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“Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you.” —Walt Whitman

Whenever I think of sunflowers, this quote comes to mind. Yes, I love how the cheery blooms brighten up a room. But there’s something so magical and awe-inspiring about seeing them in a field, angled in unison with one common goal: grow, live, thrive.

Like this quote suggests, sunflowers face the rising sun, soaking in as much light and energy as possible. (Sunflower in French is tournesol, derived from to turn/tourner and sun/soleil!) And like flowers, we also have to let our shadows — our burdens, fears, anxieties — fall behind us from time to time in order to thrive.

I’ve seen it written like this and credited to Whitman, and I’ve also seen a version said to be a Maori proverb. Either way, it’s a beautiful quote that reminds me to be strong, take challenges head on, strive toward optimism and focus on the light instead of the sometimes-persistent shadows of everyday life.

Photo taken at Maria’s Field of Hope in Avon, Ohio, by Michael Ciuni