When you try to tell the story of how you got to the place you are standing right now, it is hard to know where to place the beginning of the story. How far back in time do you need to go?
There are all these memories that are tied to places with textures and sounds and smells of nature that could hold the beginning of the story. But then your curiosity led you down one path rather than the other. And then maybe there were points in time, not really events, but just high or low points on a curve - happy/sad/weird - that made you change the direction you thought you were headed. Where do you begin?
Maybe the story begins when you were a child in the 80’s. You may have been told by your weary parent to go outside to play with the expectation and hope that you would entertain yourself until dinner. Did the wandering over boulders, through creeks, drinking from springs, looking for moss and yucca pods for a ‘stew’, start the story?
It could have also been the time when you were emboldened by the sunshine and warmth that intensified the scent of the spruce bark and you wandered farther than before. Your attentiveness to the landscape shifted when your stomach growled. You might have decided then to try eating the pine nut, or the wild allium, or the chokecherry you saw your grandmother gather to make jam, but now doesn’t taste sweet at all. Then the smell of charcoal and trout and potatoes with onions and butter, like a beacon, led you back home where the elk were eating your mum's violas.
At some point you learned to crush the juniper berry to release it’s bitter-sweet scent and you’d squish it and dab it on your wrist like you saw your mum do with perfume. You would try over and over to eat them - they were kind of sweet - but they did not taste like a blueberry, confounding you.
Later, your first time trying college, when you took a sip of the thing you were too young to be drinking, you tasted juniper berries again and a memory flashed to those chilly days of juniper berry squishing and the way the wind sounded like rushing water when it moved through the pines. Maybe that memory grounded you in that unsteady moment and you remembered you had roots somewhere. You were on an ambitious path to somewhere else, but you belonged to that forest. And maybe it would never be too far away because it’s juniper berries and allium and spring water were in your blood.
Can you trace the beginning to the first time you fell in love? The path-shifting moment when you met the person that you would grow old with? You asked yourself if you would have been friends with them when you were both four years old (your nonsensical relationship test) and the answer was yes. So you took their hand. Your love had their own memories and farm soil and buckeye trees in their blood. They were drawn west by the call from the land. They loved what you loved, because they loved you. And that set you on a different path than you oringinally charted for yourself. But an interesting path nonetheless.
The beginning of the story could really begin a little later though. The time you visited Chicago and walked through the Lurie Garden and felt the same stirring deep in your soul that you felt when you stood before a real O’Keefe painting for the first time. You were distinctly aware of the emotion you felt in that place. Your insides fluttered and your ears prickled. The protests of your two babies - tired from walking and 'doing boring things', hungry for the pizza you promised them - were muted by the layers of blues and purples and greens and the scent of lavender amidst a huge buzzing metropolis. You returned home to your soil and researched the garden and it’s plants and you learned who Piet Oudolf was and decided he was a kindred spirit even though you’d never actually know him.
But after that is probably where the story points you to right now. You decided to try college again. Older and not much wiser. You studied landscape architecture and poured your heart and soul into honing your craft. You realized how much you loved to create and found out that all those hours spent as a teen drawing trees with every, single, damn, leaf, was really good practice for the hours you’d spend drawing in the studio late into the night. You found out also, that landscape architecture has a lot less to do with plants than you initially had thought. But you also began to understand that you had the ability to read the landscape with deep abiding knowledge from wandering within it as a child. It was indeed, in your blood.
And then. And then. And then.
So many hard and tragic things happened - the lowest of the low points on the curve. And some joyful, precious things. And so much taking stock. And rearranging. And recalculating. And some of your ego was broken off, jagged and exposed, and then softened by time and reflection - “Like a river rock,” you thought. And maybe this is where the story of how you got to now begins.
Where you met a community of people who were generous, and sincere and kind, your people, who also happened to be people with an abiding love of the land. Farmers and ranchers, community organizers. And after a few seasons of hard work and sweating and freezing and being alive long enough to know what kind of shit you would take and what kind you wouldn’t, you planted seeds of your own. And you were filled with contentment and purpose holding the harvest in your arms. And you loved it. And you started to feel less restless. And more rooted.
And your babies grew up more and they started out on the rest of their lives. And you and your love also begin again in a new place. Your bibles are Berry, Kingsolver and Cather, Erdrich and Stegner. They center you. You watch the clouds and the sun rise through the pines. You watch westerns and godzilla for as long as you can keep your eyes open. You rise early. You begin the days holding your memories and all that practice being alive with forests and prairies and deserts and juniper berries in your blood.
Maybe that is how you tell the story of how you became a flower farmer.