Ben’s Guest Blog

I’m new to the gathering of flowers for Green Hope Farm essences, despite having lived in a home devoted to the task for 22 out of my 28 years. Thus I was nervous to perform properly for my Mother, Molly, when she sent me towards Ireland with a packet of blurry photos, flower names, and lots of stars and exclamation points around the words “Very Important.”

My trip to Ireland was based mainly on a mysterious prompting I saw in the ocean last summer, and even as I boarded the plane to fly to Dublin, I was unsure as to the purpose of my trip to the Emerald Isle. Upon arriving in my first destination, Ballybunion on the western coast south of the river Shannon, I had an inkling that I would enjoy this flower poaching business. I spent an hour searching the beaches, nestled between Ballybunion’s world famous golf course and the Atlantic, for Kidney Vetch, the first flower on my list. With my tee time quickly approaching and no sign of Kidney Vetch anywhere (***Kidney Vetch*** – VERY IMPORTANT!!!!) I paused to think about turning around and formalizing an excuse for returning to New Hampshire without one of Green Hope Farm’s must haves. It was at that moment that I looked to my feet and spotted a single blossom of what I was sure was Kidney Vetch, suggesting that it is not always the Green Hope Farm worker who finds the flower, but often the contrary. With that, I sensed a purpose for my Kerouac-esque journey.

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Kidney Vetch

My trip in Ireland took me along the western and eventually northern coast of the island, through pockets of relatives in and near Clifden, into ancestral O’Toole territory on the ancient and tidal Omey Island, by (London)Derry and to the Giant’s Causeway near Portrush. I collected flowers along the way, including two from a town called Spiddal. While I wandered the rocky beach in Spiddal, I had an uneasy feeling, and was not sure any flowers I collected would offer beneficial vibrations. Upon returning to New Hampshire, I had a fitful night of weird dreams in which I was driving towards Spiddal, where I was to be burned at the stake for unclear reasons. These dreams clarified my uneasiness in Spiddal, and offered an explanation for the flowers that I had picked during my strange night in that little coastal town. Somehow I had tapped into a past life experience, and the flowers on that rocky beach understood how to navigate such a jarring and inexplicable sentiment.

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Sea Holly on Omey

During my trip I felt a pervasive sense of depression across the land, highlighted by news reports of roadway deaths and economic gloom. Topics of conversation often included those already passed or those soon to, and for an upbeat American guy, the psychological climate was unsettling. Some called it “Famine Mentality,” and to this point, Ireland has lost millions of citizens in the last 150 years to death and emigration. Many of those who left were searching for a life with opportunities; opportunities that were unavailable in the Ireland of the 1870’s and 1910’s. A number of the flowers I brought back are helpful in protection against an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss. The island feels haunted by loss, both in the ether and on the sides of buildings: the Bogside murals below the Derry city walls depict victims of the Troubles for all to see.

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Reward on a boondoggle

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Near the Giant’s Causeway

Above all else, the Irish flowers I collected are about perseverance, whether dealing with loss, difficult connections to the past, or simply gray days with too much rain. The names are both mysterious (Bofin Unusual) and epic (Giant’s Causeway.) The places they represent run the gamut from cliff-side in North Ireland, to beach-side on Omey, to middle of nowhere gathered during one of my excursionary boondoggles, of which there were many. What has been so fascinating for me growing up around my Mother’s business is that often essences take on unexpected personalities because of customer reactions to them. I will look forward to learning about these essences through your collective eyes.

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