Sunflower fields forever

We almost didn’t find the field.

My mom was told sunflowers blossom every summer at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Montgomery County, Maryland, and I found the photographic evidence to prove it. We got word the flowers were planted later than normal this year, so the peak blooming season would be early August. Fine and good. We also heard the sunflowers were in a different field than in previous years, one “to the right” of the main field — check and check.

After driving an hour and a half, we arrived at McKee-Beshers. We parked near the main field. We walked “to the right” and . . . nothing. Sunlight. Weeds. Bright blue skies . . . and no sunflowers.

This was already shaping up to be an odyssey.

We made friends along our search, all of us cruising around the property with harried expressions. We parked and got out, checked and moved again. Over and over. Again and again. It’s not that big, we reasoned; surely we can find these things? How hard can it be to find an entire field of sunflowers?

A half hour later, we were still looking — and had amassed quite the caravan. A family of six, the parents loaded down with camera equipment, strollers and car seats. Two friends fresh from an evening at the nearby Buddhist temple. A mother and her two daughters, eager to snap portraits in the waning afternoon light. A man, his daughter and his elderly mother, all dressed in their Sunday best.

At our final stop of the evening — at the very last parking lot, the very last place it could possibly be — Spencer and I hopped out of the van and ran ahead to a clearing. It was 6 p.m., just at the golden hour, and we were at the end of our patience. I was sweaty and hungry. It was starting to feel like this whole thing was going to be a bust — an epic waste of time and gas. A giant disappointment.

“If it’s not here,” I said to Spence, “I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

If it’s not here, I thought, I’m going to completely freak out.

Yellow sunlight poured into a clearing as we walked out of the woods and into the giant field. I held my breath as the first few stalks of green came into view, blinking to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. Seeing what I wanted to see.

But I wasn’t.

Yeah!” I hooted, spinning around to do a dance in my parents’ line of view. “They’re here! We found them!”

It looked like something out of a fairytale. Green stems and sunflowers as far as the eye can see — streaming out in the direction of the sunset, which was quickly turning the sky pink. Though many of the buds had yet to burst open, I was captivated. Totally enthralled.

The other flower enthusiasts poured into the clearing — a steady river of relief. The family of six set up on one side of the field, our group of four on the other. The mother and daughters got their pictures. The friends went for a walk.

We only had 30 minutes before the sun dipped behind a thick cloud, throwing the whole field into shade. Thirty minutes before the mosquitoes began to nip at our legs and ankles. Thirty minutes before our grumbling stomachs meant we had to break for food. We buzzed around the field like insects, snapping a steady stream of photos. My mom, enamored with sunflowers since I was a kid, was in her element — and we made those minutes count.

The sunflowers weren’t at their peak, currently sitting only about shoulder-high, but they were wild and lovely and fabulous. I’m planning to go back next summer.

And we already starred and marked their location on our wrinkled map.

A summery week in photos

So I’m from Maryland. Temperatures above 90 degrees? No big deal. My hometown is literally built on a swamp, and the humidity doesn’t phase me. Usually. Considering my “time outdoors” consists of dashing from my car to the cool confines of my air-conditioned office, I don’t sweat it (puns!) when it gets exceedingly hot.

Which it has been. Horribly so. In the Washington, D.C. area, we’re wrapping up eleven straight days of temperatures hitting 95 degrees and up, and I have been one sweaty, cranky person. The heat has been getting to me in the worst way, making me one frizzy-haired nightmare — and that especially sucks considering I’ve had so many fun things to do outside lately. Between family reunions, the Fourth of July, crab feasts, fireworks and more, the past week has been really fun . . . and really sweaty.

Seriously. I took three showers on Saturday.

All the same, we hit a friend’s Fourth of July party on Wednesday (no work! Yay, America’s birth!), hung out by the pool (but not in the pool . . . your girl can’t swim) and ate delicious barbeque. Though we didn’t make it out for fireworks, we lit (legal) firecrackers in the backyard. The next night found us at a baseball game with my cousins and their adorable little girls, in town from Pennsylvania, and I think I sweated off 10 lbs. in the bug-infested night air. The Blue Crabs were losing 11-4 when we ducked out in the eighth inning, unable to take any more of the soul-crushing humidity.

Spence and I managed to get up at 2:30 a.m. to see the sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay on Saturday with our photography club, which is always beautiful and life-affirming. The mosquitoes and my agitation had reached sky-high proportions by 7 a.m., though, so it was off for pancakes and a two-hour nap before we hit my aunt’s belated Fourth of July party. We stayed until dusk approached, and then I came home and tried to stay awake until a “normal” time . . . which ended up being 9:30-ish. After the busy day and crazy sleep pattern, I was wiped out. I actually felt jet lagged.

Sunday was made for more time with family — and a big one, at that! We were thrilled to see my grandmother, cousins and my dad’s extended family at a local seafood house, where we picked crabs, gabbed and covered ourselves in Old Bay. I haven’t spent so much time in such good company in ages — and I loved it. And so much good eating.

Crabs and family. That’s what (my) Maryland does.

Book review: ‘Fatal Mistake’ by CB Lovejoy

Life in quiet St. Mary’s County isn’t quite what it seems . . .

For suburban newspaper editor Gabby de Sales, life is all about the headline. Devoted to her readers in Maryland and without much more to call her own, Gabby never thought she was restless — until a new job opportunity opens up. She’s excited about the chance to work on a major military base and get out of hard news, but her new position comes with some caveats. And require very different skills than those listed on her resume.

First, full disclosure: CB Lovejoy is a personal friend and coworker. Considering we both work at, ahem, suburban newspapers, let’s just say I related quite well to Lovejoy’s take on local politics, satisfying the masses and finding balance. Working at a community-based newspaper, known in our area as simply “The Paper” (of record, you see), you can’t escape the caveats of being a writer/journalist in the same area you call home. It can be tricky business.

And that’s just what Gabby de Sales discovers. In quick and sure-footed prose, Lovejoy introduces us to a heroine who has enough smarts to take care of herself in most situations — but can’t possibly predict the chain of events that will change her life. When Gabby accepts a public relations post at a large military base, she’s given more than press releases to tackle. Training for a top-secret task requires every bit of strength and savvy she possesses.

Fatal Mistake is a fast thriller of a novel that takes us down a tunnel of deceit and allows us to emerge out the other side. We know Gabby’s life is about to get very complicated — but at points I felt it took too long to get to the action. I was antsy waiting for The Big Moment to happen, you know? I knew things were going to get dicey and felt nervous as we counted down to the chaos. Before we got there, though, the scenes leading up to Gabby’s departure from the paper and arrival on base were some of my favorite ones. Her gentle ribbing of newsroom dynamics and office politics rang true for me.

Thrillers aren’t my usual fare, but there was much more to the story than chasing bad guys and learning to shoot. Readers looking for a quick-paced story with a battle-ready Everywoman for a main character will find plenty to enjoy in Fatal Mistake. I enjoyed getting to know Gabby and rooted for her to come out the other side. At less than 150 pages, it can be easily read in an afternoon — and you probably won’t want to stop once you’ve started. I know I didn’t.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1467948055 ♥ LibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by author in exchange for my honest review