Community Ed instructor Nora Lindsey teaches students to cultivate beauty
By Rebecca Olson | 2 comments
When Nora Lindsey got into farming, she was all about food. Like a lot of young folks in Portland—from aspiring chefs to backyard chicken farmers—she wanted to cultivate a garden that would feed people. It wasn’t until she started growing flowers that she found it nourished her in a deeper way.
“I went from not caring a lot about flowers to thinking that they contain the universe,” she said. “It was a revelation.”
Today she calls flowers her “spirit food.”
Lindsey teaches Community Education courses on growing, arranging and appreciating flowers. The former coordinator of the Learning Garden on the Rock Creek Campus, Lindsey’s background is in agriculture and community organizing. She has been farming for about 10 years, and started her growing practice tending to the meditation garden in Scotland’s Findhorn Ecovillage—an intentional community in the U.K. that practices sustainable farming techniques.
She took her interests and experience to Portland and worked on farms for several years until she and a friend started a flower farm to supply bouquets to individuals and local shops.
“A flower that I love to grow is scabiosa. There’s a variety that’s grown just for its seed pod that looks like a star globe—they’re total stunners,” she said. “The first time I grew one, I felt like a total pro.”
Lindsey’s flower classes are popular among a diverse range of people from all backgrounds and ages—and that’s part of the fun. She has students who are just starting out and others who are experienced gardeners.
She recalls one of her students who made the flower arrangements for her church. For years, the arrangements had been very stiff and formal, using floral foam and rigid lines. The student came to Lindsey’s class because she wanted some new skills to help her break out of the mold.
“She wanted to find out how the flowers wanted to be arranged,” Lindsey said. “It was an amazing experience to help her get in touch with them.”
Like the floral arrangements in a church service, Lindsey explains that flowers are used in all of our most important ceremonies and rituals—a practice that spans traditions, cultures, and lines of history.
“We use flowers to honor our dead, to honor our love, to honor someone being born,” she said. “I want to help people develop their own relationship with flowers to make these moments in our lives even more special.”
As Lindsey learned more about flowers and came to love them, she has re-aligned her professional and personal interests to focus on the spiritual qualities of flowers, rather than their horticultural aspects. A self-identified witch, she studies the magical properties of flowers as a student at a local mystery school. She hopes to continue her spiritual education by attending divinity school in the future.
Through their cycles, Lindsey believes that flowers have a lot to teach us.
“It’s truly an education to work with flowers. They teach us about death and sex and life,” she said. “They teach us to slow down and really see what’s all around us.”