Thursday, April 26, 2018

At the farm I've been watching natures clock. Specifically chemical, pervasive. Wound into everything; coded thick in April's thawing fields, deep in sheep, of course, with their new lambs. This clock, ticking also in the systems of our social structures. Our stirrings politically, our evolutions. Can you escape a clock? Eric says his superpower would be to stop time. Mine, teleportation. 

It occurs to me it’s time for a new aesthetic. But not the kind you can see.  So I won’t be able to photograph it. 

Things have been very different for me. I am essentially, retired. I worked this fall and winter to carefully organize my business in order to have enough freedom so that I could consider my next moves…Bryony runs Saipua, booking only a handful of weddings a season, and only ones that make the most sense for us - which is to say just flowers, and full artistic license. The Castle in Brooklyn is full relinquished to my friends at the Marlow empire who are turning it into a sort of creative playplace/event space. I walk around with this new found freedom, my hands clasped behind my back like a little monk. I study sidewalk nature. I look out the window a lot. I ride my bike to new parts of Brooklyn I’ve never seen. I've gotten very good at ordering books on the internet, and there are twenty or so I'm working on stashed in different reading locations around my lions den. I bully myself - you want to be the type who reads Rilke, or the type who talks about reading Rilke? And there that is again; the judgement. I watch myself slip in and out of old patterns of self flagellation. I am pro at this, have been for ages. The difference now is that can see it coming. I can sniff it in the wind. I stalk it down, throw a big net over it, and then sit around with it uncomfortably, studying it. This dreadful animal. I'm talking about self hatred. And this beast is inextricably tethered to the current state of feminism. Wound up in our clocks from the very beginning; that sense that we are never quite enough.

Spring has been a long time coming on the east coast.  Two inches of snow at the farm April 20th. We start lambing amidst this perpetual winter. One morning one of the smallest lambs is dying. Curled up in a dry water trough with her sister who was very much alive and full of vigor inside the 19 degree sunrise. April 4th. I want to tell you how unfair this felt… reconcile it, describe it. But nature has no language. No good or bad. I know this, intellectually, but I’ll still spend my life slipping in and out of desperate attempts to define some small truths, delineate some gentle curvature of absolute knowing. I keep coming back to see if she is still breathing, as if she deserves a witness.  This would have been harder for me last year or the year before. But still, some clinging, always. She finally dies. Eric throws the body in the big freezer to skin her for her tiny pelt later in the season when it’s warmer. At some point the softness fades and rage floods in. Two waters, commingling. I feel like the boy who swallowed the sea, frantically signaling that I have to let it out. Now I’m talking about permission. My ongoing struggle to grant it to myself. 
Or maybe really what I'm talking about is how to be alone. 

A dissipative structure is a physical system in which sudden, calculable structure appears out of disorder. Cyclones for example, or even the whirlpool that suddenly appears over the drain when you empty the bath. Scientists study dissipative structures to understand everything from the spark of organic life on earth to global economics; it is that glimmering threshold between chaos and order.
I happily adopt this science metaphor for myself, and am learning to patiently wait and observe all the feelings that bubble up in this weird in between state - the primordial soup of self. Being and not doing. I can’t force this clock to tick faster. 

Freedom in this sense is of course hard won, and there have been very dark times. I got too thin this winter, awash in my ennui, and sure, my identity crisis. If I'm not a florist anymore, not a boss, then what am I? All women want that power that is somehow tied to thinness and then we get it and, surprise! that’s not enough either. If you get too thin you start to look old and frail. For a time, I relished this fragile self and then grew bored of it. One day I brought some lamb home from the farm and made 100 meatballs. Started eating them through out the day. Almost choked on one jumping up onto my bed, balancing on the windowsill to pull the curtain. Bits of lamb fell into my sheets, delighting and disgusting me at the same time. Headline reads: Washed up florist chokes on meatball in bed. I laughed alone at this. 

I realize it was about two years ago I started reading science books. I started with cosmology, went back to biology, to human evolution. Particle physics, fractals, systems theory... recently, dissipative structures. This was around the same time that Eric and I split up. The science was an attempt to see some permanence, some truth in the world - as if I could stretch the tenuous fragmented garment of my personal life over some fixed coordinates. Eric and I were in a process of untangling. I have not known how to write about it here. And I realize I may never know how to write it; how to give it the weight it deserves in the story of Saipua, the story of me and him. Eric is singular. He knows things I can’t know. Different truths. He speaks of watching nature; and can describe the light on the sheep field at sunset using just a few words.  I ask for guidance and he can give me exactly what I need. He can also hurt me more than anyone; this is the complicated truth of love and friendship and trusting someone so completely with yourself. 
I want to be his partner forever at Worlds End. In part, because I  don't want to put my hand elbow deep inside a laboring ewe to rearrange twisted lamb limbs. I reconcile this in my mind, ever tallying; I have other talents.

I used to think I would change the world by teaching people about composting or spreading the word about sustainable flowers - but those are mere components of a bigger picture. I think we need revolutionary change in the way we think about the nature of work, how we relate to each other, how we learn, how we integrate creativity into our lives, how we live together in community. We tend to segment life — sort it all, compulsively. We schedule time for health, love, beauty, yoga, we set alarms on phones to meditate, as if there could be a schedule for breath. I look around at the uncanny way we have learned to see nature as other, as something to go to, to be in, as if we could then be ‘out’ of it when we return to our homes, our phones our work and lives. Nature is right here… it’s teeming here, even in my city bedroom. It is in you, it is you. 

I meet with lots of people in the city to talk through these ideas. Inevitably they ask how I’ll build a business around it all. I tell them it’s not going to be a business. Embedded in our genetics as Americans is the need to compete and consume. There’s nothing and everything wrong with capitalism but that’s not the conversation I want to have - what difference does it make to argue it now? Capitalism is merely part of our evolution as a species; and it is obviously not working anymore. 

Artists need money to live like everyone else, but that needing keeps them enslaved to a system that inherently stifles creativity. I want to make a place at Worlds End for art and education that can function outside the constraints of money. This is absolutely one thing that I know. Taxes, coffee, diesel - those things that we need that we cannot provide for ourselves at Worlds End will be paid for by the flowers made for smaller, simpler events through Saipua in the city - which after an long tedious winter, is finally set up now with close to zero overhead.  

I believe that freedom of self expression is something most people have lost touch with; I definitely lost touch with it building my business. And I know that the freedom and safety around self expression propels compassion in community. 
I don’t think the world needs more ‘beauty’ but instead more first hand experiences of beauty. And that is something that cannot be planned, scheduled, consumed on instagram or purchased with a ticket to a weekend workshop. That state that I am after develops - if one is lucky - slowly and organically outside the constraints of money and traditional notions surrounding work and pleasure. 

I’m off now to cultivate it - for the rest of my lifetime. Largely through my work at Worlds End. Wish me luck and join me when the time is right. 


Anonymous said...

Such a moving essay.…yoir honesty and courage take my breath away. Thankyou for leading the way....

LPC said...

I had wondered.

Most of all I wish you some happiness and some contentment, which can be hard to come by with a restless brilliant mind. I'm not even going to suggest how, everything I could say you will have thought of.

Conceptual frameworks are great, I couldn't do without them myself, but I'm pretty sure after 60+ years of trying it on that they aren't the path to contentment. They can be the tool to move the stuff that blocks that path out of the way.

In my experience, which I do my best to keep humble about but fail like, all the time.

xoxox to you Sarah. I can't tell you how much your genius meant to me at our wedding.

Marisa Bosquez-White said...

I love your writing- wish there was more of it. Much love to you- we are all trying to figure it out : )

Anonymous said...

Whatever you do next, please write about it. Your posts are always a joy to read.

Patti Azalie said...

Thank you for continuing your blog. I learn so much and enjoy so much reading it and rereading it. i dropped out of being a midwife after 38 years, a completely irrationally but best decision. It is like being born into a new planet.

Anonymous said...

You should be a writer. For a living. A book of essays perhaps?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear from you again, Sarah. Enjoy the Spring at Worlds End!

Lejardingirl said...

Thank you for sharing your gifts, personally I think that's how it all works. I TRULY needed to hear this. Peace be with you

Liz said...

Hans-George Gadamer, “relevance of the beautiful” have you read it? It’s something I come back to often, and is the source for this writing / creativity / creation thing that I’m still ... percolating over.

Liz said...

Hans-George Gadamer, “relevance of the beautiful” have you read it? It’s something I come back to often, and is the source for this writing / creativity / creation thing that I’m still ... percolating over.

Anonymous said...

I read your posts, and I read your posts again, and I re-read your posts and it gets deeper in to me every time I read them... You are such an inspiration. And your writing is as good as Rilkes (who by the way is one of my favorites :) ), it never fails to make me feel alive, in touch with my emotions, my questions and my thrive for answers. It somehow makes me feel deeply connected to what you live, I went through a lot of it my self, on my own way of course. I never leave comments, it feels strange to write to someone I'll never meet in the flesh. But then when I think about it it's even stranger to read and never write back. So here I go and leave you a thank you note! I wish you all the best and I'm looking forward to read you again! Prend soin de toi Sarah! Bises

eparkskibbey said...

Dear Sarah,

I discovered your blog when I started mine, sometime in early 2008. I was newly married and lost in a expensive craftsman house in Oakland, trying to be a teacher and working at the flower shop up the street on weekends. A few years earlier I had left NYC like a fugitive from my quarter life crisis. I was no longer a young Brooklyn hipster. For better or worse I was a wife and far away from the signifiers of most of my past identities.

Back then I visited your blog for the flowers. The copy was funny, and not necessarily all about flowers, which made it stand out. I followed along, laughing at your jokes and idiosyncratic references and lusting after the flowers till I left the dear blogosphere of the early aughts for motherhood in 2011.

Since then I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting you in a class, discovering mutual friends, and even selling you clothes! When you sent me soaps for trade I meted them out judiciously one and two at a time only to my most deserving loved ones. I saved the box forever and from time to time buried my nose in it and the empty tissue paper, just wanting to stay there.

This morning I woke up feeling unwell to a barrage of Monday morning texts. My favorite was from one of my dearest lifelong friends: just the link to this post, no message.

Thank you for finding the words to express so much of the weight I feel on my heart and mind these days. Thank you for making flowers, and growing plants and sheparding lambs. Thank you for all you made in the past and thank you for moving on. Hope we find time to walk together offline sometime. XE

Nicole said...

Beautiful words to enjoy over my morning chai. Thanks so much for sharing and reconfirming we're all just wading through life's daily shit, trying to make the most of its imperfections.

It's funny to think back to when I first started reading your blog. It was before I had my son, I believe, and he's ten now. I went through some similar upheaval four years back - my 12 year old business had become overwhelming and unfulfilling and my marriage crumbled. With the business, I learned how to sit with the discomfort while I sorted out where I came from and where I wanted to go. It came back to life in new and unexpected ways that were more in alignment with who I had become. With the marriage, I let it go at the right time and managed to salvage some semblance of grace in my departure from that 12 year partnership.

Four years on, we are good friends and continue to share in the burdens and joys of this life, in a new way. My energy for my work has come back to life in the way I had craved and cried for. Hang in there, hold on, breathe. Do yoga, drink plenty of wine, eat your greens, eat good cheese. Sleep deeply and then go through manic creative periods where you can't sleep at all and create, create, create. Life is messy but there is much to be grateful for. I continue to be grateful for you sharing in this space. Big love.

Amster said...

I hope you keep writing and sharing here.

Anonymous said...

You brought tears to my eyes. Please never stop writing.

Anonymous said...

As always, incredibly beautiful. Just...thank you.

count buckula said...

good luck sarah - we'll talk soon

Kim said...

Thank you. So brilliant. The words and the images. And that floral arrangement. The curve! The curve!

Lina said...

Big Thank you, we reading your posts here in Ireland for decade or so, all the best for your future. You are an inspiration , much love