I came across a word today that’s new to me: turnsole.


A turnsole is a type of plant that turns with the movement of the sun, a sunflower being the most famous example. From Middle Frenchtournesol, the word literally means “turns toward the sun,” and was modeled after the synonymous Greek term heliotrope. As in French, when the word came into English in the 1300s it initially referred to the purple dye that came from a turnsole plant. Soon after, turnsole broadened in meaning to refer to all types of plant that turn with the sun.

I don’t know a lot about gardening or plants. I know very little, actually. I probably knew at some point in my life that that’s what a sunflower is, and I am aware of how plants lean and grow toward the light, but somehow this notion of turning with the movement of the sun, of turning towards the sun, really spoke to me. It struck me as an embodiment of open-heartedness. Showing up to life and seeking it – that’s what a turnsole does.

Now, when I read “turnsole,” I also think/hear/feel turnsoul, and I really like that notion. Opening your soul, opening your heart to the possibility of being…

I don’t believe that to be a turnsoul you must only turn toward the light. Barbara Brown Taylor has done some extraordinary research and powerful writing on how the darkness is also a sacred place where great life can bloom. But that’s probably a train of thought for another journey.


So what is it to live with an open heart? I think, at the most basic level, it’s showing up to your life. Even when we are in grief or despair or deep anger or depression, even if it’s to reach out to someone and say, “I am in a place where I don’t exactly know how to show up to my life, but will you please sit with me here,” we are living with an open heart. Because if we keep trying, we’re engaged, even if it’s in the tiniest of ways. If we’re engaged, we’re connected – to something, to someone, to some “other” than our own beings, and in that connection comes the possibility for – for what? I don’t know exactly – but I think that’s just it. If we show up to life, there is the possibility of possibility, and that, in and of itself, is a marvel.

I feel it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes we just CAN’T. Because of something physically/emotionally/ psychologically/mentally, sometimes people just can’t show up to life. There is no judgement or shame if we can’t. In fact, I think most of us have probably been there at some point (though I bet we don’t give ourselves enough credit for those tiny connections we were able to make without even realizing it, those tiny showings-up). But even if someone just cannot, there is no shame, no judgement. There is always the possibility for open-heartedness, if not now, later. That door doesn’t close.

So. Turnsole. Turnsoul. Tonight I am grateful for the possibility of possibility.

This is a photo I took which I call

This is a photo I took which I call “Hope.” I think the flower is perhaps a Brown-eyed Susan? Regardless, not a sunflower. But still, a turnsoul of sorts, if not exactly a turnsole.

August 7, 2015: This came up today on my calendar:



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