I have always had mixed feelings about spring. Like most people, I can’t help but be won over by its sweet promises: warmth, sunshine, the return to green after many months of grey. But usually, I know that spring is like a sweet, but petulant child with its fingers crossed behind its back—ready to revoke its good behavior at a moments notice. This year, however, with its unnaturally mild winter and record highs in March, I admit I fell for it. And then sweet spring has reverted to its periodic weather tantrums.
A few weeks back the wind was howling so hard as I put up posts for my wind barrier that I got the worst windburn I’ve ever gotten. My ears burned when I went to bed, my face flushed. And I had worn my hood. Yikes.
Its not been an easy spring. I try my best to balance productivity with making sure to sleep, eat, and rest enough while not to get distracted, too stressed, or discombobulated. Lately there has been more sunshine, more progress and more helping hands on the farm to make it feel like progress is being made. But sometimes I can’t help the tightness that builds in my chest and I think I need to move faster.
But there is enough to make me laugh, to break those moments of tension that allow me a moment to remember: yes, this is what I want to do and yes, I can do this.
I am also in good company. I am so blessed to count my fellow farmers as friends and allies, not as competitors. If I am struggling, I know they are too and can commiserate. If I am succeeding, I know I can celebrate with them. Since moving to Canada, most of the people who have become my friends are farmers. It’s a rare thing to be surrounded by a circle of like-minded souls.
I feel particularly lucky to have stumbled into my circle of flower friends, as I think of them. Farmers, florists, flower enthusiasts, we are a small but loving cohort who can spend hours together rhapsodizing about the scent of this sweet pea, the perfect color or that poppy. In this circle, I find a balance of science and art—agriculture and worship of beauty.
I meant to write this post in a more timely manner, to celebrate the wonderful exhibit I got to participate in with several growers/designers (Sarah, Jaime, Sas) and the Toronto Flower Market (Natasa, Natalie, and their many dear friends) called Grow-Op at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto at the end of April. I will not say it went off perfectly—that it was without stress or trials. That we didn’t end up decapitating a daffodil or way more than two.
As I drove away, after finishing the installation, like all finished projects, I thought about all the ways we could have done it differently, better. But I was proud of it and hoped it would bring people wonder and joy. I also knew one thing went off without a hitch: the way we all worked together. In what other industry could a group of people who should be competitors come together and pull of a beauty of a project with no drama and a lot of laughter, hard work, and conversation. I like when I work with a group of people and no ground rules need to be set. Everyone just knows how to listen, communicate in an encouraging fashion, and be fair. And we all did it during one of the busiest stretches of the year.
In biology, there are different types of relationships between organisms: parasitism, commensalism, synnecrosis, and mutualism. Mutualism, or reciprocal altruism, is a relationship where both species benefits. Mutualism recognizes that there is a give and take between partners, but always within a balance. If one takes more, the relationship fails because in the end, by weakening your partner, you only gain temporary strength. Together, they are a stronger as a whole rather than separated.
I know it may sound strange but this is how I sometimes think of relationships, including those with those in the flower world. Sweet Gale Gardens does not exist in isolation. In my first year, I got too caught up in the hustle of the city, and frankly, in my own fear and self-doubt. I operated in my own tiny sphere. And then I thought, man, this is dumb and boring. It’s so much better to share.
I am not sure if mutualism and sharing comes naturally to us as a species. You have to put in a lot of trust that you will not get hurt. But since the first year, I try to always retain an open heart and mind. It has helped my own garden grow and it warms my heart to see others’ farms and business’ flourish also. There is enough out there. Scarcity is a falsehood driven by fear. There is enough if we pass the plenty around.