Sunflowers in the snow

Sunflowers in the snow

Haeleigh Bayle, Reporter

A breathtaking patch of wild sunflower’s are growing in the snow. But it’s the dead of winter. How could these sunflower’s be growing when the sun doesn’t shine and the winds are strong enough to rip them out of the ground?

Ever since we moved to Alaska I can’t help but feel lost. The days grow shorter and shorter, and the temperatures are always dropping. I think about life back home whenever I can. I loved our big, sunny home in Washington; it had the warm, comforting feel that wrapped me up in a blanket whenever I stepped in the door. The house was open and always smelled like freshly-squeezed lemons. I was so happy there with all of my friends, the parties, and the laughs. But, of course, all good things have to come to an end and on one fateful day, my dad came home and told us he just got laid-off. My life turned upside down.

Now, after months of preparing, we officially have moved into our new log cabin home in Alaska. Why Alaska, you ask? Well, my parents wanted a change and my dad dreamed of living in a solitary place. So with him losing his job he decided to just pack us all up and send us backpacking to Alaska. Dad said it would be an adventure. Mom said it would help us become closer as a family. My sister cried. I said I wasn’t going. No matter how much I begged to let me move in with my grandparents, they refused. Now because of it, I get to share a room with Lexi, my fourteen-year-old sister and our house is a third of what we’re used to. I’m just happy we have the ability to have indoor plumbing, because if we had an outhouse I would walk back to Washington. My sophomore year of high school is torture…I should be out having fun with friends and laughing my cares away. Now, I just sit inside and dream about what life would be like if I were home.

Dinner was a quiet one that night. All you could hear were the scraping of forks on dishes and an occasional slurp as we ate our soup with a side of salad. My mom tried to start a conversation by looking at me and asking, “So, Ava, what do you think about the place?” I just gave a simple, “It’s nice.” That was the end of the small talk. We all went to bed early that night, since there wasn’t much to talk about and we didn’t have a TV to congregate around. (Another choice of dad’s.) That night, under my warm covers, I cried myself to sleep. The sound of sniffles floated across the room, and I looked in the bed across the room and saw Lexi silently crying as well.

Life in Alaska had only just begun.

When I awoke in the morning, I looked out my small, porthole of a window to see gentle snowflakes fluttering out of the sky. My eyes focused in the distance, and I could make out a yellow patch of what looked like flowers rising up in the middle of a thicket of woods and bushes. Curiosity got the better of me, so I quickly woke up Lexi and together we headed downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast. A quick bowl of cereal was enough for me to start my day, so I got dressed and told my mom I was headed outside to check out the area. “Be safe! And wear gloves and a hat, please!” she called from inside her room. I rolled my eyes, but grabbed some gloves and a hat anyways.

I trudged through the snow, winding my arms around myself to keep my coat tight against me. I then reached the outside of the thicket and peered in, looking as far into it as I could. The bushes were so dense I could only see a few feet in front of me. I sighed, tempted to just forget this whole thing and head back inside where I could un-thaw. But, ultimately, I decided to just press on, especially since I had nothing better to do. So, I broke bramble and sticks aside and continued onward. After about a half an hour of forging ahead, I stopped and looked back at my progress. Even though there was a thick blanket of sticks where I had thrown them, there was still brush everywhere, and I could just barely tell where my path was. I had no idea if I was even heading in the right direction, but there was a fire burning inside of me that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. My determination to find these mysterious flowers kept me going, giving me energy when I thought my arms would be burned out with exhaustion.

Finally, after an hour or more of bush-whacking, I entered the clearing. Wind was whipping around and around, chasing it’s own tail in a frenzy. But there, in the middle of the whole mess, were the flowers I had spotted from my window. I stared, thinking, A breathtaking patch of wild sunflower’s are growing in the snow. But it’s the dead of winter. How could these sunflower’s be growing when the sun doesn’t shine and the winds are strong enough to rip them out of the ground? I approached one of them, completely awestruck with its beauty. I gave a nearby sunflower a shake to help clean off some of the piled up snow, but it gave way under my touch and I found myself holding the decapitated sunflower in my hand. I suddenly felt so guilty for what I had done. Flashbacks to when I was younger and went with my mom through the store came to mind. With her saying one simple command, “Just look, don’t touch.” I should’ve heeded what she was saying right now. I took the life of the most amazing flower I had ever seen. I decided to head home, not wanting to cause this patch of flowers anymore harm.

When I arrived home the front door flew open, with my mom standing there, anxiety and relief covering her face. “You’ve been gone for hours! I thought something had happened to you!”

“Nope, I was just exploring,” I said as I held up the flower, trying to will myself to smile.

“Oh…how lovely!” My mom exclaimed, taken aback. “But, I thought they only grew in, ya know, warm climates…?”

“That’s what I thought too.”

“Well, get inside! You’re going to freeze out here!”

The next day I headed back outside, this time with a bounce in my step and the sunflower back in my hand. I headed for the tiny shed we had, and snatched a shovel out of its resting spot. I headed back to the thicket, thinking about how I could make it up to the flowers for ruining a beautiful specimen. By the time I entered the sunflower patch, I was soaked with sweat and doubting my plan severely. But, I got to work digging a small hole in the rock hard ground. I chipped small pieces at a time, finally working a big enough hole to stick the sunflower in. I gently laid it in there, and covered it back up with the dirt. I knew it was foolish to think this sunflower would grow in such a harsh, unforgiving environment, but I just hoped it would over time.

I returned the next day, as the sunflower patch had suddenly become my sanctuary. My happy place. I let out a gasp as I looked at the small patch of dirt I had dug up and planted the dead sunflower in. There, three sunflower sprigs had shot up from the ground. Already, they stood a foot tall, small buds developing on the top. I sat, transfixed on the sunflower’s. This makes no sense, I thought. Sunflower’s grow slowly as it is, so seeing these grow a foot in one night is, well, unbelievable. Yet here I was, sitting inches from evidence that anything can happen with a determined patch of sunflowers.

Every day I returned to the sunflower patch, watching as more and more sunflowers took root and sprung up. The older ones never did die off, they just grew stronger and stronger as the days went by. I walked through the sunflowers, gently lifting the petals and feeling the smooth texture on my fingers. Every time I visited my sunflower patch, my mood was immediately lifted, and I found my skip in my step once again. My parents and Lexi noticed, too, and I watched as they too became happier with our new life. Finally, one morning I decided to take them all to my sunflower patch. As I led them along, I thought back to how miserable I was when we first moved here. Now, I’m a completely different person: laughing, smiling, and constantly making jokes. My mom was speechless when she saw the sunflowers, my dad let out a whistle, and Lexi stood with her mouth agape. I couldn’t help but giggle at their reactions, because I knew that’s exactly what I looked like. We stood in silence for a while, taking it all in. Finally, my dad turned to me and asked, “How is this even possible?”

“It’s not possible, that’s the thing. You just have to not ask questions…some things are better left undiscovered,” I added with a small smile.

In that instant, I came to a realization. The thicket that surrounded the sunflowers were like all of my problems, but all I had to do was work through them to get to my patch of sunflowers… true happiness. Life was going to be tough, but I knew I had to just keep pressing on. And once I fought through the rough times, I would find the most amazing aftermath.

Dad was right, this was an adventure. Mom didn’t lie, we were becoming closer as a family. Luckily, we only cry happy tears now.

And I wasn’t leaving this place.

I was home.