Monday, August 27, 2007

Going Green in the City



My family recently began taking measures to live in line with our concerns
about the impact we were having on our environment and how we might respond
to our collective, challenging financial circumstances. I’m a public artist
and cancer survivor on disability. My son and daughter-in-law live with me
to help care for me. They are expecting their first child on Christmas eve
2007 They are typical GenX individuals: well educated, creative,
interesting and facing the decline of the American economy and diminishment of economic opportunities with grace, optimism and cheer. I’m a baby boomer. without a
safety net. I look at the whole national and international situation with
great wariness and alarm My partner maintains her own residence but spends a significant number of days and evenings with me in this typical southern California ranch house on the edge of this little urban canyon She’s the one with a viable job in the growing technology sector. It often appears to me that she works all the
time and is on call 24/7. Clearly this is not union work. Her activities
stretch across time zones and continents. In fact, we all work all the time
and all hours. This is the “new economy.”

Fortunately the presence of the canyon gives us a sense that we’re living
inthe country even though we are steps from the center of a bustling gay
neighborhood. That brings some sense of peace to otherwise frantically
constructed lives. Our communal life reinforces us as a family. We are
>doing
>our best not just to get by but to live a peaceful, aware, creative, and
>non-destructive life. We are spiritual without being religious even as we
>learn about and respect all spiritual paths. I don’t know where our future
>will take us but we will face it together with love and faith in each other
>to hold us steady when we don’t always see the way forward and feel off
>balanced. We are all artists of some sort—collagist, painter, dancer, turn
>tableist, musical composer, writer, and designer. I also serve on the
>city’s
>arts commission, advocating for the arts and helping create policy to
>extend
>the arts into the community.
>
>I wish I could say that I come to eco-awareness after years of practice,
>commitment and understanding. But this move to conserve water, recycle,
>compost, grow my own food and restore the habitat of this canyon is born
>out
>of necessity and an effort to stay engaged with a life’s routine gestures.
>
>An important part of this engagement is the restoration of the surrounding
>canyon habitat. With the exception of two toyon bushes and two magnificent
>California oaks up the street, every other plant in my little canyon is an
>invasive exotic. So even though the landscape looks lush it provides little
>or no sustenance for the birds and critters that populate the area
>including
>coyotes, raccoons, possum, fox and a variety of birds and butterflies that
>cycle round the seasons. Everything is going without the food and shelter
>it
>needs. We are trying to get back to balance with the reintroduction of
>manzanita, coyote bush, lupine, rabbit bush, poppies and more. It’s a slow,
>steady commitment of generations. I plant now so that my grandchild will be
>the steward and inheritor of a healthy environment that doesn’t bleed the
>people and animals it shelters.
>
>Recently I came across a short video of the outside artist Tressa (Grandma)
>Prisbrey; that lone elderly woman in Simi Valley making her environment of
>glass bottles, doll heads, pencils, tires and whatever else she picked up.
>Everything ha d the potential to be something else—something both useful
>and
>beautiful. In this vein I have taken to looking at my recycling materials
>as
>the beginning of something new, funny and useful. There are Starbucks cups
>that hang from my trees as birdfeeders. Altoid boxes are shrines; shredded
>newspaper is the filler for sofa pillows. Even fallen twigs become the
>structures that hold up the young green bean bushes and sunflowers. I am
>increasingly aware that my world does not require the money I was used to
>spending, but it does require a radical shift in how I do everything from
>washing the dishes to cutting up the items that will go to the compost pail
>instead of the garbage disposal. This shift bends my interior life. When I
>can’t sleep, which is often when I’m taking the steroids that keep the
>swelling in my brain down, I’m constantly reviewing the house, studio,
>garden, kitchen, car, etc. to see what might be easily re-thought or
>revamped to give us what we need and not cost us. As my sister-in-law says,
>“If it’s free, it’s for me!” I’m totally in support of that attitude which
>for me, having lived parts of my life in extreme privilege, was an
>emotional
>shift that was difficult to navigate without anger, frustration and fear.
>Safety, which to me meant lots of discretionary income, was gone from a
world which was now completely upside down. My new mantra became “trust
over
fear,” borrowed from the artist Margi Sharff who walked the world picking
up
detritus and reconstituting it into new art works. A few weeks ago she died
of cancer after spending her last weeks in India still pursuing her vision.

I don’t know what makes a Margi Sharff or a Tressa Prisbrey. When asked by
someone why she built all the unique structures on her land Tressa said she
“just had a notion.” She started in her 50’s doing the work that would gain
her fame and continued to her death. Maybe this family’s shift to green is
just another notion; one that allows things to grow or regrow. I know it’s
me that needs to hang on to the idea that things are getting healthy—that
everything I touch is getting healthy, stronger, more alive. That’s how I’m
facing a hopeful but still uncertain future.

Thank you Tressa.
Thank you Margi

I am 53 years old working on 100.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

From coffee cups to birdfeeders: Going “green” in the city.



August 25, 2007


My family recently began taking measures to live in line with our concerns about the impact we were having on our environment and how we might respond to our collective, challenging financial circumstances. I’m a public artist and cancer survivor on disability. My son and daughter-in-law live with me to help care for me. They are expecting their first child on Christmas eve 2007 They are typical GenX individuals: well educated, creative, interesting and facing the decline of the American economy and diminishment of economic opportunities with grace, optimism and cheer. I’m a baby boomer. without a safety net. I look at the whole national and international situation with great wariness and alarm. My partner maintains her own residence but spends a significant number of days and evenings with me in this typical southern California ranch house on the edge of this little urban canyon. She’s the one with a viable job in the growing technology sector. It often appears to me that she works all the time and is on call 24/7. Clearly this is not union work. Her activities stretch across time zones and continents. In fact, we all work all the time and all hours. This is the “new economy.”

Fortunately the presence of the canyon gives us a sense that we’re living in the country even though we are steps from the center of a bustling gay neighborhood. That brings some sense of peace to otherwise frantically constructed lives. Our communal life reinforces us as a family. We are doing our best not just to get by but to live a peaceful, aware, creative, and non-destructive life. We are spiritual without being religious even as we learn about and respect all spiritual paths. I don’t know where our future will take us but we will face it together with love and faith in each other to hold us steady when we don’t always see the way forward and feel off balance. We are all artists of some sort—collagist, painter, dancer, turn tableist, musical composer, writer, and designer. I also serve on the city’s arts commission, advocating for the arts and helping create policy to extend the arts into the community.

I wish I could say that I come to eco-awareness after years of practice, commitment and understanding. But this move to conserve water, recycle, compost, grow my own food and restore the habitat of this canyon is born out of necessity and an effort to stay engaged with a life’s routine gestures.

An important part of this engagement is the restoration of the surrounding canyon habitat. With the exception of two toyon bushes and two magnificent California oaks up the street, every other plant in my little canyon is an invasive exotic. So even though the landscape looks lush it provides little or no sustenance for the birds and critters that populate the area including coyotes, raccoons, possum, fox and a variety of birds and butterflies that cycle round the seasons. Everything is going without the food and shelter it needs. We are trying to get back to balance with the reintroduction of manzanita, coyote bush, lupine, rabbit bush, poppies and more. It’s a slow, steady commitment of generations. I plant now so that my grandchild will be the steward and inheritor of a healthy environment that doesn’t bleed the people and animals it shelters.

Recently I came across a short video of the outside artist Tressa (Grandma) Prisbrey; that lone elderly woman in Simi Valley constructing her environment of glass bottles, doll heads, pencils, tires and whatever else she picked up from the dump or wherever odds and ends accumulate. For Tressa, everything had the potential to be something else—something both useful and beautiful. In this vein I have taken to looking at my recycling materials as the beginning of something new, funny and useful. There are Starbucks cups that hang from my trees as birdfeeders. Altoid boxes are shrines; shredded newspaper is the filler for sofa pillows. Even fallen twigs become the structures that hold up the young green bean bushes and sunflowers. I am increasingly aware that my world does not require the money I was used to spending, but it does require a radical shift in how I do everything from washing the dishes to cutting up the items that will go to the compost pail instead of the garbage disposal. This shift bends my interior life. When I can’t sleep, which is often when I’m taking the steroids that keep the swelling in my brain down, I’m constantly reviewing the house, studio, garden, kitchen, car, etc. to see what might be easily re-thought or revamped to give us what we need and not cost us. As my sister-in-law says, “If it’s free, it’s for me!” I’m totally in support of that attitude which for me, having lived parts of my life in extreme privilege, was an emotional shift that was difficult to navigate without anger, frustration and fear. Safety, which to me meant lots of discretionary income, was gone from a world which was now completely upside down. My new mantra became “trust over fear,” borrowed from the artist Margi Sharff who walked the world picking up detritus and reconstituting it into new art works. A few weeks ago she died of cancer after spending her last weeks in India still pursuing her vision.

I don’t know what makes a Margi Sharff or a Tressa Prisbrey. When asked by someone why she built all the unique structures on her land Tressa said she “just had a notion.” She started in her 50’s doing the work that would gain her fame and continued to her death. Maybe this family’s shift to green is just another notion; one that allows things to grow or regrow. I know it’s me that needs to hang on to the idea that things are getting healthy—that everything I touch is getting healthy, stronger, more alive. That’s how I’m facing a hopeful but still uncertain future. Iam 53 years old looking towards 100.

Thank you Tressa.
Thank you Margi







video