At the edge of University California of Irvine exists the neighborhood I grew up in - University Hills.
My street is an eclectic horticultural wonder–My parent's Cape Cod style home with English roses sits right next door to this modern desert beauty. Right across the street is a jacaranda tree, a thorny tree, and a toyon. The edge of our community backs up to an ecological preserve. The secret garden down the street is full of agave, Matija poppies and mexican blue sage.
I'm eternally grateful my childhood was full to the brim with everyday "nature" encounters, thanks to this special community and parents that made it possible. My most vivid memories are learning about plants by dissecting them, staring at them, letting them cradle me, listening to the wind through the cottonwoods, slowly watching snails and lizards crawl on by through the lemonade berry, escaping to the nearby secret garden to get lost in another world, hiking around the trails of the chaparral preserve with my dad while keeping our eyes out for the endangered California Gnatcatcher.
I often wonder who I would be and what I'd be interested in if I didn't have this rich biodiversity all around me as the backdrop of my life.
I'm reading a book called "The Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv. He makes the case for a growing epidemic with our society today called Nature deficit disorder. We're not spending time outdoors as we should and we are facing the consequences.
“Prize the natural spaces and shorelines most of all, because once they're gone, with rare exceptions they're gone forever. In our bones, we need the natural curves of hills, the scent of chaparral, the whisper of pines, the possibility of wildness. We require these patches of nature for our mental health and our spiritual resilience.”
So how do we do this? First comes awareness, then comes attention and observation, which leads to love and adoration, then comes the care, cultivation, and preservation.
In order for awareness to even begin to manifest into our communities, we need people actively preserving these wild and natural spaces, introducing them into our own yards and homes, especially in urban environments. As my friend Alan says, "As we restore nature, we restore our own souls."
I'm seeking to do that with my next body of work.