Sunflower Curse

Oddly enough, this is not a political post. It is, rather, a glorious comment on human nature. What are we writers, after all, other than recorders of, and explorers of the heights and depths of the souls we see around us in all their potential?

She offers them seeds for their pockets. The lyrical subtext is not, as I’ve seen some say of this little video, that they will be buried and flowers will come up on their graves. No. Seeds do not germinate if they are buried too deeply. Instead? She means that their bodies will be left to rot in ignominy where they fell, and the seeds will sprout up fed by their carcasses, to show forth the glory of their defeat. Sunflowers? The national flower of the Ukraine. Her curse is pure poetry, and it begs to be immortalized in stories.

Flip to the other side. The soldier is remarkably patient with her, pleading, almost, for her to go and not make trouble. He’s not much happier to be there than she is to have him there. He certainly makes no move to hurt her even while she bestows on him her beautiful curse. The two faces of war aren’t impersonal hatred and implacable contempt, they are here, in this little vignette. Under other circumstances she might offer him tea. Not now, not here.

I’m very much in sympathy with the woman, here. I have no dog in this fight – yes, yes, I’m aware of some of the history and events leading up to this – and can step back and look at this as a writer, and it stirs my soul. The courage! The wit! The sheer foolishness of it… but this, like the defenders of Snake Island who spat defiance in the face of certain death, captures the imagination just as tales like these have done from before recorded history. We honor the brave, no matter what side they stand on. The pure of heart, the underdog, the ones who face unflinching their fate…

And in a story? Can we write such, or will they be dismissed as unreal to the venal humans we see in our humdrum lives? The trend toward anti-hero has been sliding ever downward. Me, I’d rather write heroes and inspiring stories that can show how to act when the moment comes. I don’t want my characters to slink away into an alley and scurry safely home. Instead, I want them to square their shoulders and armed only with a handful of seeds, defend their home.

Or, you know, carry a Javelin and pop the turret of a tank a few hundred yards down the road.

23 comments

  1. Storywise how about the guy who hand detonated a bridge and died. The mine that had been set wouldn’t go off fast enough. Horatius, anyone? Except this guy didn’t survive.

  2. I was thinking this morning that another generation is learning about Foreign Minister Molatov, just not the way he’d probably have wanted it.

    Which is also story fodder: who gets remembered the “wrong” way? The paleontologists voting to name the spikes at the end of a dinosaur’s tail after a mythical, impossible cave-man, thanks to Gary Larson and the _Far Side_? There’s a crazy story, but you can soooo see the brief immortality of Ung, who proved that even a blunt tusk from a mastadon could be fatal. Will there be, in the far distant future, a common bit of space-station or star-ship called the “Joakim panel,” named for the first guy to discover that “if you do this, then this, while leaning against this fitting to reach that one fastener up there,” something Interesting happens?

    1. Ung’s immortality is longer than you think.

      https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/story_of_ung.html

      And Ung looked down at his deerskins — their broad shell-tasseled bands —
      And Ung drew downward his mitten and looked at his naked hands;
      And he gloved himself and departed, and he heard his father, behind:
      “Son that can see so clearly, rejoice that thy tribe is blind!”

      Straight on the glittering ice-field, by the caves of the lost Dordogne,
      Ung, a maker of pictures, fell to his scribing on bone
      Even to mammoth editions. Gaily he whistled and sung,
      Blessing his tribe for their blindness. Heed ye the Story of Ung!

    2. Jeffries tubes. I’ve heard that some people are calling the access pathways on modern ships those, some without even knowing the origin. I anticipate eventually people will forget where it came from.

  3. Damn you, Cedar. Now my muse is working on a short story called “The Curse of the Sunflowers.” I keep telling her that not only do we not have time for this, but it’s wildly inappropriate right now, seems exploitative to take the story of this real woman and fictionalize it, and besides would soon become an alternate history given that we have no idea how this thing is going to end. She doesn’t care. She’s already mapped out the main theme and is working on the three events leading to the revelation…

  4. Things I know:
    Putin is an out-and-out villain.
    The political/industrial power centers of Ukraine are corrupt as hell.
    The organs pushing me to uncritically support Ukraine, are directly tied to the corruption, and have a long track record of lying to me.
    The people getting shot at (on both sides) aren’t the ones who really deserve it.

    Oh, and if Ukraine fights this off, it’ll be better deterrence than a unified US led by a legitimate President.

  5. It’s a fascinating, memorable tale, but probably just pro-Ukraine propaganda, per the post at The Conservative Treehouse:
    https://theconservativetreehouse.com/blog/2022/02/26/the-first-casualty-of-war-is-the-truth-the-current-western-propaganda-for-ukraine-is-epic-in-scale/

    Mind you, Putin is both a brutal tyrant and in the wrong, and I hope the Ukrainians beat his butt, but a lot of what we’re hearing turns out to be invented propaganda. What is isn’t propaganda are the deaths, the explosions, and the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries.

  6. I can understand the people who have a dog in the fight, like Ukrainian-Americans. And there’s more of those than a lot of people realize. And of course a lot of people dislike Russian expansionism.

    But I am totally creeped out by the lefty people who didn’t know where Ukraine was, loved Communism and Putin, and now are suddenly draping themselves in blue and yellow.

    I mean, why is the production team of The Simpsons getting into this?

    1. Because those people need a cause to follow in order to prove how virtuous and great they are. They need it to show their life has meaning. They don’t see the comedy in their sudden support for this cause, just as they can’t see that Putin is the embodiment of everything their end goal of socialism/communism becomes in reality.

    2. Ukraine is the cause-of-the-week, sort of like other things that pop up, get lots of attention, then fade. All the right people are seen supporting Ukraine, so why not get all rah-rah for Ukraine? It doesn’t take much effort, costs nothing, and you get to pat yourself on the back.

      Which is the sort of thing that makes my skin crawl and I get the “don’t open that basement door” feeling when I read it in novels. Nothing good is about to happen. . .

    3. All the “right” (Left) people at the top are angry about the invasion of Ukraine, so now they are, too. Like that Lefty Twitter feed that announced six years ago that no civilians ever needed something like an AR-15, and then a few days ago was applauding the Ukrainian government for handing out AK’s to the populace. (I can’t remember where I saw the screenshot of that, maybe Insty or TCH.)

  7. Mumble, mumble “Stop it, Muse!” I’m NOT writing a short about sunflower seeds ending up on Putin’s desk every day… sigh

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