BUYING LOCAL

I volunteered to find 15 bouquets of flowers for a big event last week. Rather than order them from a florist or buy them at Pike Place Market, I located a grower. That gave me the opportunity wind my way east over wooded hills and across fertile farmland, to the little town of Carnation. There I met a Mr. B., who grows acres of flowers out in the valley. His wife sells the bouquets they fashion from their flowers at Pike Place Market in Seattle. They are Hmong people, from Laos.

Mr. B. and his family were forced from their mountain homeland when he was only ten. You may remember that Americans played a leading part in the tragic fallout from the Vietnamese war as it spread into neighboring countries. The Hmong people were caught between opposing forces. Many had to leave the area, or risk death. With his parents and seven siblings, Mr. B. survived six long  years in a refugee camp across the border in Thailand. He told me it was a “good camp” camp, quite “flexible” as he put it, because his family was able to get out, through the sponsorship of a church in nearby Monroe. They arrived in America when he was sixteen. The first years were tough, and certainly cold, I imagine in many ways. But he persevered at school, he worked hard, grew his business, and now he has a good business and nice house, big enough for his own family, including his 91-year-old mother.

 

As she warmly clasped my hands in hers, her cane momentarily set aside, Mr. B’s mother smiled broadly and declared, “I am mother, I am happy.”  When I asked after her health her son told me that though her physical body isn’t what it was, she is clear-minded and remembers well.

The stories she could tell…  I wondered aloud about that. Mr. B. said he’s writing them all down. Her razor-sharp memories (“all the way back to China”) will help preserve their culture for the next generations. We talked about the trade-offs one makes when moving from an agrarian economy to a market-based one.  His nephew suffers from too much stress and Mr. B. worries about him. He has a deep understanding the benefits of a multi-generational family (“Older people were always around me”) but he knows that tradition isn’t likely to survive much longer. You take the good with the bad, we agreed. He expressed a deep appreciation for the diversity here in America.

Mr. B. and I filled my little car with big bouquets of peonies, lilies, delphinium, pinks, phlox, daisies and Bachelor’s buttons. A heavy, sweet and intoxicating scent built slowly around me as I wound my way back through field and forest to Seattle.

The flowers were beautiful but the real gift was those minutes with Mr. B. and his mother. It was a privilege to meet them. I bow to them both.

Spring flowers at Pike Place Market and a flower seller, probably Hmong (taken in April, 2013).

***


22 comments

  1. What an inspired choice, to head east to a grower instead of heading to the market. I imagine your car smelled divine, and your heart was full.

    When I was in high school my church helped a family from Laos come here and they stayed with my family. They could not speak English but fortunately we could both stumble along in French. He was a doctor, but would not be able to practice here until he met certification standard here…he may have needed to go to medical school all over again! Can you imagine how disheartening that would be, after losing everything to then be told you had to start over again with that, as well?

    Thank you for this wonderful post 🙂

  2. what a beautiful post! thank you for sharing the story, but more than that, thank you for being a kind person and caring about their lives and history. “Mama” sounds like she’s a true jewel, and her photo is lovely.

    were you on an emotional high as you drove home with a car full of beautiful flowers and lovely aromas?

    • That’s not her in the photo below which was taken 2 years ago. I didn’t want to bother them or interrupt the moment by taking pictures. It was just one of those warm, life affirming experiences, like you seem to have on an almost daily basis, amiga!

  3. A thought provoking post alongside your blooming flower photos Lynn . From recent travels I too realise how much better it feels and is to support local people particularly . Apart from the obvious economic boost it was lovely to see the legitimate pride they had in their wholesome home produce as they told us details of various cooking techniques .
    I’ve no doubt you’ll return for another visit to this family ! Fascinating .

    • Yes, it’s great to buy local, and this was extra local! You were somewhere warm, where veggies grow in profusion, and I bet you ate well. SOunds like it enriched your travel to listen to what the locals had to say about their foods. It’s an honor, I think!

  4. Lovely story…though the hardships were many. It’s beautiful to see not only survival but the ability to thrive. I think tradition and memory of history is being lost among almost every family in the US during this generation. It worries me for our future sometimes since past errors can then be repeated without understanding or decision.
    I see this farm often driving on Hwy 203, I believe. I’ve never stopped in, but I am always uplifted as I drive by the gorgeous fields full of blossoms. I think the prior commenter’s mix up of peace and piece is a true Freudian slip, as this farm exudes peace into the countryside, and you most certainly captured the feeling in your images.

    • You’re right, a lot can be lost, and mistakes could be prevented. Such is life! But I was so excited to hear that Mr. B. is writing down his mother’s story. He said he would make it into a book. Thanks for your thoughts about driving by the farm (it’s probably that one but I forget exactly where he said the fields are – I was at his house in Carnation). And thanks for your comment about peace – how well I understand. I love driving out there!

  5. My family and I came over as refugees from WW II, so I can pretty much relate. It’s not always easy making it when starting out with virtually nothing, but it could be done once upon a time. These days, I’m not exactly sure. Thanks so much for sharing every bit of the above. It was wonderful.

    • And the generation that’s born here can be in an awkward position relative to their parents, and heritage. But it all makes life rich! I’m so glad you enjoyed this – you know I don’t do this sort of thing often.

      • Hmmm… awkward to say the very least. I wasn’t born here, but arrived when I was five. Caught between the two cultures wasn’t always fun. I DID enjoy it very much.

  6. What a great story – I do think that somehow flowers take on something of the person who grows them – some flowers feel loved and some feel sad. Maybe that’s a bit fanciful but I do notice it. These flowers seem full of heart.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s