I met Sarah Ryhanen in February of 2014 at a Little Flower School class in NY. But really I feel like I met her several years before that when I stumbled upon her flower photos on Flickr. I had just started doing flowers and I would just scroll through Pinterest looking for photos of flowers that spoke to me. It was a real struggle. Finally I just started googling "natural flower arrangement" and eventually up popped a photo from Sarah's Flickr photostream. I was hooked. Interestingly the photo I found was toward the beginning of her catalogue, in other words, it was an older photo. Much like the way I've always read Vogue back to front, I spent half a day looking through her beautiful photostream backwards. By the time I got to her latest work my mind was completely blown. I'd never seen flowers be so evocative. After emerging from the Flickr binge I googled her business, Saipua, and found her blog. There went the rest of my day. I read and read and ended up in tears, so moved by her profound words and images. I felt drawn to her. I was pretty sure she had to be one of the coolest women on earth.
A couple years later, I found myself at her Dutch Masters class. I brought my camera and was taking photos of the incredible selection of flowers for the students when she came up and introduced herself to me. Not surprisingly she had a great handshake which I've always appreciated in a woman. She asked me all about my camera for a while and then went on to meet some other students. The class was great. Looking back I think my arrangement suffered a bit as a result of the fact that I was stationed next to the prosecco, although I experienced a real breakthrough as a florist learning how to work in a pin frog and chicken wire that day. Sarah came by once or twice and encouraged me to rethink my poppy placement which she thought looked like a doctor's headlamp. I let her move it, then moved it back. Ha! When it was time to leave I boldly gave her my card and she mentioned the idea of me coming up to NY to help with one of her events. And thus began a friendship with Sarah and her Saipua family who are, in actuality, some of the coolest people I've ever met.
As much as I'd like to give you a blow by blow account of how I ended up at Sarah's first lamb roast at World's End this month, suffice it to say that I was thrilled to death to receive the invitation and overjoyed when I walked onto the property and saw two women cooking an entire feast in a giant ring of fire. There are few things I love more than watching strong and soulful women about their business.
They cooked into the night equipped with headlamps and meat thermometers. It started drizzling. I got nervous about the rain so I drank more prosecco (a pattern emerges). All of the sudden Sarah calls us to the feast. The doors to their newly restored barn open to reveal a second giant ring of fire. This time decorated with the most delicate and perfect fall leaves and lit tapers in every beautiful color. There were gasps. There were tears. I saw so many people instinctively hold their hands over their hearts. It was magic. I'll never forget it.
In fact I think about it often and I come back to the ring of fire and it's deep meaning to me. The literal circle of life - the culling and slaughter of their rams to feed their friends and family. The spiritual circle - the antithesis of the hierarchy. The idea that we are all one, that no one is greater than the other. The notion that fire can be harnessed and used not only to nurture us but to cover us in beauty. And as I write this I realize that this is everything I am drawn to in Sarah - her fire.