Once a sunflower lost its bearings during a total eclipse. Or to be more precise, it lost the guiding reassurance of time. Nothing remotely like this had ever happened to the sunflower in the past. Not only was it subtly attuned to every tick of the clock, but it had total recall of the exact moment when any given experience in its life had taken place, as well as those moments just before and after. The sunflower had anticipated the same would be true of every moment to come during the summer ahead, and well into autumn. All was predictable, hour to hour, day to day, week to week, month to month. And then the sun went out. Not all at once, but gradually, which made its disappearance even more alarming. Sudden darkness would have been easier to deal with. If the sunflower’s ordered world abruptly came to an end in an unforeseen cataclysm, well, what could you do? Things just didn’t work out. But this extended dying of the light, this deepening uncertainty, was an agonizing affair. One had time to regret the slow disappearance of the world into shadow. And with it the dying away of each memory or expectation it had produced. The best and the worst, equally slipping away in front of one’s eyes with a haunting slowness. When the sun was fully blocked, the flower began to sense the strange contours of a realm it had never dreamed of in the light of day. It found the change thoroughly disorienting and experienced, amid the shifting and vague shapes, a rush of vertigo. There was no rhyme or reason to count on, no reassuring lines running straight to the horizon. The sunflower couldn’t even be certain of its companions in the field around it, only that they, too, turned and turned about unsteadily in the dark. But then a strange calmness began to settle out of the gloom. No, calmness wasn’t the word for it, the sunflower thought. More like quiet fascination. In the depths of the eclipse, when nothing anymore was as it always had been, the possibility that the flower’s world might stay like this left it wavering between a wish for the sun’s return and a strange reluctance to have it reappear. The sunflower tried to envisage what life might be like in darkness. Without the accustomed bearings, it could be anything. As if the sunflower were the first sunflower on earth, forced to set its face towards one point of the compass or another with all the hazard of a life-and-death gamble. Nothing known for certain nor rejected yet. Free as no sunflower had ever been free before. Bearing the seeds of a present without past or future. And then, from behind the great dark promise of the moon, the light began to inch back across the sky.
Copyright © 2003-2004 by Geoffrey Grosshans