Friday, October 8, 2021

Guest Essay: 'Flowers for the Life of the World'

Dear Parish Faithful,

Here is a wonderful ministry carried out by Erin Lockridge. Please read what Erin writes about this in the reflection below. The flower bouquets will be available at the For the Life of the World Cafe (formerly Moriah Pie) here in Norwood as long as they remain in season. The principle of purchase is "pay-as-you-can."

Flowers for the Life of the World

by Erin Lockridge

I once had a part-time job at a florist shop, prepping the flower stalks for the designers to use in their arrangements.  I would unload refrigerated trucks of boxes from all over the world - the Netherlands, China, Ecuador, Columbia, Kenya, California - slit open the cardboard and unpack the blooms, uniform and flawless. It was my job to strip leaves from the stems of the snapdragons, cut the thorns from the roses, pinch the pollen from the lilies (that would otherwise leave an orange stain on customers’ noses), and get it all in water before the designers needed them. At the end of my first day, I looked at the mountain of discarded plant material beside my workstation and thought, “jackpot!” planning to scoop it all into a garbage bag and take it home for my compost pile. When my supervisor saw what I was doing, she said, “No way. You don’t want that stuff anywhere near your garden.”

Surprised, I did some reading and discovered that, while the global floral industry generates billions of dollars and provides livelihoods to many, the hidden costs are high. The vast and dynamic orchestration of farmers, hothouses, warehouses, airplanes, cargo ships, and vendors, demands fuel, land, irrigation, and massive amounts of refrigeration. The short-cycle production process utilized to supply the demand for perpetual blooms, requires extensive use of agro-chemicals, some of which are banned in the U.S. because of their toxicity. Because flowers are not an edible crop, the regulations surrounding their pesticide content are loose and, while I had the ability to eventually do less-toxic work, others at different points in the supply chain don’t have that privilege.

The flowers we now grow here in Norwood may only be a small industry that requires little more than a pair of snips and a couple of buckets, but our hope is that it brings life beyond the ephemeral joy of the blooms. Maybe these bouquets inspire gifts of beauty and care between neighbors and friends. Maybe the flowers bring a brightness to the park down the street where they grow.  It gives me great satisfaction to hear the hum and buzz around the gardens and to know that the plants offer food to countless pollinating insects and songbirds, shelter to spiders, snakes, and crickets, and health to the soil below. Even the leaves, lacey with insect holes, point to the hope that these bouquets -in the humblest of ways- are for the life of the world beyond ourselves. And, yes! the pile of discarded plant material that accumulates next to my workstation will most definitely go into our compost pile.