A few weeks ago, we were invited to a “Sarahmony” to finally welcome Sarah home to Whidbey Island. She’d known for decades that she belonged here, and after her partner died last fall, she was finally able to heed the call. She got rid of almost everything she owned and drove her Subaru from Minnesota to Whidbey Island with her dog Pepper and friends Christina and Ann, who would be her new neighbors.
On the way to the Sarahmony, we stopped at the Tilth Farmers Market to get Sarah some flowers. I had my eye on a beautiful mixed bouquet, but we made the mistake of getting something to eat, and I saw someone else buy the the flowers I’d earmarked for Sarah. My heart sank. The only other alternative was sunflowers, which weren’t as diversely colorful, but having no other choice, I bought five of them.
As we approached Sarah’s new place, I saw lots of camp chairs arranged in a circle on the lawn. Sarah is on the board of The Circle Way and wrote her doctoral dissertation on circle as a transformative process, so of course, the chairs were in circle. She stood in the center, speaking to two young men, and I approached her with the sunflowers singing, “You are my sunshine.” This is, in fact, true. Sarah is everybody’s sunshine.
Having just moved in with the very fewest of possessions, she had no vase, but Christina brought one over. I arranged the flowers, and Sarah said, “We can put them in the center.” The center! That is a place of honor in circle practice.
After socializing for a bit, we all settled into camp chairs, and Christina opened the circle. She walked to the bouquet of sunflowers in the center, pulled one out, and explained that we would be using it as a talking piece. The talking piece! That meant that the sunflower would be handed from one person to the next, all around the circle. Most people unwittingly held it like a microphone, where it “received” the most memorable and loving things that each person had to say about Sarah.
On the way home, I reflected on the significant role my B-list bouquet had played at the Sarahmony. The mixed bouquet that I originally wanted for Sarah might have gone in the center and looked more beautiful, but being far more fragile, it was less likely that one of the many flowers would have been used as a talking piece. A robust sunflower was far more likely to survive an orbit around the circle.
A week or two later, something disappointing happened, and my partner commiserated.
“Sunflowers.” I said, trusting that this disappointment, too, would turn out for the best.