so aptly laid claim: “The sunflower is mine, in a way.”

Not completely satisfied with my results, however, I asked my friends Len and Eileen if either had written any kind of ode to the flower of my birth state. Len said not yet; but I did look through his paintings and took the liberty of naming this one in honor of my quest for a late summer sunflower poem:

Late Summer Sunflowers ~ Leonard Orr

Eileen sent me these inspiring words from Theodore Roethke: "Deep in their root, all flowers keep the light." Yes, deep inside, we all do! She also overheard my wish that I could find a source identifying the Full August Moon as the Sunflower Moon! Well, I'm an authority, right? Could I just make that claim? Eileen's advice: "Self-authorize, woman!" Time to renounce the "self - effacing" and embrace "self-inscribing" (for more on these terms, see Robert Kegan and Thaisa Frank).

So, in the spirit of self - authorizing and nostalgic narrative therapy, I hereby write my own sunflower poem and re - christen the August moon:

A Sunflower Haiku:
A Kan - Sun by birth
Full August Sunflower Moon
Flower to live by

Moonrise, 20 August 2013, 9pm


  1. from Eileen:
    PS. KC: a story, "The Voice of Authority," by Dina Mehta. LOVE it. Also this one as a series of letters, "Come Home, Mabel" - guilt-city, from an old, old issue of _Two Lines_(ostensibly, poetry in translation) . . . but the DM: what we were saying.

  2. “My work is loving the world.
    Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird --
    equal seekers of sweetness. . . . ”

    ~Mary Oliver, from her poem "Messenger"
    found in her book _Thirst_