Sunday, May 13, 2018

Toward an Eco City #EarthCelebrations

Artichoke Dance Company
Choreography: Lynn Neuman – Artichoke Dance Company
Dancer Credits: Aidan Feldman and Maya Orchin.
Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing by William Blakec. 1786
It was raining as I walked over the join the other marshals and performers at the Eco City, “a Spectacular procession with twenty site performances celebrating climate solutions throughout the community gardens, neighborhood and East River Park waterfront on the Lower East Side of New York City.”
I have always adored the Earth Celebrations.
Memories of the event from years prior bubbled through my mind as I walked.
Walking with Brad Will and Elizabeth Meixell, my old friends who are no longer in New York City.

Brad as a bug, before he left in 2006.

Brad was last seen at Oaxaca Mexico in the fall of 2006, getting shot at a protest.  Brad was with me in 2005 when I walked with my then two year old daughter who became fearful during the battle between Gaia and the Machine during that last Earth Celebrations.
For a few years there, I organized Roving Garden Parties after Earth Celebrations ended in 2005.  
But the movement shifted.
And we kept it moving.
The Earth Celebrations was a way of celebrating the beauty of the Lower East Side gardens and the need to save other gardens, which are still under threat of being bulldozed from Harlem to Brooklyn, and even SOHO. Today, Elizabeth Street Garden is facing the same kind of threats that the Lower East Side gardens once faced.  I hope this movement can support it.
Arriving in the Lower East Side it was raining even more.
Still, the performers were getting dressed.  I put on my marshal outfit.  And when I walked outside, the rain had subsided.  We had a quiet, cool spring to enjoy out there.
So we walked, the giant flower people making their way out through the Lower East Side, people from years of garden wars and struggles out in force, dancing and laughing.
“The Earth Celebrations is a pilgrimage celebrating ideas,” noted Felicia, the week before during the orientation the week prior. It’s a way to honor these designs for the city. “… celebrating sustainability concepts and ideas, celebrating and thanking gardeners along the route, celebrating solutions, bioswales, gardens, oysters… Costumes up front in procession, a bike rikshaw, a cart, with climate solutions, costume spirits to each garden.  Each site has a solution, a microgrid, water carried to the river, earth spirits, renewable energy….”
My friend DEE DEE MAUCHER- MOS COLLECTIVE, was there.  She works with gardeners to design and develop a sculptural work incorporating the gardens’ natural materials and bio-remediation techniques of dirt fermented with effective microorganisms. She’d created a sculpture that could dissolve in the river and serve to revitalize the polluted waterway, made of dirt fermented with microorganisms that improve health of soil and water.
My friend Joe, of the Revolting Lesbians was there, chatting away with Ann McGuire.
We talked about years of adventures with Lesbians Avengers and Fed Up Queers.
Wendy Brawer of Greenmaps systems was there as a marshal.
JK was walking her bike.  We talked about the #Albany55civil disobedience and the old roving garden parties, imagining ways to connect the movement.
Most all my friends from environmental activism were there, chatting about the organizing and the procession making its way through the gardens of the Lower East Side.
Notable highlights included Paul Guerin’s point that we are fighting to replace eco illogical thinking with eco logic, replacing fossil fuels with different kinds of energy.
One man was carrying a vine wrapped around his head.  “We should tear up the concrete and just let the vines take over again,” he told me. It would be good for the city.
At the El Sol Brilliante, Aidan Feldman and Maya Orchin, of the Artichoke Dance company performed, swirled through the air, reminding us of the quiet poetry of our spaces and lives.
Felicia was busy directing everyone throughout the cacophony.
Poetry and motion, ideas and creation  seem to emanate from these regenerative spaces.
Onward Felicia lead us to Compos Garden, where Steve Dalachinsky
read us a poem:

The New Eden (vertical paradise)

between heaven & earth
a hillside suspended
food of the gods / the goddesses
plants tucked into pockets
attached to walls / living walls
displayed in rows (top to bottom)
a canvas of colors & tastes
no longer forbidden
the fruits of labor hanging on to the ceiling
unlimited growth – a way to conserve space
unlimited space  / sustainable space

plant upside down
watch the tomatoes grow  /  boxes
reuse boxes / recycle /  SPACE
the final frontier / as wide / as useful
as tall as the over priced living quarters
for a tired species which still has some
tricks of gallantry & love up its
perennial sleeves / leaves /
let the roots establish themselves
as they securely elevate the pull of gravity
container-style gardens
pocket gardens
vertical gardens / stacked gardens
made from the excess products others
so blatantly tossed away / or abandoned
landscaping the sky-fabric with growth
soil openings in the prismatic AIR > placement
a vertical garden can go just about anywhere –

"let the type of sun exposure
the plants will need determine
where you place your garden”

once upon a time
a garden
grew out of the air / lofty heights
the children reached for it
its smells & tastes
helped nourish a neighborhood
whose growing pains
spread as the garden itself spread
JOY flowering somewhere between
heaven & earth >
peas, green beans, moss, vines
scramble up the sturdy dangle trellis
succulents, herbs, ferns, vegetables, philodendron,
plants, flowers that are naturally grown in the
woody varietals, rigid stems, strawberries
growing parallel to the floor
flowing downward / like falling water
herbaceous plants, soft, green stems
spirit of wholeness & flexibility
upside down / drip system
modular full shade or sun
suspended like invisible
holding firm  -
the invisible light

the heart’s content…

These are some of my favorite spaces in the city, where legends have grown along with green spaces.
Onward we strolled to La Plaza Cultural Community Garden. 
I am playing the role of the audience member, noted Paul. 
The living theater is everywhere. 
With dancers whirling around him, Armond Ruhlman told the story of the East Celebrations and the garden struggle in La Plaza Cultural, recalling the green spaces growing out of the rubble of the city, and the battle between gaia and the machines that followed, gaia being kidnapped, only to be rescued by the butterflies.  Our collective daydream continues through the years, with gardens rising and crumbling through time, marching toward a sustainable future in our ecological city.
With permission, I quote from the text written by Armand Ruhlman and Felecia Young:
Many of you assembled here to day have been part of this story of resilience - from the garbage strewn vacant lots that riddled the neighborhood in the 70’s and the many residents among us that hauled out the garbage with a vision of better world - to plant trees flower and vegetable gardens. Then in the 90’s the gardens we had cultivated into essential green open space in the city - became our outdoor environmental classrooms and cultural centers and the hub of positive community life — uban improvisation that provided a grassroots urban plan for an Ecological City. Let us not forget that this peace and beauty of our cultivated paradise and Eden was almost lost -when threatened with destruction by proposed development plans- but we rose up! -- through creativity, processions to save our gardens and coalition actions -
where here in La PLaza — Gaia representing the gardens was born, married and and was saved after her kidnapping by developers each year by the butterfly children and nature spirits through the “Procession to Save our Gardens.  We enacted our vision through art and made our vision reality with the victorious saving of many gardens achieving their transfer to lands trusts and parks. - then during hurricane Sandy and the devastation it caused- the gardens rose to the occasion and new challenges of climate impact -   absorbing the raging flood waters - and giving  birth of the SUSTAINABILITY  & CLIMATE RESILIENCY SOLUTIONS that are being designed and implemented throughout our neighborhood today!

The dancers whirled and Armand read:

Ladies and gentlemen...girls and boys...children of all ages...time is running out...our precious earth...Mother threatened by the forces of the form of human beings...or should I say beings who appear to be human but who have lost their souls...surrendered their souls...creatures who have succumbed to the worship of false idols...false idols in the form of greed and the hyper accumulation of superficial symbols...symbols of power and domination...domination over others...domination over the earth...domination and destruction of the earth's resources...precious resources that sustain us...give us life...resources that can help us step into a bright, shinning future...resources that can assure our children and grandchildren a nurturing and prosperous world...

so let us celebrate the gift of life that each one of us has been blessed with...let us celebrate the bounty of natural resources in our our our oceans and our our the sound of birds outside our the hypnotic appearance of a snowflake dancing in the sky around us...let us join with Mother Earth and withstand the forces of evil that seek to harm our world...let us sing and dance and make offerings of peace and love...offerings that will repel and resist the efforts by these alien creatures...from the depths of hell, we may wonder?...but creatures nonetheless out to violate the precious gifts that the heavens have bestowed upon may just be a matter of life and death...

And we kept walking.
Jamie was telling me about drinking with Gary Snyder, the poetry of these spaces growing with every day.
Sarah and I talked about the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and parenthood, kids and growing up. 
She smiled carrying her son in one hand as she entered the garden.
I thought of all the years with her band, the Rude Mechanicals, named after Puck's reference to the six laborers in Midsummer's Night Dream. 
That's what this day was beginning to feel like. 
My old friend David Crane of the Lower East Side Collective showed me his garden plot at the 6TH STREET AVENUE B COMMUNITY GARDEN.  He gave me a Lilly of the Valley, a lovely smell for a spring day.
I thought of Eddie Boro's old statue here with babies hanging from the sculpture.
The babies hanging there intrigued my little one, distracting her from a skinned knee so many years ago.

 Eddie Boros' Tow Tower with the 6th & B Community Garden's "Hands-On" fence in the foreground (image courtesy of Gothamist); 
And the pageant continued, all day long.  I made it from 1045 to 330 and made my way back to Brooklyn reflecting on the images of what the city could be we had seen during our tour through New York’s green spaces downtown.
Leaving I worried about the fate of the Elizabeth Street Garden, that is still under threat from development.
I hope this movement can support it.
We have great programming there every day, noted Joseph, hoping more people will come to the garden and support it.
I took a few photos of the pageant and a few of these stops through the afternoon. 
@ Loisaida Inc. Center – 
710 East 9th Street (between Aves C & D), Lower East Side, NYC
The Loisaida Inc. Center –
@ 11th Street NE Corner Between 1st And Ave A
Compost Ceremony with Song for the Earth by Stephan Said,
Compost bike sponsored by
@ 12th Street between Aves A & B
Upcycling Dance – Artichoke Dance Company
Choreography: Lynn Neuman – Artichoke Dance Company
Dancer Credits: Aidan Feldman and Maya Orchin.
LYNN NEUMAN – ARTICHOKE DANCE COMPANY Lynn Nuemanis the Artistic Director of Artichoke Dance Company founded in 1995. Artichoke has held seventeen New York seasons and toured nationally and internationally. Since 2005, the company has been presented at Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, PS122, 92nd Street Y, Dixon Place, American Theatre of Actors, University Settlement and Symphony Space, as well as at festivals including Fringe NYC, Dance/Now NYC, DUMBO Arts Festival, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and the Piccolo Spoleto Festival. Since 2010 their work has focused on environmental issues and included large scale upcycling projects rooted in community involvement and education.
@ 12TH Street between Aves B & C
Poem For Sustainable Urban Agriculture by Steve Dalachinsky
 @ 170 Ave C at 10th Street
Community Solar Spectacular with WiFi New York
12:45 PM – 9TH & C GARDEN
@ 9th Street & Ave C (NE corne)
Song for Solar by Lower East Side Girls Club Choir
The Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC) is a non-profit organization on the Lower East Side connecting girls and young women to healthy and successful futures. With a stateof- the- art center, it offers a safe haven with programs in the arts, sciences, leadership, entrepreneurship, and wellness for Middle and High School girls and their families. Programs are offered at no cost to all. Our mission is to break the cycle of local poverty by training the next generation of ethical, entrepreneurial and environmental leaders.
@ 9th & C Ave (SW corner)
Gardens/Rivers and the Ecological City – Mythic Drama
Pollution Pirates – Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space with Time’s Up
Pollution-Pick-Up – Jim Simopoulos
Music: Rude Mechanical Orchestra / Deixe Fofocar – directed by Yasu Okkutsu and Glenn Healy
Utopia Dance – Valerie Green – Dance Entropy
Battle of Pollution Pirates & Climate Consequences with Climate Solutions Spirits – Choreography by Martha Eddy – Global Water Dances with Earth Celebrations volunteers and Climate Refugees by Rolando Politi – Recycle and Pray and Lynn Neuman – Recycle/Upcycle Dancers.
VALERIE GREEN – DANCE ENTROPY: Dance Entropy is a professional not-for-profit modern dance company founded in 1998. The company supports the vision of Artistic Director, Valerie Green to use creation, performance, and teaching to link dance and the people of a particular community. In the company’s newest evening length work, Utopia, Ms. Green explores notions of safety and an internal perfect place. The company’s work has been performed at various venues and cultural institutions throughout New York City, domestically, and abroad. Dance Entropy will be performing Utopia – Choreography and costuming by Valerie Green. Performance by Emily Aiken, Caitlyn Casson, Erin Giordano, and Kristin Licata.
 Dr. Martha Eddy, CMA, RSMT uses body consciousness to enter the realm of water protection.  She helped to found the worldwide event that brought 60 countries together in June 2011 (and steadily growing for June 15, 2013).  She directs Moving On Center in NYC and teaches somatic (body-mind dancing and awareness) through . She leads movement choirs for conferences and events with a focus on the global environmental crises, avidly joining the ‘what the frack?’ movement. She’ll be speaking on the role of dance in water issues at the 92ndStY on May 11th as part of Movement Talks.  Keep an eye out for other projects of hers like HydrationDaze She is also well known for her work with cancer recovery –
@ 8th Street between Aves B & C
Bio-Swale Serenade by Elizabeth Ruf
@ 8th Street between Aves C & D
Pollinators and the Five-spotted Lady Bug
Music by Charles Waters – Children’s Tambourine Quartet
@ 4th Street between Aves C & D
Song for Clean Air and Water by Ayo Harrington
@ 4th Street between Aves C & D
Wellness Healing Ceremony by gardeners & MOS Collective with Dee Dee Maucher & Marta Vi – Song for the Healing of the Earth
Marta Vi has been creating and recreating music and choreography in the community since the late 80’s. She began performing at The Living Theater, ABC No Rio, and Gargoyle Mechanique in 1989. In 1993, she participated in Organism, a group show with hundreds of artists at the Mustard Factory in Brooklyn. She has a band called the Martonias. Marta Vi stands for the water and the earth.
@ 4th Street between Aves C & D
Garden Aria for Climate Solutions
Pianist, educator, cultural worker Trudy Silver’s composition – Lady Jane
performed by Loisaida’s darling Kathryn ‘Kat’ Hall – mezzo soprano –
@ 6th Street between Aves A & B SW corner
Ballad of the Water Pond by Liah Alonso – Gypsy Cowgirl
Liah Alonso is a Mexican-American singer-songwriter from New York City. Her music combines political activism with personal storytelling in cleverly crafted and catchy folk rock songs. Since her early years as a professional busker in the NYC subways, through a 5-year run with folk-rock duo Left On Red, to her current solo performances, Liah has performed in notable venues throughout the USA, Mexico and South America. Most recently Liah has been invited to share her songs among the supercharged political climate of New York City’s resistance movement, offering a joyful vehicle for people to participate and express themselves in a peaceful manner.

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