Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Though I live in New York City, a big chunk of my heart will always belong to Michigan, my home state. As even non-Michiganders know, the state is in big trouble. Massive unemployment and unprecedented numbers of foreclosures are forcing people to leave the state. Detroit, where I last lived before my Brooklyn move, is in need of special help. When I left in 2006, there were glimmers of progress. Housing developments, new independent businesses, and young people were all moving downtown. When I visited my old haunts in the summer of 2009, most of the new improvements that surrounded my block were boarded up.

I just wanted to share 2 links that I follow, with regard to Michigan.

1. Time magazine has been doing a year-long column on Detroit, maybe the hardest-hit of all cities in the US. It's called Assignment Detroit and is very well done. http://www.time.com/time/detroit

2. A group called "Let's Save Michigan" is hosting a WPA-style poster contest based on ideas for improving the state. The submissions to far as excellent and I'm thinking of submitting something myself. http://letssavemichigan.com/poster-contest

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The joy of working with ever-changing medium

(Top) Andy Goldsworthy's "Maple Leave Arrangement". As soon as the wind blows and the water moves, the leaves will re-arrange themselves and the moment will be ended.

(Bottom) A Tibetan Buddhist monk creates a Mandala out of colored sand. A sand mandala is ritualistically destroyed once it has been completed and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished to symbolize the Buddhist doctrinal belief in the transitory nature of material life.

There is no "The End" to be written, neither can you,
like an architect, engrave in stone the day the garden
was finished; a painter can frame his picture, a composer
notate his coda, but a garden is always on the move.
- Mirabel Osler

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I must admit, I have been in a major creative slump this week. Design work, writing, communication: it all feels like pulling teeth. Perhaps it has something to do with the winter weather and the stop-and-start nature of freelance winter work, but I just can't seem to get my head in the game. Anyhow, this isn't a journal...I just mean to say that this feeling of "blockage" has made me think about the concept of "Flow", as defined by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. This is the stuff that really cooks my noodle in relationship to my education and profession in the realm of creativity with a deadline. I thought it worth sharing some of my research on the topic.

Csikszentmihalyi describes "Flow" as the "psychology of optimal experience". Athletes might call it being "in the zone". You could think of it as being "in the groove" or being "on the ball". "Flow" describes peak performance in any field, the experience of losing one's self entirely in what one is doing. Csikszentmihalyi describes it this way. "Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity”.
I've also heard it described as the point where "your challenges meet your skills". According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is this state achievable in work or play, characterized by the following seven requisites:

1. One is completely involved in the task; you are both concentrated and focused.
2. They feel a sense of ecstasy, in the sense of the original Greek meaning of the word; to feel ‘outside of reality’.
3. ‘Great Inner Clarity‘ – you know firstly what needs to be done, and secondly, how well you’re doing in achieving what needs to be done.
4. Knowing your skills are adequate for the job; that the job is doable.
5. Serenity – no worries of oneself; a perspective transcending the boundaries of ego.
6. Timelessness – time flies by as one is caught in the moment, a total focus on the present.
7. Intrinsic Motivation – whatever activity produces flow; becomes its own reward.

When have you experienced "Flow"? What helps you get "in the groove"?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My first post...with moss graffiti

I've had the blog name "A Tree Grows in Bushwick" picked out and reserved for about a year. Inspired by my teacher at Columbia, who is positively dutiful about garden blogging, I'm finally going to get this thing started.

I am a garden designer/maker/maintainer living and working in New York City. After many years of "fake it til you make it", piecemeal, on-the-job learning, I'm now about 3 weeks in to my second semester of graduate school in Landscape Design at Columbia University. I think that I want to use this blog to share some sources of inspiration and to flesh out some of my thoughts on urban gardening. I'm not an expert, but I'm a passionate devotee! I'm also interested in Brooklyn culture, indy crafts, food politics, Detroit, feminist theory, music, books, and art. Maybe we can talk about some of that stuff too!

So tonight I'll sign off with something I think is exceptionally cool, from a website that I like called "It Was Me" (http://itwasme.org/). It's a recipe for "Moss Graffiti". I'm going to try it as soon as the weather warms up. What a beautiful idea! (Just be mindful about where you take your starter moss from).


1 can of beer
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Several clumps garden moss
You will also need a plastic container (with lid),
a blender
and a paintbrush

To begin the recipe, first of all gather together several clumps of moss (moss can usually be found in moist, shady places) and crumble them into a blender. Then add the beer and sugar and blend just long enough to create a smooth, creamy consistency. Now pour the mixture into a plastic container.

Find a suitable damp and shady wall on to which you can apply your moss milkshake. Paint your chosen design onto the wall (either free-hand or using a stencil). If possible try to return to the area over the following weeks to ensure that the mixture is kept moist. Soon the bits of blended moss should begin to re-couperate into a whole rooted plant - maintaining your chosen design before eventually colonising the whole area.