Hive & Hollow
sustainable flowers, art and gifts

Of note

Interesting stories, tid-bits and blog posts related to Hive & Hollow.

Posts tagged breast cancer
Building the Hive

The name of our flower shop, Hive & Hollow, got its inspiration from a druid animal oracle card. The bee. The epitome of community and celebration. I knew I wanted the shop to be a focal point in our community, a buzzing hive where people could gather, do healthy and productive work,  celebrate our collective creativity, and give back and strengthen the community at the same time.  The hollow is the counterbalance.  While I knew I would thrive on the buzzing of a hive, I also knew I would need quiet and solitude. Our wooded spot has a little hollow where we grow some of the flowers for the shop and have some time for quiet rejuvenation. And so was born, Hive & Hollow.

This July, nine months after opening, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the name came alive in a way I never could have predicted. I found myself at the center of a buzzing hive, but not at all in the way I had envisioned. I was completely floored by the flood of support from our community, embarrassed almost, at the magnitude of outpouring. Not just in a thoughts and prayers (which are also truly appreciated) kind of way, but meaningful, intentional support. People hauled my kids all over the place, even took them on trips, stocked our freezer with healthy, convenient soups and casseroles, and brought warm meals during the rough weeks. A volunteer coalition of customers (many I had only known since opening) staffed the shop, not just for a week, but for a solid month and a half, as complications and surgery after surgery kept me at home or hospitalized.  Former co-workers came from far and wide to help me fulfill weddings I had committed to before I knew I had cancer. Farmers donated flowers for us to sell. People brought goodies, fancy body care, scarves, teas, books, stones, crystals, cards, shawls, meaningful trinkets. Friends weeded our gardens, cleaned our house top to bottom. I did not have to ask for any of this, not once. This is real privilege. A strong community, incredible friends. 

How many are out there that do not have this? It keeps me up at night. I can’t imagine going through this alone. I can’t say thank you enough, I have infinite gratitude, and I don’t know where to place it. I can only hope that the opportunity will arise where I can show up for someone in the way that our community has shown up for me.

I now have a small way that I can help others going through this. My dear friend and neighbor, Margaret Paulson, is running the New York City marathon in November in my honor and is raising money for the American Cancer Society, an organization that helps insure people and families going through cancer get what they need. Please consider supporting her efforts.


Trust your intuition, handle yourself with care

I’ve been working in the floral industry since 1995. I started in a little, well respected shop called Crocus Hill Flower Market, known for its unusual selection of interesting flowers from all around the world. Here I learned about proteas, one of my favorites, for they are other-worldly, native to Australia and South Africa. Later I worked in landscaping, in the Twin Cities and on Martha’s Vineyard, which delighted me for the broad strokes you could paint, it was like installing massive living floral arrangements. Eventually, I opened Sassafras Floral & Garden Design, with two partners, and we pumped out garden installations, weddings, and large scale corporate designs. I relished the fast pace and hard work, the sheer hustle of it all.  I rarely thought about the flowers and where they were coming from, the hundreds of thousands of commercially grown roses I handled. If I did think about it, and the chemicals I was exposing myself to, it was brief, and overshadowed by my confidence that my hippie upbringing would allow me a long and healthy life. As a child of the 70’s, we lived for a period in a van, where my mom literally made tofu from scratch...she was an early proponent of organic and whole foods. Though I bitched endlessly about carob chips and fresh ground peanut butter, I secretly felt like I had a stronger set of armor than other kids that had twinkies and jif in their lunches. As a florist, the pace often necessitated eating as we worked, with our pesticide covered hands as we churned out arrangement after arrangement for increasingly ostentatious events. The global effects of the industry in terms of social justice started to gnaw at my conscience. Marginalized communities were losing their land to massive flower farms that were abusing water and land resources and polluting the environment just as pinterest was blowing up the wedding industry. Events got more and more elaborate, and frankly I was burned out.  I wanted to tell my clients to elope, invest in a house, prepare a pinterest board dedicated to working through marriage. After working that way for 17 years we decided to slow our pace of life and move to the country.

Fast forward to 2013...I got a job working in a traditional local flower shop here in Menomonie, WI as we were getting settled. This is where I really started to think about the carcinogens on the flowers and in the materials and chemicals I was working with. Floral foam is a magical invention, you can literally create anything with it. But it is loaded with known carcinogens. Florists shape it to all kinds of incredible shapes and specifications and breathe the dust all day long. You can read more about its toxins here:

https://www.riverwolfxo.com/blogs/going-zero-waste/the-dangers-of-floral-foam-oasis

I felt instinctively that I had to get out of this type of floristry.  I also hated the amount of plastic waste I was seeing come through and dumped right into the trash. I would work this way, in a facility without recycling, and come home and watch Our Blue Planet with my young kids and feel horribly hypocritical. In 2017 my husband encouraged me to open my own shop, and Hive & Hollow was born. We decided to really focus on sustainability, and began forging relationships with local farmers and artists, and opened on September 5, 2018. Nine months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 46. Of course I cannot definitively make the direct correlation between the floral industry and my cancer, but I can’t help but wonder, what if I had worn gloves, what if I had had a better hand washing regimen...? 

SO, I write this post for all my floral friends...please be careful. Wear gloves, wash your hands, do your self exams, and better yet, find farmers who are growing locally, and ask them about their growing practices, then support them, for they hold the key to the health of our industry and our planet. Take care of yourselves. ❤️

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5451977/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09603123.2013.800958

A personal note from Sarah:

On the eve of my mastectomy and the first step in my treatment for breast cancer, I wanted to take a minute to thank you all, and say again, how very humbled, honored and moved by this community I am. We will be able to stay open due to an incredible team of individuals who are VOLUNTEERING their time to help run the shop, so we can keep the doors open during treatment, and keep growing this vision. Most of these people are new friends I have made since opening the shop nearly a year ago. Jessie Edminster Lawson of Flying Cat Arthouse will be one of our featured artists taking a turn running the shop, so pop in and meet her. She is amazing. We are lucky to have Maggie and Ben of Green Light Farm, who have agreed to keep our cooler stocked with their gorgeous flowers and lovely bouquets, and as always, new products will keep coming through the doors. So stay tuned, hours may be slightly shortened, but we will keep you posted, and as always, bouquets will be available next door at the Menomonie Market Food Co-op. Thank you all, again, for your understanding, patience and continued support.
I'll see you soon!!

-Sarah