A story written by Helen Rowe and read at the White Eagle Family Service in August 2016.sunflower

Once upon a time a little girl was peeping out of her window at her garden. She saw something move among the dried up stalks where the sunflowers had been in the summer. Was it a bird?

She put on her coat, hat and wellies and went out to see. What a surprise she had when she saw a tiny man with a long white beard and a green pointy hat. He had the teeny tiniest brown boots, waist-coat and trousers. She watched as he dug a hole in the earth with a teeny tiny spade. When he was satisfied that his hole was big enough he pulled over a stone. The little girl laughed for she realized that the stone was actually a sunflower seed still in its black and grey striped coat.

The gnome turned around startled at the sound of her laugh and stepped back in surprise and dropped his spade. ‘You can see me?’ he gasped. The little girl nodded.

‘What are you doing?’ she asked.

The gnomes eyes twinkled and he put a finger to his mouth as though to say ‘Ssh, I have a secret’. Then he pushed the sunflower seed into the hole and with his teeny tiny spade he covered it over with earth. As he worked he hummed ‘Sunflower, sunflower what is your secret? Sunflower what is it that makes you grow so tall?’

As soon as he had sung his song the little girl realized that the little gnome had vanished. One minute he was there, the next he was gone!

Now a few weeks passed and the little girl had almost forgotten about the gnome—perhaps it had all been a dream anyway—when again she saw through her window something moving in the garden. Was it the gnome again? Was he real after all? Quickly she put on her coat and wellies (she didn’t need her hat this time) and went to have a look. She was about to say ‘Hello’ to the little gnome when she saw that it wasn’t a gnome at all but a fairy! A tiny fairy wearing a teeny tiny leaf dress and a teeny tiny hat of bright yellow petals. Her see-through wings shimmered like pale rainbows

A stalk was peeping up from the earth with two leaves stretching out like arms to the fairy. The fairy was whispering softly and as she whispered the leaves trembled and the stalk grew a little more.

There was a grunting sound and the little girl's mouth dropped open ‘Surely the leaves didn't make that noise’ she thought, but then she saw the familiar pointy green hat and the gnome, carrying a heavy acorn cup bucket, full of water, to pour on the plant.

The little girl laughed and again startled the gnome, who tripped over the fairy and dropped his bucket.

‘What are you both doing?’ the little girl giggled.

The gnome stood up and brushed earth off his trousers and then brushed the earth off the fairy's dress. They looked at each other and their eyes had that twinkly look. They put their fingers to their mouths as if to say ‘Ssh, we have a secret’ and they sang a little song.

‘Sunflower, sunflower, what is your secret? Sunflower, what is it that makes you grow so tall?’

As soon as the song was finished they had vanished. One minute they were there and the next they were gone. The little girl's eyes blinked—was she just imagining this?

Now more weeks passed and the stalk with the leaves grew taller and taller but the little girl didn't see the fairy whispering to its leaves or the gnome digging or watering the earth........

One night there was a terrible storm. Thunder and lightning battered at the little girl’s house. She suddenly thought of the plant—it was bound to be broken by the wind. She jumped out of bed, rushed to the window and peered out into the blackness. She couldn't see anything except the shaking branches of a tree nearby. And then ... there was a light ... a bright light in the distance. The little girl strained to see what it was. She realized that she could see the stalk now; so tall with its large leaves and there...Could it be? Could it really be an angel, standing so still in the middle of the roaring wind? The stalk was waving backwards and forwards but the little girl could see that the angel’s hand was holding it, supporting it. The little girl knew that the plant was safe. She went back to bed and slept.

In the morning all was still. The little girl put on her wellies and rushed outside. She didn't need her hat or coat as the sun was shining a golden warmth everywhere.

And there was the plant, so tall, its leaves reaching up to the sky and at the top there was a flower opening up to the sun. The little girl thought she could hear voices singing. She looked about her and at her feet was the gnome with his spade and acorn cup bucket, smiling up. At the top was the fairy and she now had a bucket too, a bucket of paint, and she was painting the petals a bright yellow like her hat. And then behind and somehow all around was the angel, still gently holding the tall stalk. And they were all singing.

‘Have you ever seen a great big sunflower?’