LIFE

Af­ter los­ing her job, Sarah MacDonald found un­ex­pected com­fort in flow­ers.

ELLE (Canada) - - Front Page - By Sarah MacDonald

How one writer found com­fort in flow­ers af­ter los­ing her job.

IWAS MADE RE­DUN­DANT at the be­gin­ning of 2018. Af­ter two years as an ed­i­tor, I was in­formed by a group of solemn faces that I no longer worked for their me­dia com­pany, and they handed me pa­pers to sign and a cab chit to get me home. I packed up my desk and walked out the back door without say­ing a word to any­one. For a week, I was numb, stunned. Then the re­al­ity of my sit­u­a­tion hit and I col­lapsed into a pool of tears, over­come with fear and anx­i­ety. How would I pay the bills? Would I write again? What would I do?

This went on for days. I stayed in­side my apart­ment, avoid­ing calls and re­watch­ing Grey’s Anatomy (yes, all 14 sea­sons). One morn­ing, I hastily put my jacket over my pyjamas and walked to a mar­ket on my west Toronto street. I didn’t know what I was do­ing—only that I needed to do some­thing. I passed tod­dlers and par­ents head­ing into cof­fee shops, teenagers get­ting ra­men and killing time in Dol­larama on their lunch break. It was Fe­bru­ary, slick and cold, but mar­ket own­ers were still putting bas­kets of fruit and flow­ers out­side for sale. There were more flow­ers in­side one warm, over­stocked store. I was drawn to a pur­ple and white or­chid sit­ting among some louder­hued flow­ers. Its young stem was clipped to a green stick, and its buds were closed up tight. I found it so serene that I quickly bought it and left, hold­ing my new plant close to my heart. I was en­veloped in a sense of calm I hadn’t felt since be­ing laid off. When I got home, I care­fully placed the or­chid in my liv­ing room, de­ter­mined to keep it alive.

Af­ter that, I was de­voted to keep­ing flow­ers in my home. For ev­ery mo­ment that felt too much in the fol­low­ing months—and there were a lot—I sought out flow­ers. I went to the mar­ket nearly weekly, buy­ing small bou­quets. First, white tulips. Then red roses (a favourite). Then pe­onies, anemones. Come May, I sought out soft hy­acinths and ra­nun­cu­lus (a heavy name for such an el­e­gant bloom). In June and July, there were fra­grant sweet peas; in Au­gust, dahlias of ev­ery colour. By the end of sum­mer, I had be­come a reg­u­lar at mar­kets in other neigh­bour­hoods and a du­ti­ful dis­ci­ple of the Toronto Flower Mar­ket, where ven­dors sell sea­sonal flow­ers.

Grow­ing up, I had spent hours in nurs­eries with my mom, help­ing her pick out new peren­ni­als and an­nu­als for her gar­den. She taught me how to split the roots with care be­fore trans­fer­ring them into the soil, clip off dead leaves from the stem and wa­ter gin­gerly. But liv­ing in a base­ment apart­ment lim­ited how many plants I could have. Flow­ers were smaller, eas­ier; I could split up the bou­quets and leave them in vases scat­tered around my place.

When I brought flow­ers home, my part­ner would of­ten roll his eyes while I in­spected their stems and smelled their but­tery petals. He be­lieved they were a waste of money be­cause they in­evitably died. I saw them as sur­vivors. I felt com­pelled to take care of them, to learn about their tax­on­omy. How they thrived de­spite all sorts of con­di­tions lit a spark in my brain. To re­learn about the earth, what is in the soil and how flow­ers grow be­came an oc­cu­pa­tion more ther­a­peu­tic than any­thing else I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced. Turn­ing to blos­soms was in­tu­itive, like med­i­ta­tion.

My mood shifted with ev­ery new type of flower I bought. Wild­flow­ers made me spon­ta­neous and care­free, their blooms tem­po­rar­ily di­min­ish­ing my worry that I was a glar­ing fail­ure for not hav­ing a per­ma­nent job. Pe­onies, del­i­cate and ten­der, taught me that it’s okay to re­treat from the world to tend to any bouts of anx­i­ety with care. And dahlias, bloom­ing well into au­tumn, fierce and strong and re­fus­ing to back down, re­in­forced the traits I needed to jump into life as a free­lance writer—which I did, slowly but surely. I do un­der­stand that the ob­sta­cles I faced were not solved sim­ply by pur­chas­ing flow­ers, but bend­ing my tem­per­a­ment to the sea­son’s of­fer­ings as I nav­i­gated this mas­sive up­heaval felt nat­u­ral.

As I write this, it has been al­most a year since I was laid off. Work­ing for my­self feels bet­ter. Even though as­sign­ments aren’t al­ways pre­dictable, I ac­cept what I can’t con­trol in my work and per­sonal lives, mak­ing room for spon­tane­ity when it comes. That first or­chid I bought last Fe­bru­ary sadly wilted, but I’ve bought a creamy white one to re­place it. I also keep calm­ing dried laven­der and eu­ca­lyp­tus on my bed­side table, as well as wild­flow­ers to give me a nudge to let go a lit­tle some­times.

I still make weekly trips to mar­kets, in­spect­ing new de­liv­er­ies and species. I bring back tulips—white, pink, yel­low. Oxblood or burnt-orange roses have be­come sta­ples. I change their wa­ter ev­ery other day and watch their buds un­fold be­fore me, see­ing them thrive. Just like me. ®

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