On a cold winter’s day, I’m thinking of sunflowers. Beautiful, hardy, bright sunflowers have been linked to scleroderma awareness, first in Australia, and now worldwide, symbolizing the sun’s warmth that brings so many of us comfort. At each sunflower’s center are thousands of tiny disc flowers that mature into seeds— symbolizing seeds of knowledge and the quest for a cure.
Sunflowers are also the national flower of Ukraine. Every summer, golden fields of sunflowers blossom across the country, which is the world’s largest producer and exporter of sunflower seeds and sunflower oil. The distinctive bloom is woven into wreathes for celebrations, painted on walls and furniture and folk art.
Before they fully mature and open, sunflower heads follow the path of the sun across the sky and come to rest overnight facing east, awaiting the next sunrise. Various religions have associated the sunflower with spiritual knowledge and a quest for truth and enlightenment. It is an inherently optimistic flower.
So I hold onto that as I have struggled to concentrate this past week, watching the brutal Russian invasion of a sovereign nation unfold. Great bravery and courage inspire. I pray that innocents will be spared, and that Ukraine, with the support of the world, will ultimately prevail.
And to plant more seeds for scleroderma awareness and research, I offer this: The biennial Systemic Sclerosis World Congress, a virtual gathering due to the pandemic, opens next week, on March 10, bringing together experts from around the world to share their work. There is a free Patient Congress, as well, from March 11-12, with presentations by international specialists on many aspects of living with this complex disease. Registration closes on March 7. You can find more here.
Image: David Travis