Today, Petra and I went to the most amazing event. On Rt. 33, east of Harrisonburg, Bibb and Dolly¬†Frazier (who own the Frazier Quarry) have planted acres and acres of sunflowers. For one day only, they opened their gates and invited the community to come pick as many as we wanted. They did this to raise money for Walk for Hope, an organization they helped to found after their son lost his life to mental illness and suicide. I’m sure that the event did well from a fund-raising perspective; not only was it packed while we were there, but I keep seeing photos on Facebook by my friends who also went (which is fun, seeing them share this great event with us asynchronously). I knew the Fraziers were good people–after all, they are major donors to our local NPR affiliate–but I didn’t know they were behind Walk for Hope. They clearly have found ways to respond productively to their grief, and I commend them for that. The idea of a suicide awareness and prevention event that was so unequivocally joyful is a bit hard to fathom, but that’s what this was. Everyone was grinning and walking around with armloads of flowers, and the field looked like no one had even made a dent.

Petra was thrilled. She was overwhelmed by the massive field of sunflowers, stretching in every direction. “I only want to pick the prettiest ones,” she said. She was excited to find ones that were tremendous, but mostly we picked ones that we felt we could manage to fit in our small vases at home.

The pictures I took were super fun, especially as this is the first time I’ve done much with my camera since July. I wish I had had another adult with me, though–the only two pictures I have of me and Petra together were ones where I handed my camera to strangers and hoped for the best. Maybe next year, I’ll arrange to bring someone who knows what they’re doing along. I couldn’t help but think Andy would have loved to be there, and I wish I could have had him with me. We did a shot for Rosetta Stone with some sunflowers (“The girl has a big flower”), but I can’t remember if his photo or a stock one is what we ended up shipping in the product. Photography, children, flowers, beauty, and, of course, suicide awareness all converged to make me feel like he was close with me today. I opened the aperture all the way in his honor.

Today was a quintessential Shenandoah fall day, with a bright sky and fluffy clouds, comfortable temperatures, and, all over, the beginning of the harvest. Test strips of corn mowed down. Piles of tomatoes in baskets on porches. Cows elbowing each other for the last of the green summer grass. And all over, the abundance of fall in the valley, overflowing.

And on the east edge of the city, a luminous abundance of sunflowers.

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