Excerpt from Integrity by Adrianne Rich by Jessica Hunter

A wild patience has taken me this far ...

The length of daylight
this far north...
is critical.

The light is critical: of me, of this
long-dreamed, involuntary landing
on the arm of an inland sea.
The glitter of the shoal
depleting into shadow
I recognize: the stand of pines
violet-black really, green in the old postcard
but really I have nothing but myself
to go by; nothing
stands in the realm of pure necessity
except what my hands can hold.

Nothing but myself?....My selves.
After so long, this answer.
As if I had always known
I steer the boat in, simply.
The motor dying on the pebbles
cicadas taking up the hum
dropped in the silence.

Anger and tenderness: my selves.
And now I can believe they breathe in me
as angels, not polarities.
Anger and tenderness: the spider's genius
to spin and weave in the same action
from her own body, anywhere --
even from a broken web.

April into May; Magnolias, Marriage and More by Jessica Hunter

Narcissus are growing strong alongside my ivory prince hellebores, which are fading out while muscari take their place in the dirt next to my hyacinths and the first signs of fritillaria imperialis have started to crown with the tulips. The garden moves forward even if I'm behind on my cleanup. Nature waits for no one. 

I’ve been telling myself to sit down and write for weeks now. “It’s been two months since you wrote here last…now two months and a week…two months, two weeks.” This pressure doesn’t assist. There’s no way around it in writing, in order to do it, you have to sit down and begin. Even if it’s just whatever jumbled thoughts come to mind, follow the stream of consciousness for a while and then it’ll come. Or that’s what they say (they: all the writers). What if what comes to mind is: “shit. Fuck. Just write. You don’t have anything to say. Who cares about this? No one’s listening anyways. This is a waste of your time. You could be sitting and watching copious amounts of Netflix, drinking bourbon and flipping through instagram, catching up on the latest news through facebook (because apparently that’s a reliable report source these days – factbook!), or you could go for a walk or you should go to yoga, take a bath, make dinner, mmmm cheese, you should eat some cheese, do the laundry, cuddle with the kittens, return emails, read that pile of books you just bought from Hamilton’s literary festival that now give you anxiety because you feel like you should have read them all by now and they are looking at you asking you to read them and they won’t stop until you do.”

That’s me following my stream of consciousness for a few sentences and after reading it over once I’ve decided not to put you through anymore of it.

I attended a literary festival a couple weeks ago, featuring a myriad of talented Contemporary Canadian writers, everything from poetry, prose, fiction, memoir, short story, documentary, screenplay to historical fiction. When I decided to go, I told myself I would shut off my phone and immerse myself in that culture for a few days. And I did. And it was all consuming. And at the end I felt like I needed to quit everything, go to the woods and write. Except that’s not reality nor is it a luxury that anyone, well almost no one, has. Once that thought of leaving everything left me I realized how tired I was and instead sat on my couch and watched the last season of Gilmore Girls. They are not short seasons.

At this moment it’s taking everything in me to stay with this, to stay here and continue with this task. I think because I just want to shut my brain off after having using it on overdrive, which isn’t bad, but it’s not great. Netflix isn’t going to help me exercise conscious thought. Or is it? It’s not that I don’t want to be here, I do, my deepest desire is to be here, putting words to my thoughts, but for some reason distraction speaks louder than desire sometimes, like that loud person in a room full of people, it’s not that there’s nothing else going on or that no one else has anything to say, it’s that they can’t think with the loud person taking up all the energy. Loud doesn’t equal right or best though. So my distraction is a loud, obnoxious, influencer whose only goal is to have fun and party. It’s tiring because when I listen and follow distraction I end up unsatisfied wondering what I think or feel, frustrated with misappropriation of want, and then I begin the process of self-loss.

Yes this is dramatic but would you still be reading if it wasn’t?

Creating for me is necessity, like food, water and sleep. Without it I don’t feel human and I turn into an unhappy, cranky zombie. Writing is one area that feeds my creative process. I progress. 

One of the places I go to think

One of the places I go to think

A dead long-tailed duck from a storm this past winter. I found a couple by the water; at least they died together. 

A dead long-tailed duck from a storm this past winter. I found a couple by the water; at least they died together. 

I find time to write whenever I can. My phone makes it easier with the notes app. I have over 400 notes (pushing 500, at exactly 493). It goes from bands I like, grocery lists, studio needs, thoughts, travel guides, poems to conversations I’ve had with friends or supplier details for AFM. When I was a kid I’d write little notes to myself on napkins or whatever form of paper was available, sometimes on my bank statements because we all know those things were the perfect sized pocket book. These notes would at times become songs and stories, then lost. I did it nonetheless.  

So, I can assure I've been writing, if not on paper then in my head. Thoughts come to me often or I note a scene as its passing, like this one

 

I read somewhere that

withdrawing from social media

means, slipping into a depression –

I wonder how it used to be measured?

I wonder if the ‘depressed’ know something we don’t,

about nature.

about solitude.

about her bounty of healing love?

watch how the magnolia blossoms go

dormant in the winter, blooming for

just a short period in the early spring.

No one is worried about them,

when their petals fall,

they are still very much alive,

Connected.

Holy.

Forgotten, perhaps,

Yet, still very much alive.

Or this one from a couple days after Easter weekend: “the smell of brussels sprouts with butter and lemon, left over turkey gravy mixed with baked russet potatoes and the burning of a beeswax candle on the dining room table feels like home to me. Not the home of my childhood, but the home that we are making. A home, not a house. Sim sits on the couch, always on the long one near the south side of the room, me on the short one, blanket and book in hand, the cats settled on opposite sides of the room and the last light of the day, dim and soft hitting the living room, asking for thanks. As I look at our finished door and white walls in the hallway, I say “thanks.” I interrupt Sim and his work often to read him lines of one of the books I’m reading:

 "I did not always think he was right nor did he always think I was right but we were each the      person the other trusted." ...

"We walked every morning. We did not always walk together because we liked different routes but we would keep the other's route in mind and intersect before we left the park."...

"John flew up from Los Angeles so that we could have dinner together. We had dinner at Ernie's. After dinner John took the PSA 'Midnight Flyer,' a thirteen-dollar amenity of an era in California when it was possible to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco or Sacramento or San Jose for twenty-six dollars round trip, back to LAX. I thought about PSA. All PSA planes had smiles painted on their noses." 

Sim acts amused although I know he's probably a little annoyed that I keep interrupting him. I like sharing the parts of the book that remind me of us. He thinks I wish I could go back in time to when PSA planes existed. Just like when he has to travel for work and I complain and say “I feel like I’m missing out on bits of your life, on bits of our life” and he replies “if I was travelling somewhere boring, like Sarnia then I don’t think you’d feel that way. Are you sure you don’t just miss the travel?” We are both right. Although I do miss him more than I miss Mexico city this week (that’s where he is currently). I'm reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking as recommended by two reliable sources. I'm only becoming emotionally involved as I near the end, wihh her constant retelling of her memories, the vortex, as she calls it. I can relate, I enter the vortex often with moments of life that bring me ease when I am going through a tough time. Like going back to a first love when marriage weighs in. I guess it’s not the same, but I know what she means by vortex. Her portrait of loss and grief are indelible.
 

Sim interjects to tell me there's a guy in Seattle that converts old Volvos into electric cars. I respond with "Cooooollllll, we should go." Yes, because I like old Volvos and how boxy they are (partially thanks to Sim) and also because I love the West Coast and any excuse for a trip.

I'm not sure why I'm writing all this. I guess I want to give you a glimpse into my life when I leave the business alone for a few days. It's amazing how I feel when I stay away from screens for 24 hours. I can think again, I know myself better, what I want and I use my mind to wonder or dream a bit about the future instead of worrying about the immediacy of things. We all need days for this. Take some. I'm going to attempt to give myself at least one day a week offline, with no schedule. A day, entirely for the unplanned. That I have to write this here is deplorable to me.

It's not that I don't want to focus on my work, on the flowers, it's that I am always focused on them, so to take time away helps me remember how to keep going while preserving some sanity and perspective.

Yesterday was my last day at my part-time café job. I jotted down some ramblings then sent it to myself in an email titled: Blog Idea. I’ll probably include some of it here. Most of the time my posts are made up of my scattered thoughts in the moment mixed with notes I’ve been making for months and sometimes I just start from scratch. Probably because I worry about how honest I should be. Oh the debilitating filter!

I was working at a local café on Mondays, which turned into Tues/Wed, unsure of how long the gig would last. I was asked to come on board for a bit and I said yes because I like walking to work, making coffee, drinking coffee, meeting people in my hood and it was off-season. And did I mention COFFEE! I learnt a lot about the science behind a good cup, and that makes me happy because my brain likes measurements. I had a friend ask, ‘how was it working in service again?’ The truth is, we needed the money, so who cares what kind of hit to the ego that was for me? I am trying to grow a business plus Sim and I are renovating an old house in this industrious, gritty city we call home and that all takes resources. So if I needed to go back to go forwards, I was willing. I don’t even think it’s fair to say I went back because that’s an insult to all the hardworking, talented, friendly people that sustain the food and hospitality industry. It’s tough and definitely not for everyone. You have to be kind, quick on your feet, understand practical science (cooking, baking, mixology), multi-task well, etc. In my opinion, some of the best, most hard-working people are found in that industry. They carry a huge part of the domestic load of our culture on their backs. For many people, it's not just 'for a time,' it's a livelihood, a way of building community and their creativity in action. I have deep a respect for that.

 Yesterday was another day of noting my high expectations. I worked a shift that caused me to begin my day at 6am. When I was done I had a list of about 10 other things I thought I was going to get done, some of which included: bring in recycling, clean studio, pick-up groceries, mail calligraphy back to wedding vendor, return pottery to friend, start taxes, revise phone plan and swap phone (rogers is the WORST. So much of my money goes to them for shit I don’t need), water plants, go to yoga, purge closet of unworn clothes, drop off clothes to donation center, return emails for AFM, fold laundry, write a blog post, chill the fuck out and read your book, oh and take a shower because you smell. Yeah, so only 3 things on that list was accomplished after working a full day (sad to say shower wasn’t one of them) because I am not a robot and I can’t just keep going like the energizer bunny. Instead, I went to a friends place for dinner and then to the movies. We saw the Jungle Book, which made me want to go live with wolves. I would probably be more of a deer than a wolf though.  

From a hike last week on the bruce trail. 

From a hike last week on the bruce trail. 

Sim says there are two kinds of batteries: lead acid and lithium ion. He says I’m like a lithium ion battery where I tend to go at full charge into something with all my energy, heart and soul until suddenly my battery is dead and I have nothing left until I recharge. Over the years I have learned to be better with this. I will pace myself, feel my negative self-talk coming on about how unproductive I’ve been and can usually understand the signs my body gives me now but it doesn’t change that I tend to bend towards the go-go-go personality. Slowing down, despite the way I talk about it, is not my normal function, I work at it because it’s necessary for the good life.

 I used to live by the motto 'don't think, don't feel, just do,' and somewhere around my mid-twenties that all caught up to me.

I'm still a doer by nature, kinetic to the bone, I move, then think as I'm in motion, like a dancer understanding her entire composition based on how she contorts or unfolds her limbs, and then, I feel. Recipe for disaster really (my poor parents.) But it's my nature, faulty or fabulous wiring depending how you look at it. And as I've aged, I've learned how to better integrate. There are still moments, though, when I will be in motion all day, and then I will sit down to read or reflect and I have no idea where to begin. Or a friend will ask, "how are you?" And I will say, "I think I'm good,"  then as the sounds flow from my lips I realize 'maybe I'm not.' Verbal processing is a bitch. I guess that's why I write, so I can know how I'm doing. It tells me how I am, revealing myself to myself. It keeps me whole; it keeps honesty close. 

"I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear." – Joan Didion

I can identify. The movement of my hand across a page or my fingers typing on the keys, sets my thoughts on course, no longer stuck, no longer wanting for meaning.

As I said, I've improved at this with age. I'm beginning to choose myself more, saying no to visitors or social gatherings so I can keep with my intuitive self; so I can preserve her, breathing in and out, and knowing how I feel in my own body just by the movement of breath. My lungs filling up into my belly with an inhale and then deflating like a slow leek in a balloon with each exhale. That doesn't mean I don't gravitate to a more manic lifestyle, I just recognize, I’m not my best in that continuous state, no one is but our culture seems to value it more. My idea of fun Jess seems to value it more.

I thought winter would be slower. It wasn’t. Something with the inconsistency in the weather seemed to prevent me from entering a still place. Since this is seasonal work I rely on the colder season to recharge, to re-root but, I, like the plants in my garden this mild winter, never fully stopped working, even when covered in snow. Now, with event season around the corner, I see all that needs to be accomplished. It’s going to be full. It’s going to be beautiful. I’m actually really excited about this year’s wedding season and have been working on mood boards for weeks now of edgy chic couples, to romantic woodland creatures to laidback ethereal partners to timeless classic lovers.

In writing a friend and client a couple months back, regarding a comment about her wedding flowers, she said ‘I can’t stop loving them, I want to relive it all and hold those babies again,’ I responded, “I know, I wish I could bottle flowers sometimes. But then I think we wouldn't appreciate their beauty. Something about their impermanence keeps us coming back for more.”

Maybe that’s the emotion that we should take into marriage and something we need to strive to keep. Some guy came into the café weeks ago and said “people trade freedom for stability when they get married” and although part of me understood what he was saying, I completely disagreed. I mean first of all, what kind of stability is he talking about? Because when I was single I definitely didn’t have to stick out arguments or conversations that made me uncomfortable emotionally, but I do now, and not out of obligation and it's that kind of vulnerability, which draws two people closer, it’s intimate and legit. It makes the real stuff of love, and really, if I’m honest, before I was married I spent a lot of time avoiding this kind of relationship and I thought that was freedom too, having the option to switch things up whenever I wanted. It was a heck of a lot more comfortable to me but after a while I realized that I wasn’t really free and most of the time my love relationships were about what I could get more than what I could give. I think freedom is more than just our choices, I thinks it’s our insides too and I know I am more free than I’ve ever been in my life. No I don’t just go and sleep with whoever I’m attracted to or have some sort of connection with now, but I don’t define that as freedom anymore.

 Anyways, maybe my thoughts will change but this is where I’m at right now. To take it back to my original thought about the impermanence of flowers. Their beauty is because of their swift decay. We know there’s an end to them. We know they will leave us. And it’s often the most stunning flowers that leave us first.

I think of papery petals of a poppy. They are so fragile, one wrong move and they are lost. What if we looked at love this way instead of taking it for granted? I think if flowers lived forever we would just take them for granted and they would pile up in our home like everything else, passing them by and forgetting they are there. Maybe not, maybe I would stare at them forever? I’m not an expert. But if love were like flowers, if marriage were like flowers, then we would savour it all.

So, marriage is supposed to be “to death do us part” in its traditional sense, but I think that the best kind of marriages hold the door open for each other, they say “I am here because I want to be, not because I’m obligated to be. The paper is more of a statement of choice, choosing to go on the life adventure together, to be partners, lovers, friends, roommates, family. But really, it’s just a paper and if we drop the ball, or the other person does, I think we have every right to re-evaluate things and that it’s not giving up to question or discuss departing before death, to promise each other that the other can get out if they needed (that maybe that should be written in the vows), but rather it keeps the love alive and fresh, like changing the water in an arrangement - a constant renewal.

 Joan Didion’s words are in my head this week “you can love more than one person. Of course you can, but marriage is something different. Marriage is memory, marriage is time. “She didn’t know the songs,” I recall being told that a friend of a friend had said after an attempt to repeat the experience. Marriage is not only time, it is also, paradoxically the denial of time.”

This summer, I have decided to pickup more freelance design jobs, fulfilling one of this year’s goals, to: learn from the design legends around me, expand the knowledge of my craft and have fun working in community. With this comes a rigid schedule but I will still make time for beach days, weekend getaways and even a vacation. Mid May Sim and I are taking off to Europe for a few weeks. England, France, Netherlands, here we come!

With all this, I must say I am happy and content, more than ever. AFM is growing, I have a studio, a home, an irreplaceable support system of family and friends, a partner who is constantly cheering me on while continually challenging me, and I live in a city that as Kim Echlin quoted “wears its darkness on the outside,” allowing me to stop hiding too, letting go of pretense and settling into myself more as each day passes.

One last piece of news from the past couple months is that AFM was featured in the Hamilton Spectator. Full article here: SLOW SEASONAL FLOWERS HAVE THEIR DAY

MORE updates from April and into May:

April 16th/ 17th – AFM did the décor at the Vintage Marketplace for Vintage Coffee. 

April 23rd: A Fine Medley was a vendor at Wedlocked: an off-white wedding market. It was the first one and such a success. I look forward to hearing from all the lovely couples I met.

May 3rd – May 8th – I will be freelancing in Toronto at the floral design boutique Coriander Girl, owned by my dear friend Alison Westgate, who was one of the originals to spark my interest in the botanical arts scene back when I lived off Roncesvalles and worked in Parldale. This means no mother’s day flowers will be available from me in Hamilton that weekend as I’ll be in Toronto BUT if you want to make a little trip and come visit an awesome studio you can pre-order something from us here

May 20th – June 13th – I will be on vacation.

 

New Year. New Space. by Jessica Hunter

When we look for truth, we are also looking to dispel our illusions.
— Clarisa Pinkola Estes
winter bouquet for a New Year wedding 

winter bouquet for a New Year wedding 

It’s a New Year! I didn’t ease in slowly, instead I spent NYE processing flowers, crafting bouquets and then dashing off to a house party with friends where we drank too much gin, played a make-shift horse racing gambling game (I think it’s one of my new favourite things to do and is called The Horses are Neighing, invented by one of the most creative people I know, Pete Lazar…check out his event company here) after which we sang Karaoke long into NYD. Yep, I sang Whitney Houston, “Oh! I want to dance with somebody, I wanna feel the heat with somebody, Yeah! I wanna dance with somebody, with somebody who loves me” like it was my last night on earth and it felt awesome! That is, until the next morning when I could barely get out of bed but had to rush off to design for a wedding. It was a rough start but once I got into the groove I was lost in the moment as is always the case with design work for me.

Image by NORR Studio 

Image by NORR Studio 

I’ve started renting a studio, as some of you already know. It’s just off of Barton, past the village in the historic industrial Cotton Mill’s Old Dye Works Building (now known as ShareSpace). I’m still figuring out how I want it to look, function and also how to accommodate the extra expense, especially in the off-season. In the meantime I’ve picked up a part-time job at a local café (come visit me at Café Oranje if you’re ever downtown Hamilton). AFM is still a young company with pretty much just myself running the show but I took a leap with this space in hopes for expansion and growth in 2016. I’m thinking of the studio as a baby, whether I’m ready for it or not, it’s here and now I just need to learn to make room for it. To begin I start with organizing…first to the books!

Image by NORR Studio from Wreath School 2015

Image by NORR Studio from Wreath School 2015

My goal next week is to go over last years numbers and see if I managed to make anything. I think I did but then I poured it right back into AFM, because I believe in what I’m doing, in beauty and in contributing creatively to our city of Hamilton. I hate looking at numbers and budgeting. I DESPISE IT ACTUALLY! Sim pushes me to be better at this. The thought of revising my bank statements usually gives me a surge of anxiety but once I am in it, it’s never as bad as it seems and I tend to find a sense of restored confidence in myself once I face things head on.

I forecast my growth for this year, disappointed with my results so far, as, truthfully, it’s been slower than I expected. Can I actually survive this? Will I grow? Do people want what I am making or do they just like to press the heart button on instagram? Will these numbers turn into realized revenue? I want to make a change in this industry, to reduce waste, compost more, shift from over-packaged imported flowers to unusual locally grown heirloom varieties. I want to help people appreciate the beauty from seed to table and to reconnect humanity to nature. I want to honour flower varieties that have been around for centuries but have been pushed out of commercial markets for higher profit margins so all you can find is mono-cropped long stemmed roses, mums, carnations, gerber daisies, sunflowers, and tulips. I love these flowers too but not when you remove the contrast of diversity. Homogeny is boring, dull and uninspiring. I strive for the utmost elegance in my design process and that means working with vintage varieties, in order to make a medley, which reflects personality. For me, it’s about storytelling through the art of flowers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the garden and the way an iris opens its petals but most of all I like to watch the response that people have to flowers. A wide smile. Tears of remembrance. Nostalgia for home. Hope renewed. Peace restored. For me, this is where the good stuff is.

I’ve decided to get into mourning and sympathy arrangements. I’d like to work with families to design a more intimate setting at a funeral, wake, memorial or even hospital room. I can’t stand the look of funeral arrangements and abhor that they are pretty much the same for every person. There’s no soul in it and I think the dead should be honoured with more thoughtfulness than selecting a cookie cutter design from a book. Where’s the intimacy? Where’s the humanity in it? So I’ve decided to do something about my frustration with the industry.

Images by NORR Studio 

Images by NORR Studio 

I really believe flowers have a way of healing, reminding us of our impermanence and in doing so they help us to grieve. Our culture doesn’t give us much time for bereavement; we’re not exactly comfortable with sorrow or the weakness that accompanies it. But after this past year, siting with loved ones who fell ill or friends who lost parents, I knew I wanted to make room for grief in people’s lives. It was hard for me to make room for it in my own. People tend to want to skip over sadness and grief as quickly as possible. When someone is sick, either with physical or mental illness, we don’t tend to want to be around them. I think it’s because it reminds us of our own pain and if we’re not comfortable with our own weakness how can we be okay around someone else’s?

Sim just got back from San Francisco on the weekend. I wish I could’ve gone with him, mainly so that I could visit the ocean but we are saving to go on a vacation together soon - patience. I went to the lake instead and watched the waves brush onto the shore, over the layers of ice built up on the pebble sized rocks, where everything was encased; it was like standing on a glass floor. It was quiet, except for the sound of seagulls mixed with trickling water and when I closed my eyes in the sun, I felt heat surge though me. For those brief moments I was away, free of responsibility, to-dos, and intentions, for those brief moments I was like the waves, making movements of breath to match their stride.

These images are of Steph + Brandon's Autumn wedding, captured by Viktor Radics 

These images are of Steph + Brandon's Autumn wedding, captured by Viktor Radics 

While he was gone I cleaned our window shutters, a chore I told myself would be worth it. While I was on the phone with a friend, I went over to the window to look outside and noticed all the dirt piled up. The next thing I knew I had a roll of paper towel in one hand and cleaner in the other. Up and down I went over each shutter, one by one until it became methodic, routine and I didn’t even realize I was cleaning. I liked the spontaneity of it and vowed to make more space for the instinctual in 2016.

We’re up North for the weekend and it looks like winter here, brown twiggy backdrops mixed with snow and pine. I just finished a bath, it seems like I take a bath everyday in the winter just to keep warm. It’s something I love about this season, the way hot water feels on my icy skin. The house smells of lavender, Californian wine, garlic and lasagna. While I wait for the sauce to simmer I read Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She’s brilliant, academic and engaging, but most of all she reveres the female soul. I carry it everywhere with me for moments when I am waiting, instead of checking my phone I pick it up, read a few paragraphs, which I find my subconscious chewing on long into the day and night, even finding me in my dreams. I think I’ve underlined most of the book as it slowly unleashes the intuitive nature of the wild woman archtype: powerful, good, passionately creative, an ageless knowing. Clarissa says “Be gentle with yourself, make the descansos, the resting places for the aspects of yourself that were on their way to somewhere, but never arrived. Descansos mark the death sites, the dark times, but they are also love notes to your suffering. They are transformative. There is a lot to be said for pinning things to the earth so they don’t follow us around. There is a lot to be said for laying them to rest.”

Images by NORR Studio 

Images by NORR Studio 

2015 was one of the most difficult years of my life but with all its tumultuous turmoil, came great understanding, peace and joy. It was a year of self-acceptance, getting to know my shadow self, unravelling the truth and in turn dispelling the illusions; making space for both my darkness and my light to coexist. In this, I learned how to return home to myself. I wouldn’t trade it for anything but I wouldn’t’ want to relive it. When I reflect back on it, all that happened, inside and collectively, I realize that none of it could have been planned as goals or resolutions; life just happened and I learned to pin things to the earth, forgive and lay them to rest. I like to think the flowers helped me with this.

Last week my brother and sister-in-law gave birth to the most precious twin girls, Diana and Estelle. Once they were born I dropped everything to help them with details and hold the babes whenever I could. Call it baby fever if you like but you try and resist the infectious perfume of newborns when there’s TWO! In those few days nothing else mattered. All my big life questions ceased and everything became about forehead kisses and swaddled limbs. The love in the room between parent and child was so strong. It was an innocent, unending, enduring, unconditional love that managed to put to rest all my ubiquitous new-year anxieties about work, marriage, home, and travel. In times of birth, as in times of death, we realize there are people in our life that overshadow everything else. They are our “can’t live without, must-have” people, our chosen tribes and the ones we want close to share in the sentiment of our rejoicing and our mourning. It’s these people we should spend our days expressing our affections for.

I’ve realized that selling flowers is not about selling a tangible gift, it’s about selling an experience. It’s about capturing the emotion of a moment, whether it’s the death of a loved one, the celebration of found romance, the birth of a child, the empathy for a friend, the smell of the season or ‘just because.’ This is what selling flowers is about and why I find it so extremely rewarding but immensely arduous. No experience, no person is the same, everyone has a story and in my work I don’t like to throw an arrangement together that looks just like the last one, pumping out bunches as if I’m on a standardized assembly line, where’s the soul in that?

It’s my mission to get to know you and your loved ones in order to create a piece of art that is deeply personal, resonating with soul and senses, helping you to connect to yourself and feel more alive.

Flowers are both an experience of the joy and heartbreak of life. They carry transcendental power, moving us beyond reason and reminding us of mystery. This is the business I’m in and although there are days when I question if I’m good enough, if what I’m making matters, if I can truly call myself an artist, if I can make a living from the my earth – I continue, I will not give-up just yet as I have experienced the way they elate my heart or loosen it t let go. I think others feel it too, that real is what has life and real is what I’m in the business of.

“Gifted women, even as they reclaim their creative lives, even as beautiful things flow from their hands, from their pens, from their bodies, still question whether they are writers, painters, artists, people, real ones. And of course they are real ones even though they might like to bedevil themselves with what constitutes “real.” A farmer is a real farmer when she looks out over the land and plans the spring crops. A runner is a real runner when she takes the first step, a flower is real when it is yet in its mother’s stem, a tree is real when it is still a seed in the pine cone. An old tree is a real living being. Real is what has life.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes


Raw Beauty by Jessica Hunter

"Raw Beauty. That was my first impression of Jessica’s work. I was never a big fan of floral but her work gets me. I guess there is this feeling of comfort in imperfections that makes you relate, and it’s beautiful." - Norr Studio

Beautiful words and images of my work up on the NORR journal

Detroit, you dreamland by Jessica Hunter

Tis curious that we only believe as deep as we live.
— Emerson, Beauty

I’ve been stuck trying to find words for the past couple months and sifting through the infinite images of summer’s end, late august, September and then into Autumn’s October, has paralyzed me to begin. Nature waits for no one. It just keeps giving and changing. The deciduous forest mutations from yellow, to orange to blood red continue. The leaves fall no matter how much we’re hanging on and I hear Wordsworth chanting from the grave: to begin, begin.

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Calgary, Nurture Retreat, Detroit, endless weddings, beach visits, nature walks, garden harvest (too many tomatoes) and cleanup (so many weeds), long-distance lovers (Sim took a UK job where he’s been traveling for almost 2 months – we see each other in 48 hour stints), cats with fleas (this meant cleaning for days on end while Sim was away – holistic concoctions of lemon, tea tree, citronella, geranium and witch hazel blends only to resort to vet visits, high chemical premise sprays and advantage serum for the little fury beasts – at one point I was in the dark lighting tea lights in soapy water on plates and placing them in each room of our house as a natural flea trap; it was my moment of September madness), book clubs (currently ready Patti Smith’s M Train), new found coffee shops ….

Photographer Alyssa Wodabek, captured Nurture Retreats in such an authentic way on her blog in a three part series. This weekend of teaching and self-care was one of the most serene moments of summer. I am so grateful to Sonja, our founder, for bringing me on board.

I won’t cover it all here. I will leave it for another day because there’s too much to say. I’ve been living so much lately, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for writing. Working on Emerson’s living deeply so that I can believe. So yes, I’m leaving more words for winter when subtler hues of grey, brown and white settle me into slowness and my time outdoors ceases to be daily.

Our room for the first night in Detroit. Mom's side profile before heading off to design. 

Our room for the first night in Detroit. Mom's side profile before heading off to design. 

I laid awake in a single cast iron bed, covered by a red quilt with the sound of cars buzzing by on the main strip of Michigan Avenue. I was sleeping in the living room of one of the coziest airbnbs I’d ever stayed in. I was tired but couldn’t sleep from all the buzz, not to mention we ate late at Slows BBQ and I was still digesting the brisket enchilada. Staring at the ceiling I imagined that the traffic was the sound of ocean waves, trying to sooth my nervous, excited mind. Then I’d hear a group of tipsy locals chattering on as they passed by, bringing me back to reality.

“I’m in Detroit, tomorrow I begin designing for Flower House.”

My alarm doesn’t go off, instead I wake-up to the shuffling of designers taking their turn in the bathroom. I go to check my phone and it’s completely dead despite the fact that I had it plugged in. No charge. No way to contact people. No addresses. Hmm. I plug it into a different outlet. No luck. Then into my computer. No luck. Frustrated, I get ready and head downstairs for a coffee. As I go to pay for my coffee and mom’s tea I notice that my engagement ring is missing. “I never take it off,” I murmur to myself. “Unless I’m baking and I always put it in my apron pocket,” but I haven’t been baking. Immediately, I rush upstairs to search, mom behind me and as we begin sifting through the freshly folded bed sheets and red quilt, mom looks down at the carpet and there it is, just sitting there, waiting for me. I pick it up slip it on, try to take it off, “see when it’s on it doesn’t come off easily” I repeat as I pull it towards my knuckle. I’m now about an hour late, still no coffee and suddenly realize I feel like I’m still sleeping, having one of those terrible dreams where you can’t get to where you need to be. My phone beeps, it’s up and running and there it is again, reality, I am awake. I take a deep breath and we head back down to Atro Coffee where flowers and native herbs are sketched on chalkboards, succulents and cacti grace the windows, people are friendly and a black coffee awaits.

I think I’m still pinching myself. Flower House Detroit was truly like a dream that I’m still waking up from. And despite this frantic recollection of the start, I loved everything about my time there. It reminded me that the dream is now. It’s not later nor has it passed. It’s each moment. The peak of a mountain, the depth of a canyon, tea in the snow, coffee in the sun, losing my engagement ring, finding it, an old abandoned distressed home of plaster, lathe, vintage wallpaper and broken fixtures filled from floor to ceiling with flowers, communities making beauty out of loss. Sorrow. Celebration. Death. Life. Death. Rebirth. Destruction. Art. Chaos. Order. Lost. Found.

Detroit taught me that it's not what you have but how you live that matters.

Tired and full, beaming with happiness, wine and food we gathered together on our last design day. Lisa stood to read SWAN by Mary Oliver… “And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything? And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for? And have you changed your life?” - I gasped, it acutely resonated with my belief in humanity’s need for beauty, for art, and so the words wound around my mind, interlacing, over and under like a braid, taking me into another piece by Oliver in A Thousand Mornings, one that’s lingered below the surface of my subconscious and without knowing, influenced my decision to attend Flower House and how I would design the upstairs bathroom:

It didn't behave

like anything you had

ever imagined. The wind

tore at the trees, the rain

fell for days slant and hard.

The back of the hand

to everything. I watched

the trees bow and their leaves fall

and crawl back into the earth.

As though, that was that.

This was one hurricane

I lived through, the other one

was of a different sort, and

lasted longer. Then

I felt my own leaves giving up and

falling. The back of the hand to

everything. But listen now to what happened

to the actual trees;

toward the end of that summer they

pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.

It was the wrong season, yes,

but they couldn't stop. They

looked like telephone poles and didn't

care. And after the leaves came

blossoms. For some things

there are no wrong seasons.

which is what I dream of for me.

Thanks to Jordana Masi for the camera skills in snapping this shot. My camera was an utter failure in this light and Jordana saved the day!

Thanks to Jordana Masi for the camera skills in snapping this shot. My camera was an utter failure in this light and Jordana saved the day!

I knew the feeling all too well of my own leaves giving up and falling. I twirled the multicoloured autumn leaves of Virginia creeper into a shower, spiraling down like a hurricane into a pool of white mums. Lilies, Zinnias, Dahlias, Ferns and Amaranthus spilled out of the broken toilet while snapdragons lined the ceiling with snowberry and an ombre waterfall of garden roses greeted you at the door. Spring in Fall; "and after the leaves came blossoms. For some things there are no wrong seasons.  

This is what I dream of for me." It plays over and over like the supertramp record that's on in the background

As you can see the bathroom was dark and small. The moodiness of it of course spoke to me and the smallness made for a more intimate experience for guests. It was more difficult to design in it than I'd anticipated. I couldn't really step away from my work to see the full piece, I just had to keep placing flowers where I felt they should go, it was a meditation, hoping they would all come together, like the pieces in a mandala. My favourite time to work was late at night with a headlamp when the house was quiet and cold, almost eerie, with nothing but flowers for company. 

As you can see the bathroom was dark and small. The moodiness of it of course spoke to me and the smallness made for a more intimate experience for guests. It was more difficult to design in it than I'd anticipated. I couldn't really step away from my work to see the full piece, I just had to keep placing flowers where I felt they should go, it was a meditation, hoping they would all come together, like the pieces in a mandala. My favourite time to work was late at night with a headlamp when the house was quiet and cold, almost eerie, with nothing but flowers for company. 

Thanks to my Marmy and Jessica from Sweet Gale Gardens for diligently placing hundreds of mums in the tub. 

Thanks to my Marmy and Jessica from Sweet Gale Gardens for diligently placing hundreds of mums in the tub. 

Marms made friends with glue while working away on the toilet seat...it ended in a sticky manicure. 

Marms made friends with glue while working away on the toilet seat...it ended in a sticky manicure. 

There are times when you feel a pull towards something, a magnet drawing you closer, an ache in your gut so strong that if you were to deny it, you’d be sick. Flower House was that for me. When Lisa Waud asked me to be a part of the team I was in Calgary. Without hesitating I said yes and a month later I was on a road trip to Detroit. 

We were in Calgary to sniff out a potential job for Sim but while we were there he was offered a position at a UK based company expanding to North American. He took it and has been travelling ever since. We've basically seen each other for 48 hours or less during the past couple months.  At times arguing over the division of labour -- who works harder -- crying (mainly me) over the distance, always kissing to make-up before he catches another plane. This time apart is teaching us to be more intentional with each other, to really hug one another, to listen more attentively, to be present because presence might not be there next week and to be more honest because, frankly, we don’t have time to beat around the bush for days on end. In a strange way the distance has brought us closer and I’m not so afraid of it anymore.

When Sim flew into Detroit on a layover from Washington to see the exhibit, we went for lunch at this wild child, hippie café called Rose’s Fine Food where they pay their workers a fair wage so tips can go to a local charity. There are some really good people in the world; especially in Detroit. We ordered coffee and chicken sandwiches and all I could do was stare longingly at him while he talked. Almost forgetting we were married but knowing so intensely why we are.

At Flower House I made friends from Detroit, Ohio, New York, California, Pennsylvania, Petosky, and my neighbours in Toronto – we had our very own Canadian corner and the gals I met were the most encouraging, talented bunch of flower enthusiasts. I was a small fish in a big pond of the flower world. When I began A Fine Medley I only knew the names of a handful of flowers (I pronounced anemone wrong when requesting them from a local florist), I’m not formally trained in design and I haven’t studied horticulture. I was out of my league but no one made me feel that way.

Flower House was the best kind of avant guard. 

The buildings and people of Detroit showed wear and trial, overgrown blighted plots, but kindness, hospitality and artful expression are my lasting images. Colour persisted in bleakness, and it was this juxtaposition that stood out to me during my visit. Before summer's end I was struggling with where to take A Fine Medley but after being around such free loving, inspirational high spirits, all working collectively for the sake of art, my faith in why I started AFM was renewed. I went to see the Heidelberg Project on my last day and met artist Tyree Guyton (what a legend). He was doing yard work when I ran into him, not too proud or established to still do the hard and heavy work of land maintenance, even if it is a 29 yr old artist installation. “It’s my purpose, if I died tomorrow I’d be okay because I am living the life I was meant to live,” is what he said to me on why he began Heidelberg. He went on to say, “you’re an artist, I can tell. You’re going to be afraid, that’s normal. But when fear approaches take notice because it usually means you need to push through it.” I’m holding onto these words from this modern day prophet. 

The Heidelberg Project 

The Heidelberg Project 

I want to grow unusual, lush varieties of flowers, trees, shrubs, decorative herbs, veggies and fruit all over this industrious, ambitious city of Hamilton. I know that if I want caramel bearded iris, passionflower vine, chinese dogwood, blue poppies or black hellebores I’m going to have to grow them. I want people to be awestruck by beauty, and not just those who can afford it, but everyone who walks by the urban farms -  to learn the restorative nature of the garden, patience and care; to compost our waste; to create alternative economic development opportunities through urban flower growing; to use those blooms to service AFM and other local florists - but above all, to live a little more dangerously and to know the best parts of being human.

Sometimes I feel like my dreams are too large and other times that they are too small. If I had a dollar for every time I put limits on my ideas then I’d have enough money to fund them. I know what I want to do but I can’t do it alone. I need a community and that’s been a big hurdle for me in all of this. Even writing it down here seems nuts to me. Makes it more real or something. But watching Lisa pull together a band of people to help make Flower House was an electrifying jolt that rekindled the fire in my belly to get started. Detroit, you dreamland, thank you. 

To read more about the Flower House and what we did visit:

New York Times

Huffington Post Article

Hyperallergic

Debra Prinzing Slow Flowers Podcast

Martha Stewart

Adam + Lena

I'm as happy as a lark on our last day of design. I wore this pinafore linen smock by Portland Apron Company while designing all week. Its thread still smells of the magic that happened in Detroit. Thanks for making  such beautiful workwear Erika. 

I'm as happy as a lark on our last day of design. I wore this pinafore linen smock by Portland Apron Company while designing all week. Its thread still smells of the magic that happened in Detroit. Thanks for making  such beautiful workwear Erika. 


Creativity. Experience. Connection. by Jessica Hunter

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” – Steve Jobs, Wired, February, 1995

Monday Inspiration: Jack Gilbert and why I make art by Jessica Hunter

Portrait; Jack Gilbert

Portrait; Jack Gilbert

He's handsome. Courageous. Private. And has a middle ground between a realist and optimist. He's Whitmaneque in his poetry, which makes me love him even more, full of passion and romance and grandiose thoughts. As The Atlantic quotes "he's only interested in the big mysteries: God, sex, love, suffering, redemption." 

Last night's blood supermoon lunar eclipse. We drove to a graveyard in a cornfield to watch it through binoculars. I will never forget that night. 

Last night's blood supermoon lunar eclipse. We drove to a graveyard in a cornfield to watch it through binoculars. I will never forget that night. 

I ask myself often, what are we supposed to do with all the suffering in this world? Near and far. Close and untouchable. How are we supposed to live? Help? It's easy to get caught up in the analysis, asking why? But it's only ever been an act of beauty that breaks through to me when I can't seem to muster my way out of those dark, dingy, dusty confused corners of my mind. When I get into an overwhelming funk, Art is this glorious world full of hidden answers to the mysteries of my heart's questionings. Sometimes it's in the form of a rare lunar eclipse, or a bouquet of flowers for a friend, or the sound of your sister singing an old hymn from the bathroom, or a painting of Oktoberfest Munich by Dorian Fitzgerald, or the meditative prose of Marilynne Robinson's Gilead or collectively transforming an old decrepit, abandoned house into a Art Exhibit turned Flower Farm (Flower House - a project I'm designing for on Oct. 16-18 in Detroit). The truth is, the world is terrible and wonderful, but as Gilbert cries out, our obligation is to joy - to wonder! It often doesn't solve everything but it's a balm for the soul and Jack Gilbert's "A Brief for the Defense" was a little bit of that for me this week.

A picture of me taken by my sister from our visit to the AGH yesterday. 

A picture of me taken by my sister from our visit to the AGH yesterday. 

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies

are not starving someplace, they are starving

somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.

Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not

be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not

be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women

at the fountain are laughing together between

the suffering they have known and the awfulness

in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody

in the village is very sick. There is laughter

every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,

and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,

we lessen the importance of their deprivation.

We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,

but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have

the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless

furnace of this world. To make injustice the only

measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.

If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,

we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.

We must admit there will be music despite everything.

We stand at the prow again of a small ship

anchored late at night in the tiny port

looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront

is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.

To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat

comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth

all the years of sorrow that are to come.


Sanding rough edges by Jessica Hunter

And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been. - Rilke

It’s August, my favourite month of the year, although, I am biased because it’s my birthday month. 10 days ago I turned 29, clouds passed through the sun with a light breeze. I wore a grey striped cotton A-line dress and felt a little bit older. It’s the age of the edge, with all the youth of my twenties and the hope of the anchoring thirties. I’ve heard in your thirties you care less about what others think and settle into your own skin a bit more. I must say I’m looking forward to that if it’s true. This edge feels tipsy and scary, thrilling and intoxicating from this high up. I’m dizzy over it all.

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August is both celebration and mourning. We’re enjoying the last really warm relaxing days of the season while also saying our goodbyes to lighter days, preparing for the beginnings of September. The air is cooler at dawn and dusk. My sandals are replaced with loafers and a light wool sweater is always on hand for those unexpected changes in temperature. I don’t mind it though. I can feel the cooler air beckoning me into something new but I struggle to put words or shape to what it is.

We’re currently in limbo. Waiting. 

“Are you a lake peeer?” asks my friend as we swim out to deep water. “Oh totally, it’s the best,” I reply with a laugh. This is the conversation of true friendship. Treading water I keep my body moving and afloat until I can bring myself to begin swimming towards the earth again. Tiring myself out as my limbs move languidly, pushing through the heavy liquid - out of breath and refreshed - I sleep so soundly after a day in the water.

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Maybe it’s all the years of school that has my internal clock set to September as the new-year, or maybe it’s just that I get really reflective after another trip around the sun - probably the latter. I usually feel a sense of anticipation mixed with anxiety about all that hasn’t been accomplished. It’s renewal and remorse jumbled together.

As I write this, Leonard Cohen’s New Skin For The Old Ceremony, chimes in the background… “lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover, lover come back to me”

Wedding season's been full of elegance and romance, each bouquet bursting with the bride's personality.  I've enjoyed designing these natural details for each one and, surprisingly, it hasn't been as frazzled as I thought. I think it’s because they’ve been spaced out nicely with time in between for summer leisure and home projects, although, I’ve neglected my back garden this year. I didn’t plant vegetables, unless you count the basil and tomatoes that managed to fight through last winter and return. The morning glory has taken over regardless of how many hours I spend plucking out its seedlings and the moths have started eating away at the roses. It frustrates me that I didn’t take a butterfly net to these decay driven creatures before I started noticing their damage. Everything seems overgrown and un-kept.

I remind myself, all is not lost. My birthday gift was a family front-yard landscaping project. Since its beautification I’ve been working away at restoring an old door to replace the one we currently have out front. The door is probably as old as our house, donated to us from our neighbours because it was literally covered in shit. I could smell the putrid faeces as I scraped the layers of hot, bubbling paint off the surface, but underneath was this gorgeous buttery finish. With sore backs, sweat, blood, tears, dancing and dinner parties we are pouring love into our lot, making this home more of a haven as each day passes. I'm learning that these efforts are worth it. 

I’ve been making time for silliness lately. I think I lost some of my silly along the way to adulthood and it makes me sad when I think about it too much. I like that part of myself, the one that tries headstands in parks with strangers, car dances in traffic because I’ve just got to move or convinces her husband to graffiti the back shed late at night after a argument as a way of calling a truce.

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Sim said to me recently while driving up to cottage country, “we need to get our home in order.” I responded, “yeah, like our renovations, we need to sort that out.” He replied, “no our HOME. US. “ We were talking about kids (not because we’re having them, but because we might someday and I love a good plan). It got me thinking about how we are family now. This is my immediate tribe. him, the cats, myself, but it’s as if we’re still not quite there. We still have ourselves lingering in the families and communities we left to form our own, while trying to integrate ourselves into a new community. This tethering together takes patience and that comes with the passage of time.

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The morning after we finished the front garden I went outside to water it. I noticed a spider hanging in its web between the spirea and hydrangea bush. I needed to move the spirea and knew I’d have to destroy its webbed home. My tearful reaction was ridiculous with the amount of times I’ve killed spiders, but this seemed awful. All that weaving and spinning, only to be eradicated.  I knew it wasn’t about the spider. As I watched it scurry under the hydrangea leaf, hiding out thinking I couldn’t see it, I peeled its home apart. This broke me. Some days, if I’m honest, I’m terrified of this happening to us, somehow that this web I’ve been tending to for years now will be destroyed.  I don’t let this paralyze me though, I keep on, honouring these scary moments by constantly creating, building our home, making it a safe and welcoming place full of warmth, letting our love and dedication have the last word.

I haven’t been carrying around my phone or camera as much lately. It’s been nice just to be where I am and with the people I love. I like to collect snippets as they pass but they’re not my memories, they're a two-dimensional snap. My memories are more visceral, full of the scents, textures and unseen exchanges. I think lately I need to be reminded that these passing moments are still real even if they aren’t documented, that as I stretch myself to reach for an impression, I’m no longer entirely there. I want to trust that I can hold these precious days in my heart and mind just as they are. That’s what our time in the woods was about for me. I sat on the rocks by the water’s edge, smelling the fire burning in the distance mixed with oak, pine, fir, dogwood and mildew moss.

I carried Sim’s Grampa’s ceramic mug with me everywhere I went, like a caffeine-infused security blanket, it became a comfort by my side while I filled my days pouring over pages of a book. I go on nature walks and collect water lilies to decorate our camping table. Sim makes a rope swing, performs back flips, discovers a dead dragon fly, while he drifts in and out of the water at all hours of the day. The woods do the speaking during the day while we all enjoy the solitude of ourselves and in the evenings we grill zucchini, mushrooms, peppers with olive oil, garlic and lemon drizzle. We pass wine and chill beers for later. We share questions, stories, philosophies, laughter and marshmallows around the fire. Our summer season is fleeting, we make the most of it while it's here, carpe diem is our mantra. 

This past wedding I had to hide the flowers in the basement. One for temperature control and two because Hobbes was getting high on the lisianthus, destroying every one he could get his little pink paws on. My mom (who has been assisting me all summer; I have loved this time so much) was brining arrangements up from the basement the morning of the wedding to begin packing the car, my basement is basically the place I want no one to go, packed with boxes of unsorted belongings, Sim’s tools and anything else we can’t find a place for. It’s a disaster down there, but as my mom reminded me later, “this is grassroots Jess, it’s where it all starts, in a cool disorganized basement.”

The juxtaposition of the elegant flowers against a backdrop of insanity on cement seemed fitting; it was something I would have captured if I had been carrying my camera around. Instead, I took it in, noting the place they once laid as I lifted the vase, looking around at the disorganized piles of basement belongings. (Since I wrote this Sim has been cleaning out the basement, re-organizing and installing shelving units. He’s a real life Lego/Janga systemizing King, way better at that stuff than I am, my book shelves pile up in T-shapes. )

I’ve thought about what my mom said since then, how this is the beginning. Start small and grow from there. I have to remind myself of this when I get discouraged or confused about what I’m doing with my life. This is what dreams are made of - basement flowers. I didn't anticipate this life I'm living now, that I'd be running a floral design business or own a home in Hamilton. I didn't know that I'd work on weddings when years ago I despised the entire idea. I definitely didn't think I'd like it. I didn't know I'd be such a nester or that I could fall in love the way I have. I didn't know that I'd meet the people I have and become a better, happy version of myself because of them.  There is so much we think we know, but we don't and this gives me hope. It pushes me to surrender, to remain open. Regardless of where A FINE MEDLEY is heading or where we are going, we are here now, becoming, and it’s these days that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

 As I sand away the rough surfaces of the door, sweat seeping off my brow, I can feel my insides smooth themselves out too and I feel lucky to be playing at this life, like I won a lottery ticket of talents and loved ones. I also know that nothing truly excellent gets built when everything is easy. I know this is a gift, the times of struggle and harmony. I have nothing but gratitude for it all, and I look forward to this next year full of things that have never been.