What Will a 7-Year-Old Do for a Sunflower?

She found inspiration from her grandson who wanted to grow sunflowers.


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Small branches are poking at my face, brambles snatching at my jeans, and roots grabbing at my feet, as I thread my way through the tangle of undergrowth to explore the mystery that awaits me at the end of this barely-discernible trail, near Charlottesville, Virginia. 

I bend and twist and turn this way and that to avoid as many brambles as possible. I hadn't expected this trek to be so arduous, but I do feel a sense of anticipation.

I'm about to discover how one adult's actions can spread and take root across the barriers of miles and generations.

In the mysterious but wondrous way of children, my 7-year-old grandson Liam has, without any urging by an adult,  taken it upon himself to build, in a small clearing, at the end of this narrow little trail...a compost pile of table scraps. 

I follow his scuffed tennis shoes, and when I reach the end of the trail, I watch as his small hands dump out the egg shells, apple peelings and old bread from a plastic pitcher he is holding.

Last year, Liam actually managed to grow a sunflower, something I have never even tried. He says he wants to grow better and bigger sunflowers this summer. That's his explanation for starting the compost.

But where, I'm wondering, did the idea come from? The story I learn from his mother Anarissa, goes like this...

Liam's great uncle (my brother) Dave, lives in Oregon. Liam lives in Virginia. But last summer Liam visited Dave, and walked with him one morning to take the table scraps out to a compost pile by the small garden that Jane, Liam's great aunt, grows.

Now, three thousand miles and a continent away, Liam is following in their footsteps.

What amazes me (besides the swelling of love and pride I find in being the grandmother of this enthusiastic, small, but determined 7-year-old) is this: how powerful are the actions of adults upon the children among us...even when we don't realize it! How far, geographically, our actions can spread! How far, into the future, our actions continue to live beyond our lifetimes!

Now, 7-year-old Liam's actions are spreading to me, and I live in Pennsylvania. From Oregon to Virginia to Pennsylvania and across generations and into the future.

Can you see where this is leading? This morning, beside my sink, there is a used cottage cheese container. In it, I have stuffed our breakfast banana and orange peels and last night's uneaten rice. I can't let my 7-year-old grandson show me up!

Today, in my backyard, I'm starting a compost pile...and who knows, this summer, I might even try to grow sunflowers! 

Feel free to email me your environmental tips and questions!

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