Meet Mimi Arnold: The Farmer Florist of Block Island

Mimi Arnold creates floral arrangements and flower crowns that make statements without ostentation. Her crowns are the epitome of feminine energy: they are bold and wild, they are self-contained and magical, they fill their space in the strongest yet most delicate way. She calls people who wear her flower crowns “goddesses.”

“Each person making a crown,” says Arnold, “makes a reflection of their personality, you can tell; it’s just like painting.”

Lead florist of Block Island’s The Farmer Florist, Mimi Arnold holds flower pop-ups and flower crown workshops for celebrations such as birthday parties, weddings and island getaways; yet, she dreams of one day holding workshops in celebration of the moon.

“I would love to hold full moon workshops,” says Arnold. “But experiences and activities take time to gain momentum. So right now I do that for myself. I create flower crowns based on the moon cycle; it’s a ritual I enjoy.”

A graduate of UCLA’s School of Art and Architecture, Arnold focused her studies on mixed-media – combining painting, collaging and multipurpose forms. After graduating, she moved back home to Connecticut, where she came into flowers by chance. 

“Garden design, it wasn’t on my radar at all, I didn’t even know it was a thing. Then one day I was flipping through a magazine and it caught my attention, it just really struck home, I was like, ‘I think this is it.’”

She moved back to California, to San Francisco, where she got work at a garden design company. In time, her work in San Francisco evolved to a farm-to-table management role on the Mendocino coast, an idyllic stretch of California coastline that has picturesque everything – beaches, Redwoods, trails, you name it, all of which make it a desirable wedding destination. It was there in Mendocino that Arnold began working on weddings – doing florals, arranging flowers and creating wearable floral pieces.

“The flower crown is something that’s super creative and means a lot to me, but I also really enjoy gifting experiences,” says Arnold. “I was just thinking a few weeks ago I was never someone who’d give a material item gift. I was always like, ‘Let me take you to a concert’ or ‘Let me take you to dinner.’ Flower crown workshops are like that, so I think there’s a parallel there.”

Five years ago, Arnold and her husband moved from California to Block Island, where the two first met. “We wanted to relocate back east, so we thought, ‘What if we could make Block Island work?’” And they did. Arnold leased land zoned for agriculture and began The Farmer Florist on the site of Block Island’s long-time garden center Goose and Garden, which, incidentally, is where Arnold had her first island job. 

“When I was a little teeny bopper I would water all the plants and help out with the nursery; it’s funny that it’s come full circle.”

Now, Arnold uses Goose and Garden’s former greenhouse to start seed and a large fenced-in field that used to house geese as her flower production space.

“It’s tucked away, in the middle of the island. There’s no foot traffic. It’s not in town. Most people don’t know how to locate it. There’s rarely any service. It’s really a sacred space.”

Although Arnold still arranges florals for intimate weddings and island elopements, she doesn’t want to be known as a wedding florist. 

“I don’t know what I want to be known as, but I like exploring different ways to distribute flowers and I love the energy of pop-ups; there’s something to be said when it’s fleeting … For the vendor it’s a refreshing approach to distribution and for the consumer it’s like, ‘Look at this cool thing we stumbled on!’”

Pop-ups and seasonality are central to Arnold’s work. In the fall, she forages Block Island for seed pods and rose hips to incorporate into floral designs. She adheres to the slow flower movement, a movement she describes as “like the local food movement but with flowers.” She believes that the ephemerality of flower blooms influences us more than we realize.

“I think it’s the cyclical aspect,” she says. “It’s the cycles of the natural world, whether you’re super in-tune with it or not, we all participate in our own way. Seed pods, fresh cut flowers, dried flowers, they’re all a record of time.”

In addition to holding pop-ups and workshops, Arnold has run a flower CSA for the past three years. Starting at the end of June, she delivers floral bouquets that incorporate the flowers of the season. First there are the early summer blooms—the poppies, the larkspur, the foxgloves—and by summer’s end the bouquets are teeming with dahlias and zinnias and sunflowers.

“It’s just another way to observe availability, to observe seasonality,” she says.

The CSA is on pause this year, as Arnold is expecting her first child any minute now, but she will continue to host flower pop-ups and crown workshops throughout 2022. 

“A lot of people overlook what the island has to offer,” she says. “There are so many amazing vendors and creators on the island. It’s not just a place to day drink.” 

Through her pop-ups and workshops, Arnold hopes to offer visitors a unique island experience, to provide them with an opportunity to play and be creative, and to see a reflection of themselves in the unique personalities of the seasonal flowers growing around them.

“Flower crown workshops are very specific to the island, to Block Island summers and to the seasons… Everyone is always so pleased with themselves by the end. They walk away with these amazing creations that they can wear and frolic around in. It’s super playful. Sometimes I wonder, is this a little too far out? So it’s nice to know that people are understanding what I have to offer.”

To book a flower crown workshop for your special gathering, visit MimiFArnold.com, and follow The Farmer Florist on Instagram @TheFarmerFlorist_BI to learn the locations of this year’s Farmer Florist pop-ups.

Notes From NECANN: A firsthand account of the New England Cannabis Convention

Sunday, March 20. Boston, MA. Hynes Convention Center. New England Cannabis Convention (NECANN) Day 3. 

Morning drive from Providence to Boston: the fog was lifting, the sun was shining, everything was white. Listened to the radio. Sang along to everything. Fog parted just outside Quincy. Seagulls perched atop the beauty supply building in Roxbury. Blue sky background. Pigeons took flight as the light turned green. Felt like a movie.

Parked by Bukowski’s. Walked to Hynes. Front desk security guard said, “Good morning, how are ya? You’re all set hon.” Felt real special. Felt sexy not wearing a mask. Walked dramatically into the convention center; not premeditated. A table at the entrance played “Baba O’Riley” and projected a starscape onto the wall. It’s impossible not to strut in a scene like that. 

Got to my booth. The first booth on the left, next to the BIC lighter table, near a cannabis breeder, across the aisle from a cannabis supply company and a cannabis display company. Met my co-booth mates. Kind people. They told me Dr. Marion McNabb was speaking at noon. 

Met a man dressed as an astronaut. He was from Maine but people call him Kentucky. He posed for a photo then gave me a goodie and his events director’s business card.

Met Anna May Meade, co-author of Cannabis: A Big Sisters’ Guide. Meade is an environmental scientist and technical writer. Her book is a perfect guide for beginners who are curious about cannabis but unsure where to start. It’s full of pictures and digestible facts that detail in plain language the terminology and science of the plant, the various methods of consumption, how to navigate a dispensary, first-person stories, the endocannabinoid system, and so on. It’s a pocket guide resource that speaks to the science and benefits of consuming cannabis and shows how, when equipped with knowledge, plant medicine is nothing to fear. I bought a copy and Meade signed it: To Meg, Enjoy the journey. Anna.

Met a kind man who does tech things for an event company; he shared some photos he took. Met some CO2 extractors. Met a budtender interested in reformative justice. Got free lighters from the BIC table: Guns N’ Roses, Janis Joplin, a spaceman throwing horns, and a classic all black BIC. Met a woman who doesn’t like the flavors companies inject into cannabis products. I told her I don’t like that either and the company I work for doesn’t add any flavors or additives to its products. “There are only three ingredients: flower, organic avocado oil, and organic sunflower lecithin; that’s it.” She was interested. Met a man with a Keith Haring backpack. I complimented it. He said, “He’s my favorite artist.” Then he shared samples of his own artwork. Went to the exhibitors lounge. Made an orange spiced tea. A man came in after me and said, “Will you judge me if I drink this?” 

“Drink tea?” I asked. 

“Yes. Tea’s not very manly, is it?”

“I love tea.”

“But you’re not a man, are you?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Tea then, it’s not very manly, is it?”

“I think it’s plenty manly.” 

“Oh they’d have me where I’m from, it’s not manly enough.”

“Where are you from?”

“I’m from Ireland. We’re here on tour.” 

And that was that.

Went to see Dr. Marion McNabb speak. Brown boots, blue skirt, wide brimmed hat, red feather weaved into her hair. She presented study findings and focused on ways we can use data to drive change. Learned about iCount, a new program from the Cannabis Center of Excellence that makes it easy for consumers, patients, medical providers, and industry professionals to share their opinions, form connections, and learn from each other.

Left the building for lunch. Walked toward Copley. Felt insecure. Didn’t recognize the street. Boylston’s changed. Had to use my phone to find things. Felt pathetic. Went to BGood because there weren’t many affordable options. Ordered food from a kiosk. Zero human contact until a sweet woman yelled “Megan” from the back and asked if I’d like some ketchup. Ate food outside at a wobbly table. A child cried for his hamburger beside me. Said he wanted more ketchup. I didn’t like him. Then I disliked myself for disliking him. 

Walked back toward Hynes behind 5–6 members of the Northeastern hockey team. Athletes have the most confident walks. I admired their youth. I admired their sport. I admired these confident young athletes until they stopped dead in their tracks and blocked the sidewalk while they figured out where to go next; then, I despised them. 

Went to 7/11 for floss but they were out. From what I could tell the 7/11 amenities aisle was out of two things: dental floss and condoms. I liked this. Went to Walgreens. Got floss. Cost $9.99. I did not like this. Why does floss cost $10?

Outside Hynes a person in a pink sweatshirt with Boston scrawled on it said, “It smells like pot.” Then another person in a navy sweatshirt with Boston scrawled on it pointed to a sign and said, “I wonder why.” Then they both laughed.

Went to the first floor bathroom. Washed my hands, flossed my teeth, washed my hands again. A woman beside me stuck her hair under a running faucet, then combed her hair into a bun. She left the bathroom saying, “Oh well, this is as good as it’s going to get.” 

Got back to the booth. Met a man with a Sanskrit tattoo. Met a man interested in investing. Met Dan Adams. Sort of freaked out. Despite his name tag, which clearly read “Media – Dan Adams,” I managed to go several minutes without knowing who I was talking to. Felt like an idiot.

I told him I liked his work. I told him I am also a writer. He said, “Cool, what do you write?” I said, “I like to write little profile pieces on people I find interesting.” And he told me he likes the framework of journalism, says it gives him focus, says when he starts to diverge, when he broaches upon creative nonfiction or fiction, he starts to wonder how much of himself he is putting into the piece, like how does he know what adjective to use—is this the right adjective? or is this just me? I said I try to recognize the patterns, I try to pay attention to the words people use, to the themes they bring up, and to the tone they use when they’re talking about whatever they’re talking about and use all of that to show me what words to use. And he said, “That’s good advice” and I don’t remember much after that because I was #fangirling.

But I remember a brief chat about RI legislation. He wanted to know: What’s going on in RI? And I was useless. I couldn’t speak to it because I’ve never understood it. What is going on in RI? I made a pledge to learn more. We talked briefly about cannabis press coverage in general, how it’s kind of stiff, how it distances itself from the reality of the scene. He is trying to achieve something more, to write compelling pieces that lead with facts, not flair, and read with the understanding of a writer who knows and cares about their subject. I really don’t know if we talked about much else, I was just sort of stoked. It’s a thrill meeting someone you admire. 

Toward the end of the show I met a man from Northampton who used to live in Boston. He didn’t recognize Boylston Street either. Said he felt lost. He wanted to learn more about cannabis tincture for his wife who has difficulty sleeping and doesn’t like the euphoric effect of THC. We discussed different CBD formulas and a nighttime tincture, talked about how the body continues to metabolize tincture while at rest, so people who find relief with these tinctures usually find it helps them ease into sleep as well as stay asleep. We discussed the importance of starting out slow and the importance of listening to your body, then I shared some resources. 

Around 3:30 a voice came over the loudspeaker and thanked everyone for attending. It said it hoped to see us all next year and that the event was over. Exhibitors dissembled complex booths with professional speed and packed their gear in neatly arranged boxes then hauled them away in rolling carts and suitcases. As we packed our booth a man appeared with highly magnified photographs of trichomes. In Cannabis: A Big Sisters’ Guide, Anna Meade describes trichomes as, “Hairs around the flower that look like sugar frosting. These hairs make resins, or essential oils, that contain cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, which give each strain its flavor and personality.” I took the man’s photographs, they are bright, sort of sexual, figured they’d be good for collaging.

On the walk back to my car I started feeling sad about Boston. I started feeling nostalgic for people and places and times past. I remembered sitting in the window of Engine 33 and watching the marathon with my kid sister; we looked out on Hereford and cheered and cried, brought to tears by endurance. Remembered spending hours watching foot traffic from a nook in the library that’s no longer there. Remembered spending entire days at the library studying in Bates Hall, reading in the courtyard, often just sitting out front watching and taking down notes. Remembered drinking at The Pour House with James and every so often with Evan and Pete and on special occasions with Greg. Remembered getting burgers and beers with James at Bukowski’s practically every night before catching our trains. Remembered standing over 90 in the summer watching semis pass by. But I couldn’t linger in this sadness. The sky was too blue, the sun was too bright, there were too many people around me having a good time, everyone was laughing and smiling.

One of the most common effects of cannabis consumption is laughter. Take too much of it and that laughter can turn into paranoia and you may green out (aka feel like you’re having a panic attack), but if you educate yourself on what you’re taking, if you learn how the product you’re consuming is made, if you start off slow and see how different amounts and methods affect your body, if you speak to a medical provider who is familiar with the endocannabinoid system and views cannabis as a plant that, just like chamomile, offers myriad benefits, then you may avoid the green out and enjoy the laughter.

The thing is, unlike chamomile, this plant has been stigmatized and criminalized (see the War on Drugs). The DEA describes it as “mind-altering”. It’s classified as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning, “it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

But if you dare challenge this assessment and analyze what you’ve been told by embarking on a journey rooted in history, culture, science, and testimonials, then you’ll learn people have been consuming cannabis safely for thousands of years. You’ll learn every human body is equipped to receive cannabinoids thanks to our bodies’ endocannabinoid system. You’ll hear stories of epileptics who’ve been seizure-free ever since consuming cannabis regularly. You’ll read stories of children with non-verbal autism who are able to communicate. You’ll learn of people who’ve reduced their opioid dependencies. You’ll hear stories from people who’ve found relief from chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and psychological trauma. You’ll learn of a veteran population that relies on cannabis to reduce prescription medications and relieve symptoms from all sorts of ailments, chief among them: chronic pain and the psychological effects of PTSD. You may learn one of the major difficulties surrounding cannabis research are regulatory barriers that make it difficult for researchers to gain access to medical cannabis because of its Schedule 1 status. You may even learn that there’s only one approved cannabis cultivator that researchers receiving US government funding can work with—a University of Mississippi cultivator that does not produce the type of cannabis you’ll find at a dispensary. Chances are, the more you learn, the more you’ll question.

For me, and many others, part of why we work in this industry is to get rid of the stigma surrounding cannabis. I believe this will require a cultural shift. It’ll require we pivot away from our recent history and policies that stigmatize cannabis as highly addictive, destructive, and unsafe; it’ll require we recognize the cultural significance this plant has for people all over the world; it’ll require government-funded research into the beneficial properties this plant has to offer, not just the harm it may cause if… it’ll require we see pharmaceuticals as a form of medicine, not as the only form; and, it’ll require we look at cannabis as it’s been seen for most of human history: a plant that helps people enjoy their lives. 

We’re not making claims, we’re not calling cannabis a cure-all, and we’re not saying it’s for everyone. But we are saying this is a plant with a history, it deserves our respect, and we have a lot to learn.

Where The Wild Things Are: Adam Anderson & the wonder of our living world

Photo courtesy of Adam Anderson

If you’ve ever taken a stroll by the Providence River and found yourself enthralled by a field of sunflowers glowing in that golden summer light, then you’ve experienced the wonder of Adam Anderson, director/founder of landscape architecture studio Design Under Sky.

Since 2016, the sunflower field, known as 10,000 Suns, has grown on a parcel of land that was once a section of I-195; now, it’s a parcel of land slated for development. An apartment complex will go up where the flowers once grew. That might feel like such a loss, but Anderson sees things a little differently.

“I think there’s part of it that’s kind of beautiful,” he says. “It becomes a story of Providence for the people who got to see it and experience it, and when those people see the new buildings they’ll be like, ‘Remember when that used to be a sunflower field?’ And someone else will be like, ‘What? Really? Whoa.’ I think that’s kind of nice.”

In addition to his work as a landscape architect, Anderson teaches at RISD and is also a writer. In fact, he started Design Under Sky in 2008 as an outlet for his writings about landscape design, wilderness, the anthropocene, botanical counter terrorism and the definition of nature, to name a few. By 2014, his online journal of thought-provoking essays evolved into a landscape design studio that interweaves the wonder of wilderness into its work. 

“I think we now are sort of programmed to find wonderment in the technological,” says Anderson. “But I very much find it in the living world, by just looking at a flower. I feel like I have the sensibilities to be freaked out and amazed at how impossibly interesting and complex the living world is, and I very much have an interest for people to discover that.”

Wilderness plays a central role in Anderson’s work. He himself has a no-mow garden, which is a mix of red fescue and clovers he describes as a “textural carpet.” He loves the ephemerality of bulbs, of tulips and daffodils, how they pop up in spring. 

“I also have lots of seed mixes I’ve planted, so random things kind of come up, like goldenrods and lupines. And then there’s a lot of weeds that grow up too, that I keep. I like when the pokeweed comes up and grows wild, I just let it go in the summer.”

In partnership with INFORM Studio, Anderson is currently at work on the Roger Williams Park Gateway and Visitor Center. With its entrance on Broad Street, the gateway begins as an urban pavilion then transitions into an urban garden with meadow-like plantings, meandering paths, log bridges, a rain garden and a treetop tower. The idea being: the farther you walk, the wilder it gets.

“My projects are a little more on the wilder side to maybe subconsciously or consciously try to change a little our perception of the image of nature… By having wilder things within the city, does that bring us a little bit closer to that? I guess it’s a change in what we accept as an aesthetic and a step in the direction of increasing the sensibilities of feeling wild.”

And that is what Anderson’s work accomplishes:, it informs our connection to wilderness and satiates a desire for the wild.; Hhe imbues the city with pockets of wilderness that compel even technophiles to look up from their screens and get lost in a meadow. 

“The Living Edge project I did was a small thing. But when you go to it you’re sitting in a pretty wild meadow, you’re immersed in something, and it helps you;, you feel a little bit of displacement in the city, which I think we all need. Anywhere we can squeeze that in is beneficial.”

This displacement is part of the distinct feeling of experience ofing wonder in an urban wilderness. There’s a blurring of the lines, a marriage of sense and sensibility, a marrow-deep acceptance of humans as part of nature, as engineers with great minds capable of creating their own landscapes. TAnd there is also a sorrow that comes from looking back wistfully and recalling what was and no longer is; b. But if you look for it, you’ll see a breeze sift through the tall grasses, and the reflection of a meadow move like waves against glass windows, and wild shadows dance across concrete and stone, and then, that distinct feeling of wonder will return and any sorrow for the past will evolvehave evolved into a curiosity for the present.

“When people say ‘nature,’ really they’re just talking about the living world in general, and that can exist sort of anywhere… So for me, it’s felt very freeing to dismiss this idea of the separation between those things., Iit frees up the possibilities for looking at how we can really start to intermingle and integrate and, you know, become something different.”

To learn more about Anderson’s projects and to read his writings, visit designundersky.com.

Brotherly Love: How a small parish supplements PVD’s COVID response

On one of those mornings with looming gray clouds and skin-piercing sleet, I went to St. Peter’s & St. Andrew’s over in Mt. Pleasant for my booster. 

A line of people stood outside the tiny parish’s arched red double doors. Some people held babies in their arms, some shifted toddlers on their hips, some rested their palms on plastic rolling cart handles, and most held empty tote bags in their hands.

Once inside, I was handed a number on a Post-It and instructed to sit in the pews on the right side of the church. On the left side, sat people with empty bags and rolling carts, they too held Post-It notes with numbers in their hands.

In the church crossing, two women sat at a folding table administering vaccines. To the left, people walked in and out of a doorway stopping every so often to call out a string of numbers to the people sitting on the left side of the church. 

The numbers were called in English, then Spanish, and when a word was unknown, whoever was doing the calling used whatever Spanish they had. One exchange went as follows:

“Okay,” a woman said. “Doce, trece y… what’s next? How do you say 14? Cómo se dice…” And she drew a 14 in the air.

Catorce,” said a voice from the pews.

“Okay, yes! Catorce! Doce, trece, y catorce!

There was laughter. People smiled. And several people walked off in the direction of a side room.

Before the pandemic, St. Peter’s & St. Andrew’s ran a bi-monthly food pantry that provided food and toiletries to 60–80 families a month. Now, they provide food and toiletries to 80–110 families a week.

“It’s mind-boggling,” says Reverend Maryalice Sullivan of St. Peter’s & St. Andrew’s. “At the beginning of COVID, the RI Food Bank was wise enough to know this was going to get worse, not better. They reached out and when they did we all just looked at each other and said, ‘Of course we can.’ We didn’t have any idea how, our space is very small, but we said ‘Yes’ and it’s worked.”

Last year, St. Peter’s & St. Andrew’s gave out over 100,000 pounds of groceries. “That’s enormous compared to where we were,” says Sullivan. “And we’re still a small parish of 30 people, so it’s not like we’ve expanded into this great huge organization, but we have in a way because we couldn’t do this on our own. We reached out to other parishes and organizations, like Brown and Johnson and Wales, and now they help unload groceries on Fridays.”

In March of 2021, St. Peter’s & St. Andrew’s opened as a COVID testing site through a partnership with Lotus Noire Health; in June, they began offering vaccines. The woman administering my booster said she preferred holding the clinic in conjunction with the pantry because it gave people the opportunity to speak with medical professionals about the virus and vaccine in a safe and trusted space.

“Because we are trusted, people come to us who wouldn’t get a vaccination otherwise,” says Sullivan. “They wouldn’t go to the Dunkin’ Center because it’s too intimidating, they wouldn’t even go to a state-run site. In the beginning, the National Guard was coming and we told them, ‘You can come but you have to be in plain clothes, you have to look like us.’ And they did.” 

In addition to running weekly food pantries and vaccination clinics, Sullivan’s congregation of 30 runs a pop-up thrift store. “It’s not a thrift store, thrift store,” says Sullivan. “It’s more like ‘What can you give us for it?’ And that honors [a person’s] dignity.” They also participate in Free., a program that provides free menstrual products to all who need them, and Sullivan’s small parish has plans for growth.

“We want to make work terminals [in our basement] so people can access computers and work remotely. The dream is to get people from the pantry to where they can support themselves.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Sullivan has noticed an increase in conversation. “That’s the beautiful part, that’s the community part, it’s not just people asking, it’s people sharing… There are a number of people from the pantry who now come and unload groceries, or help with the thrift store, or wash the floors. It’s truly a community, it’s not one-way.

“If this was a program to fill our pews, then we have failed, totally failed. If this was a program to say that you are of value, you are of worth, you are loved—and you don’t have to sit in our pews for that to happen—then we have succeeded.”

To volunteer or donate to St. Peter’s & St. Andrew’s visit stpeters-standrews.org/join. Current needs include: Spanish-speaking volunteers and a volunteer thrift store manager.

Featured Contributor January 2022: Meg Coss

Hi Motif readers, I’m Meg. I moved from Oakland, CA to PVD in May 2018 and work as a freelance writer and marketing specialist. My most recent written works include a long-form review of the Bad History Month/Nyxy Nyx split album Death Takes a Holiday, and a long-form review of the LA-based comedians The Perfect Women. (Reviews in summation: Bad History Month/Nyxy Nyx = Boston/Philly underground dream team; The Perfect Women = YouTube worth watching.) 

Writing to me isn’t a choice or even something I think about. It’s my primary method of communication and the way I process information. It’s hard to explain without writing a book; but I believe we are all writers and if you don’t think you are, then stop thinking in terms of grammar and style: Start thinking about how to get the voice in your head, and the heat in your heart, down on the page; that’s writing. I’m excited to write for Motif because ever since moving to Providence I’ve been developing crushes on all these Rhode Island residents, so that’s what I want to write about – the people who make this strange little state so dreamy and worthwhile. 

Fun-ish facts about me: I once lived in the Hotel Buckminster and not long after that I lived in a house full of frogs, turtles, cats, iguanas and a boa constrictor. I work part-time on a horse farm shoveling horsesh*t and it’s truly the best part of my week; and I’ve been playing cribbage since I was six (aka I’m very good at counting to 15 and 31).

Embrace the Offensive: PVD’s Tara Morris finds catharsis through hot power yoga

On a cold December morning, Tara Morris opened her hot power yoga class with the words, “Today’s my mom’s birthday; she would’ve been 81.” Morris’ mother Maryann passed away in September 2020 after battling Parkinson’s for 27 years. 

“It was so brutal,” says Morris. “So fucking brutal to watch a big, strong woman lose all dignity like that.” 

Morris shares these painful truths and goes on teaching, holding Instagramable poses, telling us not to focus on where it hurts but to focus on where it feels good, to admit to ourselves we aren’t “total pieces of shit.”

The Love Offensive takes place in Olneyville, in a room adorned with floor-to-ceiling Aaron Santos murals. Composed of broad yet precisely layered brushstrokes, the murals bolster Morris’ energy – they are vibrant yet calming, depicting black-and-white snapshots set against sprawling scenic spaces; they are disparate and apart until seen from a new angle, and then what seemed at odds morphs into a harmonious blanket of time. The murals engage you, they make you think, just like Morris.

“Every single class, everything that comes out of my mouth, I’m just talking to myself,” says Morris. “I’m not saying anything I know for certain and have a leg up on someone, I’m literally trying to save my own life. I’ve got ruminating thoughts and this ridiculous absolute lack of self-worth… I’m a rage-fest, ya know, and I’m trying to spin it positively. It’s the hand I was dealt. This is what I look like. This is what my life looks like.”

Morris opened The Love Offensive in 2020 after quitting her job and running a successful GoFundMe campaign that raised $54k in 45 days from 175 unique donors. Now she teaches the class she always wanted to take: really hot, really hard yoga.

On special occasions Morris uses cannabis tincture as part of her personal practice – important detail here: her personal practice, not her studio teachings; for her teachings, she is fully caffeinated. She bounces around the room, stopping here and there to demonstrate intricate poses with ease. She flits from side to side, back to front cursing, pushing you, not letting you off the hook. Her teachings are a challenge, an interrogation; they dare you to trust yourself. There’s no try, only do. She says, “You can do it but you have to make the choice.” She believes in you. 

“We’re so fucking lucky, that’s the lesson I learned from my mom. She wasn’t like Yoda, she wasn’t like, ‘Tara, you see I am the Buddhist tradition of non-self…’ no, she just knew she had to split Parkinson’s in her mind, she had to make it a mountain to climb every day rather than a defeat. She didn’t have a career or anything, she was a manager at a storage unit place and this is what she did with her life: actively meet the worst fate with balls, just absolute fucking balls. And that’s what I teach in my class, because of her, with her really.” 

“The artist fire is who I am. Sometimes it makes me so fuckin sideways but it’s my fuel. I’m not content and I never will be and I never have been. I have a fucking rage inside of me and sometimes I appreciate it and sometimes I don’t and at the end of the day I think I like it more than I hate it, so it’s staying, which is wonderful news for self-acceptance.”

Morris began integrating cannabis into her personal practice when she found herself in the grips of a debilitating anxiety attack and the thought occurred to her, “I could smoke pot and go to yoga, I know people who do that.” So she did. Opting for whole plant infusion tincture because it’s healthier than smoking, Morris found cannabis gave her the space to ease her anxiety and settle her mind, it gave her the breath she needed to find the present moment and recall her good fortune: her able body and the supportive community that made her dream her reality. 

“Whatever chemistry is happening [with cannabis], the sensations are enhanced and it makes the practice come alive… like how music and food sound and taste better, it’s more interesting in that way, it’s more emotional, more of a release; it takes everything that’s good about yoga and dials it up.”

At the end of class, everyone is red-faced and dripping with sweat and Tara wants to know how we feel. We say we are not losers. We did it. We worked hard. We gave. We dug. We faced ourselves. We are thankful.

It’s easy to hate on yoga: its ubiquity, those rubber mats, that neon lycra. But if you need the comfort of a challenge, embrace The Love Offensive. Or don’t. As Morris says, “Everyone who’s not in on doing yoga, they’re sick of hearing it, just like anyone would be. And the people who love it – who’ve found emotional freedom from the habits of the mind, from the suffering of the mind – we can’t say enough good things about it.”

For more information on The Love Offensive, including Morris’ upcoming yoga retreats, visit theloveoffensive.com. For more information on cannabis tincture, speak to a retail associate at your preferred cannabis dispensary.