In 2008, while I was still a professor with a full time environmental art practice, I began hearing about colony collapse disorder in beekeeper hives around the world, bees were mysteriously dying. I remember feeling a deep sense of sadness, not only because I loved bees but also because I knew that if bees disappeared, then so would many other insects, animals and plants, and humans too. I immediately wanted to help save bees.
I thought about creating an art exhibition to spread the word and inform others, that didn't feel like enough. I wanted to really help, really and truly make a difference. At the same time, I was feeling a deepening sense of being called to work with the Earth in a new way, to sink deeply into the presence of Nature, and work with the soil to heal my heart.
Fast forward to 2015 when we bought our property which we named Alchemy Farm; one of the first things I did was plant a patch of flowers for bees and butterflies—by this time, butterflies too had become endangered. I didn't know what I was doing. I had no real gardening experience, I didn't know how to make a garden bed or what I needed or didn't need to buy. I had no idea what kind of flowers to grow. I ordered so many books that I was asked if I was starting a library.
I took notes. I worried. I studied. I avoided planting because I was scared I'd make mistakes. I remember feeling the fear of doing it wrong, even as I placed the first seeds in the soil I'd prepared. I waited. Convinced I'd missed some important step, or the seeds just wouldn't grow. And then one day, I felt wonder, relief, awe and amazement at seeing those first seedlings make their appearance. I stood beside them and cried. Seven weeks later, when the flowers began to bloom and bees began to arrive, I cried again. The next year, I grew more flowers and the year after that even more. Our farm became a place of transformation, a haven for bees and pollinators—and humans too.
Visitors started asking me how to grow flowers, so I began to offer small gardening workshops along with flower design workshops. This past summer the Alchemy Farm Sound Garden featuring the music of flowers (really the bio energy of flowers converted into musical notes!) opened for tours.
As I shared the gardens with others, the same comments kept coming up over and over: I live in the city, I don’t think I can grow a garden on my deck. I don’t know how to grow a garden. I don’t know where to start with growing a bee garden.
I knew I could help.