The Secret Code – by Caroline Hickman Vaughan (Senior)

Alfred lived alone for two years after his wife, Marian, died from cancer. He tried to keep the house clean and keep his job despite his lack of enthusiasm for being a Wal-Mart greeter. His smile somehow slipped out of his pocket. Surrounded by people at work, he missed Marian and felt isolated. She had always been the out-going extrovert in their family. Alfred retreated into himself losing connection with the world around him.
One day he decided to weed Marian’s garden. He found a plant that she had not put into the ground. The sunflower stalk was already four feet high. It was mid June when the six foot tall volunteer sunflower unfurled its bright yellow leaves revealing an extraordinary pattern of seeds packed tightly together woven in an elegant spiral.
In college, his math teacher had given examples of Fibonacci numbers—a sequence where each number is the sum of the last two. The sequence, or code, vigorously shaped spirals in all of nature. This hidden code included not only sunflowers but also pineapples, pine cones, sea shells, starfish, honey bees, hurricanes, and the Milky Way. That night Alfred sat on the porch and stared at the constellations. He could see his breath in the chill of the night. The cosmic spiritual vibrations that connected all of nature helped him feel the embrace of Marian’s love again.
A bird had brought him a seed which grew into a vision of how he was surrounded by the silent symphony of spirals. He began to smile again. He remembered the warmth from the sun-blazed flower from Marian’s garden. The birds and the spirit of Marian’s green thumb conspired secretly to surround him with new found beauty of sunflowers and connect him to nature. Alfred felt more nourished and alive, and no longer alone. He took some of the sunflower seeds the next day and planted them. A few he ate. The rest he left for the birds whose gift of a yellow sunflower had brought him home.

Learn more about the contest which inspired this story:  Nutshell Narratives 2019-04

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