And God said, “Let the Earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the Earth. And it was so.”
Shelia Danos knows this verse from the book of Genesis. She has taken it to heart and her reflections go there often as she walks across her garden.
Growing up amidst 240 acres of land including pastures for cattle, canals for crawfish and perch fishing and sugar-cane fields, just two miles south of Lockport, Shelia has seen God’s miraculous power, specifically when it comes to cultivating crops and bringing in a harvest. Her father grew a vegetable garden. She’s seen it her entire life and it flows through her soul.
Her gardening efforts began small in clay pots on a patio. But, in 1975 when she moved to her present home, she expanded her plantings into the flower beds that surrounded her home. Gardening was always a part of her life. Since her early 20’s, her life was dedicated to being a wife, mother and homemaker. Her gardening had to wait.
As her children grew and took on lives of their own, her house became less full and somewhat quieter. Shelia moved towards her basic nature and went outside to put her hands in the dirt more often. After all, gardening and planting is inherent to her French ancestry – she’s descended from a long line of French farmers.
In 2000, she enlisted the help of her father-in-law, 84-year old Jim Danos, affectionately referred to as “Paw”. He was there to help with a large tractor, attachments and the laborious process of tilling the land when she designed and planted her first garden which she calls her “healing garden”. It was her first planting attempt outside of her earlier locals of clay pots and her home’s flower beds.
“We have a quiet understanding, a mutual relationship over the land. Paw loves to be out on his tractor and truly enjoys working the soil,” she said.
Later that same year, the concept of a garden on the property expanded to include a citrus orchard, a tree lined path and a grove of trees.
Paw would dig up and till the plots of land then hand them over to Shelia.
“Two years ago, he tilled the second plots I pointed to. I would ask and he would happily oblige by preparing plots for me to expand my gardening efforts,” says Shelia. “In 2012, my son Dirk and granddaughter Ava were there to plant a vegetable garden which included wildflowers and a few sunflowers with me.”
It was an experiment of sorts. Shelia had never cultivated sunflowers before.
The fall garden followed that very same year with two extra hands helping, her daughter Denise and Kennedy, Ava’s younger cousin. With the same affectionate enthusiasm, Paw pulled out his tractor and equipment again to begin making plots.
“He had a new vegetable garden, and his old, abandoned vegetable garden had lain fallow for some time,” says Shelia.
After he worked the soil, he turned it over to Shelia and that is where the sunflower field was born … sort of.
“This year I pointed to a third plot of fallow land and we did it again!”
Shelia now had the blank canvas she needed to begin planting and realized she wanted to cultivate something that would bring a little extra joy into her life. She decided on sunflowers. Yup … an entire field of gorgeous, yellow sunflowers.
When one thinks sunflowers, they usually think bags of salted seeds sold in grocery stores. When Shelia thinks sunflower seeds, she thinks of beauty, joy and the miracle contained in that tiny vessel of life.
“Planning, planting and blooming! The entire process truly brings me joy,” she says.
Her husband Reed and daughter Denise caught the thrill and the infectious enthusiasm. They joined her in the field and helped plant the multitudes of sunflower seeds. Little did Shelia know that her idea of planting a field filled with hundreds of beautiful sunflowers would have a ripple effect, bringing joy to so, so many others!
Within eight to ten weeks, around mid-June, the sunflowers sprouted and grew and grew! From one of those tiny seeds, a sunflower plant grew to a height of 13 feet. She refuses any credit.
“It’s the miracle of that tiny seed,” she says. “There is power in that seed. The soil, water from the rain, the sun … that one seed produces seeds in multiples,” she added.
As part of an exercise with her granddaughter Ava, they counted the seeds from just one larger sunflower.
“That one seed we planted produced a beautiful sunflower bearing somewhere over 1,000 seeds,” she said. “It’s truly amazing!”
It’s an objective lesson from the creator himself, if we take the time to see it. The lesson: We cannot out give God. What we give Him, he gives back multiplied many times over.
“I have seen fields of sunflowers before in France,” she says. “To see it here behind Paw’s barn was just truly amazing,” she added.
Shelia called professional Houston photographer and long-time friend Pauline Plaisance Forester.
“I told Pauline we had something amazing here,” Shelia says.
Pauline came down and scheduled multiple photo shoots during that last week of June.
“Individuals, kids, families … it seemed like Pauline took thousands of photos in that wondrous sunflower field,” she says. “It was glorious to see all those people enjoying the sunflowers.
“Those tiny seeds we planted brought me joy and just rippled out,” she says. “The photographs Pauline took are in people’s homes, in their living rooms hanging on their walls, adorning their mantles, continuing to ripple out joy.”
Shelia cut some of the sunflowers and made bouquets which she arranged in various vases. She then photographed them and sent friends and family e-mailed notes with her beautiful sunflower bouquet pictures attached again rippling out joy. Denise cut some of the sunflowers and made bouquets she delivered to friends and relatives.
The joy of the tiny seed didn’t end there! Shelia also painted bouquets of sunflowers from the photos she had taken. Painting is a new skill she is still acquiring.
About six years ago, she took up painting under the helpful tutelage of local artist Tracey Wiseart-Plaisance. Wiseart-Plaisance was at the Danos’ house to paint a mural in Shelia’s dining room.
“After she agreed to paint my dining room mural, I asked if she would also teach me how to paint,” she says.
“Tracey never taught art to anyone before, and I had never painted before.”
Since the two began their mentor/student partnership Shelia has completed several paintings featuring her beautiful sunflower bouquets.
“It appears the gift of that tiny seed is still rippling joy,” she says with a beaming smile underlined with humility.
The miraculous joy of the tiny sunflower seed hasn’t stopped. Paw was at it again in early August.
“We just planted another field of sunflowers,” she says.
This crop of sunflowers is expected to be in full bloom at the end of October, beginning of November.
“We have a wonderful growing season in the fall,” she says. “We planted more of the darker sunflower colors for the fall,” she added.
There are various types of sunflowers in numerous fall colors – amazing deep, rich shades of orange, burgundy and reds in infinite combinations as well as multitudes of deep, rich golds and magnificent browns. Who knew sunflowers come in colors other than yellow?
This is an experiment of sorts for Shelia.
“I have never planted sunflowers in these colors and have never tried growing them in the fall,” she said. “We have a wonderful fall and winter growing season here so I figured why not try? The anticipation is wonderful,” she says as her face beams with excitement and she visualizes the rows and rows of autumnal-colored sunflowers that are soon to sprout.
“Planting brings me joy. And, the ripples of joy from the sunflowers keeps going,” she added.
The fact Shelia has shared her wondrous story here is proof those tiny seeds are continuing to ripple out joy even to you, our readers, and our community!
Posted on Tue, September 23, 2014
by Marc Kimball, Contributing Writer