“Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.” Maori Proverb.
As the light begins to wane for winter; giant heads of sunflowers come to bloom in late August for one last celebration of the sun. Cast against the lush green patchwork of the Irish landscape, the neon yellow flowers illuminate a sense of hope and optimism. Perhaps an Indian summer is nigh!
“Hope” is something we are all familiar with (especially when referring to the Irish weather). Sunflowers are a powerful symbol of hope and courage. The wise words of the Maori people remind us that no matter how dark the path of life becomes if we turn toward the sun, even on the darkest day, there is always a flicker of light. In some Native American Indian tribes sunflowers were seen as a symbol of courage; warriors would carry sunflower seeds into battle with them and hunters would sprinkle the powder on their clothing to keep their spirits high.
The bright yellow flower represented happiness for Van Gogh as he experimented with colour to capture mood and express identity. “The Sunflower” is one of the most popular paintings in the National Gallery. It is the painting that is most often reproduced on cards, posters, mugs, tea-towels and stationery. It was also the picture that Van Gogh was most proud of; painted during a rare period of excited optimism whilst he waited on the arrival of his hero, the avant-garde painter Paul Gauguin. Van Gogh dreamed of setting up a community of artists with Gauguin as its mentor.
Gareth Conlon “a man of the land” from Inniskeen, the birthplace of one of Ireland’s most favoured poets…. Patrick Kavanagh, planted a field of Sunflowers in the same soil that clogged the feet of Kavanagh’s boyhood and burgled his bank of youth. Gareth has kindly donated the “field of hope” to the work of Development Perspectives (DP). Development Perspectives is a local NGO and charity based in Drogheda. Since 2006 DP has contributed to a more Just and Peaceful world through innovative development education programmes with a focus on lessening poverty, inequality and climate change. There are times when “hope” starts to wane in the work of a charity and the avalanche of negative news weighs heavy on the hearts of those dedicated to bringing about positive change. It is during these times that gestures such as a field of sunflowers become poignantly symbolic.
The DP team would like to thank Gareth Conlon for lifting our spirits with Seeds of Hope.