14 February, 2022

    “The heart sees deeper than the eye.” - Unknown

-by Nikki Bartley

This is a love letter to flowers, which seems fitting for Valentine’s Day.  Over a decade growing flowers, what began as a love affair has matured into a long-term, committed relationship.

In the early days, the flowers drew me in, welcomed me to the magical world of farming and nature that was always around me, I just never slowed down enough to notice it.

At first, the excitement of growing and selling flowers was addicting. I call this the “puppy love” phase of farming. I discovered that I loved being outside in nature all day. I loved working my body to its limit. The flowers pushed me onward. I had to make sure every row of flowers was well tended. I fell into bed at night exhausted but eager do it again the next day.

Learning to farm has been like following a trail of flower petals someone left behind for me, just waiting for what's around the next corner. The exhilaration when we finally master growing a new crop, or our markets respond with excitement for our flowers, or even when our tired bones at the end of the long season start to crave the first frost. And then the darkness, the stillness, the quiet of winter forces us to recharge our bodies as it does to the earth and brings forth the light and life all over again each spring.

One day last September something shifted for me. I was harvesting dahlias with my crew for our 200-member Dahlia Flower Share.  I was making my way through the pinks ball dahlias and headed for the purple dinner plates. I was deep into the rhythm of harvesting, moving quickly from stem to stem, cutting the last bloom with my eyes trained on the next one down the row. Five stems per bunch, ten bunches and a total of 50 stems per bucket. Repeat. I was at once deep in concentration and lost in my own thoughts.

It was a beautiful fall morning on the farm as most are. But, in truth, my heart was heavy. I had received news that had brought me to tears. It was not devastating news, but sad, nonetheless, and signaled what I thought was the end of a dream that had been in my heart for some time.  My thoughts kept drifting to the sadness and heartbreak. I was wondering why love and grief are so intimately connected, like two sides of the same coin.

Suddenly I started getting this inspiration, like a creative download in my head, that came first in a whisper and then became louder and clearer and in full sentences. It surprised me and when I realized it wasn’t going to stop and that this was probably important, I put down my clippers and started to take notes on my iPhone. This is what I wrote that morning.

“There is no beginning or end. There is just a path that we all follow. The flowers instill this just by observing them. They grow from seed to plant to bloom, despite all the obstacles- wind, rain, pests, disease – that nature places in their path. They bloom fearlessly, courageously and share their beauty with the world.

Their gift to us and to the birds and the bees is the sweetness they provide to all of us. They soften the harsh edges of the world. They bloom their hearts out knowing that after they are done, they will fade away and die. And we observe that too. We watch their death and mourn them, but this is the good part.

This is where we play a part as humans and co-creators in this world and the universe. We can pick up the seeds that drop to the earth at their death, save them through winter, and plant them again in the spring. This is our act of courage, our part to play in the magic of creation, the magic of life and the dance of bringing beauty to the world. We open our hearts to the flowers, and in doing so we help to continue the cycle of life, beauty, and love.”

After I finished writing, I reread it a few times and shared it with my team. And that is when I knew that the true gift of the flowers is the rebirth of my intuition, my creativity, and my faith.

My faith is a belief in the magic of nature and in something greater than myself, the universe, the thing that connects us all.  It did not happen overnight. It unfolded naturally with the progression of time. The simple act of learning and doing repeatedly, farming, day in and day out, brought my faith back to me from the inside out.

Flower farming has taught me patience and reassured me somehow that there truly is no beginning or end, and that we are all connected to this beautiful, magical circle of life if we choose to be. It reassures me that there is something bigger and more profound surrounding us. It grounds me and makes me feel at home. Make no mistake, flowers are a celebration of creation, so when you give your loved one’s flowers this Valentine’s Day, be sure to be thinking about that. Celebrate the magic of flowers and take time to listen for their whispers.

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