[This guest blog post brought to you by Kate Murphy Orland, Megan’s younger sister]
“Set an intention for your practice”- my yoga teacher, every class.
Sometimes this makes me groan internally (can’t disturb the polite quiet of the class setting), but recently I’ve tried to embrace this whole intention business. My intention is typically something along the lines of “don’t sneeze during shivasana”. However, parenthood has made me an even bigger puddle of feelings, allowing for a more meaningful and sincere intention of “gratitude for all the things”. This can lead to light sobbing during what should be a happy baby pose. I suppose that’s why they call it a practice.
Anyway, this post is not about yoga. I had the opportunity to spend a whole week with my little family visiting my big family in Illinois and got to spend some time helping Megan at Backyard Beauty. This trip was significant to me. Because I live out of state, it is rare that we all get to spend more than a weekend together. It is important to me that my children know their grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins.
I’ve always had the luxury of looking up to my older sisters – learning from their mistakes and following in their intelligent footsteps. For as long as I can remember, Megan has been a person with initiative, energy, bravery, independence, and leadership. She is ok with risk. She is a do-er. I’ve been fortunate to accompany her on some of her adventures and at the very least I’ve tried to be supportive. Her new farming endeavor requires a multitude of the characteristics that she possesses, but because she only has two hands, I was thrilled to get to help her with flower harvest and market preparation. This meant that we got to spend about 12 hours together and I witnessed firsthand this new job that she’s so in love with (and she literally says this through the day, “I JUST LOVE MY JOB”).
We started the day early such that an extra layer was required to be comfortable (a welcome break to humid Illinois summer), harvesting Queen Anne’s Lace and Spurge in the pasture of my grandparents’ centennial farm. The magical morning light, the cool air, the feeling of doing something productive to help my sister made the experience just beautiful. I feel so connected to that area and it warms my heart to think that Megan and Steve are working and re-working the earth and old buildings into beautiful and useful spaces that would make my grandparents proud. The day is long and tedious at times, but it was a welcome change for someone who sits in a windowless office for the majority of the week. I loved getting to observe her process, the intention with which she moves through the harvest in preparation to make stunning bouquets for lucky farmer’s market patrons.
“THIS IS JUST GORGEOUS!” “CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS ONE?!” “I JUST CAN’T GET OVER THIS” came shooting out of Megan’s mouth regularly, particularly in the giant Crayola-box zinnia patch. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this is what harvest sounds like even when she’s by herself. I can appreciate Megan’s enthusiasm. I sat next to her as she parted the sea of butterflies to snip geometrically perfect zinnias rich and varied in tones and hues. To think they all started out as a tiny seed! Nature IS astounding.
Guided by a partnership with Nature Intelligence (most easily explained in her words, “Intuitive Gardening”), the harvest day focus is on what will go into each bouquet recipe and thus how many of each flower/forb/foliage is required. Much to my surprise, this led to her directing me beyond the garden to bushes long established on the homestead, and sometimes down the road to my parents’ house, to obtain a specific number of trimmings from unassuming shrubbery I would never think to include in a flower bouquet. Greenery from Honeysuckle, Ninebark, Foxtail, and Aromatto Basil are cleaned, trimmed, hydrated, and stored until bouquet assembly commences. She troubleshoots along the way, addressing a source for some special-request gladiolas and reviving dehydrated basil with a boiling water trick. Megan’s faith and excitement about her final product never wavers. She seems to float.
She seldom loses focus. She frets for a minute here and there about being a little behind schedule or wishing she was more efficient with her assembly. She admits that she’s not even sure how the bouquets will turn out, but she trusts her process. In the end, it pays off big time with some strikingly beautiful and unique arrangements, even if she continually questions “should this go here or here?” “higher or lower?” “two reds or one?”. The texture, color combinations and foliage combine to make a lively, lovely, living spray.
Although market preparation is a bit of a scramble, she is still set up well ahead of start time. She beams, exuding pride and excitement about sharing the fruits of her labor with others. I feel similarly, but for me it was getting to watch her in her element. She is, of course, glad to be paid for her efforts, but it seems that her satisfaction peaked at the point where she got to display her flowers. She’s brought beauty and joy to the community; she is living her intention.
In gratitude for all the things,
PS – If you want to know what my expression looked like throughout my experience, it most closely approximates Dana, Danielle’s little sister, seen around the 2:40 mark on this video: