Currently, I’m residing in a town that has an enduring sweetness despite its full share of neglected buildings, vacant lots, and youth who leave in hopes of a better future.
Today, the air is damp and the chill wind brings the stench from the three paper mills outside of town up over the top of the deck where it waits at the door. It smells like raw sewage.
But as I walk the streets, there are signs that spring is on its way. It’s visible in the glimpse of buds, the pointed leaves of the Iris and hyacinth. In the faint greenish fuzz seen when one squints at the branches of trees from a distance. Like a subversive, it rebels against winter’s authority in the hope of producing better conditions. Its invitation is seductive.
It’s said many people become more conservative as they grow older. This woman is feeling more provocative. I itch to cut loose. My mind, body, and soul are teased by thoughts and ideas. Like spring, they tell me I need to find a way to incite beauty and hope.
Studies have shown that one’s environment affects one’s mood. If you’re living in a place that is falling apart, cluttered; if your rooms have dim lighting, it becomes increasingly hard not to feel tired and even hopeless. But sometimes even the smallest thing can bring a smile; a moment of beauty can lift a mood, even if only for a while. And it’s in that tiny first step in your home, in your neighborhood that change begins to happen with one person, then two and three.
What to do and how became the questions. It seemed like a good idea to work with two of the most valuable tools available—nature and playfulness. The first because it has it’s own magical healing power. It reminds us of nature’s life force. The second because if you’re going to be a rebel why not have fun?
And if a rebel for beauty and hope, then why not be a flower bandit?
No one can claim I have a green thumb; quite the opposite in almost every situation, but one. My thumb turns green under difficult conditions. In part, it may be due to the happiness I feel when thumbing my nose at the idea that something can’t be done. Or it might be because I’ve always been inspired by the sheer power and intent of nature as it pushes grass through cracks in sidewalks and tired asphalt roads.
Many years ago in London, a group of environmental guerrillas set out to change the faces of ugly neighborhoods and buildings. Concocting a solution of nutrients, natural adhesive and seeds, they loaded their green weapons—a larger version of a water gun. After dark, they moved through the city spraying concrete walls. Within a few months, these unsightly edifices came alive with green vines.
This flower bandit will be planting wildflowers all over town under the cover of night and just before it rains, so the birds don’t fly off with all the seeds. This also allows me to operate without bureaucratic permission. I am a subversive after all! I’ll be planting in front of abandoned buildings, in vacant lots, alongside empty roads and alleys. With a map marking the plantings, the plan is to return when the flowers have begun to bloom. In those patches of beauty and hope will stand small signs with inspirational messages and quotes, all penned with the alias ‘The Flower Bandit.’ It’s a temporary moment in the scheme of things, planting flowers; a small one. But that’s how change often starts.
Here five tips subversives, or rebels for beauty and positive change (flower bandits), need to know:
1) When the world tells you to give up, listen to the voice that tells you to try one more time.
2) Decorate your own community by creating pockets of beauty and hope. Don’t wait for someone else to plant flowers.
3) Obstacles are what you trip over when you’re not looking toward your goal.
4) It’s easy to miss opportunity when it looks like work; flower bandits keep it playful.
5) Put the future of beauty and hope in good hands—yours.
It’s spring, there’s no telling what will happen next once you plant the seeds of change.