Listening to the Land
As an environmental artist, my work is about reconnecting people back to Nature. I work with deep intuition and site energies to create work in response to sites. Since August 2015 I’ve been deeply immersed in co-creating Alchemy Farm on Salt Spring Island with my husband, Robin Logan.
We had no master plan when we bought the run-down farm. We simply fell in love with the land, and over the last four years, our relationship with it has dictated what we’ve created. It’s been a magical experience.
One of the first things I planted was flowers. This was in response to finding out that the flowers I was buying weekly were grown tens of thousands of miles from me and were loaded with pesticides and some were grown by children forced into labour.
Since planting my first small flower patch I inadvertently became a flower farmer and then a designer/florist. I had to do ‘something’ with all of the flowers that we were growing and the best thing I could think of was to share them. First with the bees and pollinators that used them for food and as homes…and the byproduct—beautiful flowers for humans to enjoy.
Growing Flowers at Alchemy Farm
I’ve always grown flowers, from the time I had my first dahlia patch when I was 13. This early experience of gardening became part of an overlay for my interactions with the natural world.
Growing flowers was just something I always did, wherever I was living there were flowers. Although I admired them and loved growing them I now know that I did not have a deep connection with them. They were beautiful, many times fragrant, and usually in pots on patios or sundecks—as a renter, that made them portable.
After my first year, at Alchemy Farm, of working with flowers: growing them from seed to germination, to harvesting, and many times collecting the seeds to begin the cycle anew, I began to feel a deep bond with them and the energy they carry. I still many times find myself standing in awe in the gardens.
Oracles: Messages from the Flowers
Alchemy Flower Oracle, the sister deck to the Eco Heart Oracle, was born in these gardens, amongst the whispers of flowers. I could say that the deck began with the photographs I took of the flowers as they grew, but perhaps it began with the first shaking of seeds into my palm, with the energy of the seed itself…with the promise of future flowers. The work of the flower oracle has expanded into the creation of a sound installation in our main cutting garden.
Music Created by Flowers!
The Alchemy Farm Sound Garden uses a special device that turns the energy of plants into musical notes—into a form that allows us, the listener, to connect to flowers and plants at a depth that has been inaccessible other than perhaps to shamans or people who work with unseen subtle energies.
In 1975 experimental sound artist John Cage was one of the first people to explore interacting with plants and how to translate that into sound, into musical compositions. The sound piece, Child of Tree, is based on amplifying plant material like a cactus, and other natural materials. The artist plays the plant and microphones pick up these sounds.
Nearly 45 years later the evolution of plant music has advanced to the incredible, and various new devices are becoming available. These pocket-sized devices have been created to work with plants, to tap into and convert their energy into musical notes that we can understand and relate to.
The experience of listening to plants is truly humbling and awe-inspiring. To stand in front of a plant, that one has nursed from seed to flowering, and be presented with a symphony of epic proportions, one that could have been composed by a human, has literally moved me to tears.
Working with flower energy to create the Alchemy Flower Oracle, involved communicating with the spiritual energy—the guardians of the flowers. This process deeply impacted my understanding of flowers and I began to sense a reluctance to cut them en masse to fill buckets with blooms to sell.
This process also coincided with a concussion, I was no longer able to deal with stress of any kind. Multiple weddings, flower deliveries, managing staff, planning or even flower planting were simply not possible. I was forced to rest which allowed time for deep reevaluation.
All Beings are Sacred and Have a Spirit
As a young child, I was taught, by my Finnish grandparents and parents, that all beings are sacred and have an awareness, a life that is to be honoured. I have always known this to be true because I intuitively listen to them and work with their energy. But to actually hear them, to witness their energy converted into music, has radically altered my relationship with all plants.
I can no longer cut armloads of flowers to arrange into bouquets to sell. I now listen to the flowers and plants growing at Alchemy Farm knowing that they react to my presence, to my touch. This has profoundly changed me forever.
I am even more committed to growing flowers for pollinators and for humans to experience, to communicate with. For it is through understanding that you are standing in the presence of a sentient being, one who lives on a different plane of existence from you, that perhaps the deep changes that are needed in the world today can manifest.
I am also recommitted to my practice as an environmental artist, of teaching, of sharing, my connections to the natural world in hopes of being a guide so that others can rediscover their sacred connections to Nature and the world that surrounds them. The natural world needs your awareness and your protection.
The flowers in the gardens still need tending. They still need to be cut to produce more flowers, more food, and habitat for pollinators and other Beings. There will still be flowers to share in the farm stand, and through flower workshops, but the process is radically different.
When I’m harvesting now it’s done with reverence and awareness of my deep interconnectedness with this living Being. I thank each plant for the beauty it is sharing with those who will receive the flowers. I thank it for gracing my life with its beauty, its fragrance, and its presence, and now with its music—its song.