Last weekend I was walking through the garden center outside of the grocery store looking for flowers, and saw a basket full of clear plastic tubs. Curious, I walked over to see what they were and was surprised to find that they were filled with ladybugs. Now, I know ladybugs are supposed to be lucky. They are also said to bring prosperity. But none of that has anything to do what with why I did what I did. I could blame it on the fact that I was pretty depressed. My cat had just died and the flowers I was shopping for were to plant on her grave. But for whatever reason, seeing 1500 beautiful little ladybugs trapped in each of those plastic tubs made me really sad. These ladybug magnetsI sell in metal gift tins remind me of my little friends in captivity…. I stood there for a while and looked at them, then went inside the store and did the rest of my shopping. But I could not stop thinking about those little ladybugs. When I finished getting my groceries, I found myself back outside, standing at that basket. At $10 a tub I couldn’t ‘save’ them all, but I felt compelled to set at least some of them free. I know, I know. They were all meant to be purchased and assuming they were, would be set free eventually. But what if there weren’t? What if they died in those tubs? And how miserable must they be all heaped in there on top of each other? Those were my sad silly thoughts at the time. Inwardly was laughing at myself. I couldn’t really believe I was doing it… so when the woman at the register asked what I was going to do with the ladybugs I simply mumbled “Um…Well….they’re good for aphids.” Not that I have any aphids. Heck, I don’t even have a garden. When I got home I took the tub outside put it on the deck railing next to Ramona’s new grave, and opened it. I kind of hoped a huge cloud of ladybugs would rise in the air like a tiny flock of red birds and fly off into the blue sky. But that’s not what happened at all. They just gradually begin to crawl over the edge of the container and onto the deck and explore. And eventually I got impatient and poured about half of them out into the grass.
So yeah, it was pretty anticlimactic, but it still felt good. I keep hoping I’ll see some of them around but they seem to be long gone. But hey, ladybugs – if you do bring prosperity – don’t forget me, okay?
Earth Day is not over where I live. In fact, we are just warming up.
My favorite event here in Olympia, Washington is the annual Procession of the Species, a giant, makeshift artistic homage to the flora, fauna, and natural elements of our world.
Months before the week of Earth Day, a warehouse space opens downtown to begin construction for the parade. Individuals, classrooms, girl scout troops, faith communities…basically everyone in town crowds into the warehouse to get involved. And so begins the creative process – costume making workshops, choreographing dance routines and marching bands, and constructing costumes.
Oh the costume construction! They range from simple painted cereal box animal masks to the elaborate large-scale segmented paper mache creatures that serve in lieu of floats as the parade’s main attractions. Since nothing motorized is allowed, the giant creatures are made with flexible parts and worn by groups of people–15′ elephants, dinosaurs, dragons, and even giant insects have romped through the Olympia streets in 20 years of “The Procession” tradition.
I usually attend the Procession as a spectator. People expect me to be in the parade because I’m a working artist, and I creates a lot of animal art (I have over a hundred designs of wall clocks, alarm clocks, night lights, cards, and magnets featuring critters), but I so look forward to witnessing the parade every year that I don’t mind sitting at the sidelines. And the sense of community and joy in the air when the whole town comes out to play is something I just love to be a part of.
If you happen to be in the Olympia, Washington area, do not miss the revelry!
This is an event to remind us that our home is a place teeming with precious creatures, and we are responsible to all of them to keep the earth livable and beautiful.
Last week for April Fool’s Day I shared a”prank it forward” video where a waitress was given the best shift of her life by friendsand coworkers, and I asked if anyone has done a “pay it forward” type prank.
I have a regular pay it forward tradition. It started right after September 11th, 2001.
Just four days after 9/ll, I decided to do something different at my Pike Place Market booth in Seattle by giving my clocks away that Saturday. At first I didn’t think I could even show up at the Market so soon but I couldn’t imagine staying home alone any longer, filled with the immense grief we all felt that week. I needed to go be with my friends and fellow artists even if there was no one shopping. Then on the 60 mile drive to work it occurred to me that in giving a gift, I could do something positive both for myself and for others.
The market felt strange that day. People were there, walking around as usual, but the air was so full of sadness. When someone approached my table, I waited and when they picked something out I would bag it up. Then when they reached for their wallet and I’d simply smile and say “You can put that away. I’m not taking any money today”
What happened was astounding. At first people couldn’t understand what I was offering. All of them refused the offer at first. But when I said “I think we all just need to be kind to each other right now.” without exception, every one of them burst into tears. Then I asked them each if they would do something nice for someone else in return. People really broke down at that point. Do you remember how raw our emotions were at time? How grief stricken and vulnerable we all felt? I cried, my artist neighbors set up on either side of me cried. Other artists in the market passed the word of what I was doing and a small crowd of them gathered in my booth to watch every time a customer approached. Several customers came back later and reported their pay-it-forward deeds with pride. One proud father came back later to tell me that his 5 year old gave all of her allowance money to a homeless person after they left my booth.
Within a few days word of this story made it’s way onto the Internet and travelled around the country. A man from Georgia actually looked up my website and called me at my studio in Olympia, Washington, just to see if I was for real.
This was such a rewarding experience that now every day that I work at my booth I give away one clock. I never know how it will unfold or who I will give the gift to. It might be a little kid who clearly really wants one but his Mom says no, it might be a woman who falls in love with a certain design but just can’t afford it or seem to justify spending her money on it. Once it was a woman who got choked up when she saw my ‘Reach for the Stars’ clock, because her recently deceased mother used to say that to her all the time. Sometimes it’s just a traveler on a tight budget or someone who makes me laugh.
Each day I wait for a feeling. It’s always a strong pull that sweeps over me in the moment, a sense that this person is the right person. Generally, I continue to talk to them as I nonchalantly pull the clock they are admiring from my back stock and put it in a bag. Then I might ask when their birthday is and when they tell me I say “Well, since I’m not going to see you on your birthday, I’d like to give you a gift now” and I hand them the bag.
This is always met with a look of bewilderment. They peer in the bag, they say “what?” they reach for their wallet. They often refuse to accept it at first, but I always insist, telling them I give something away every day and I wait until the right person comes along and “Today it’s you.”. After they thank me and express their disbelief, I follow it by adding “There is one thing I’ll ask you to do in return, And that’s to do something kind for someone else, preferably a stranger” That’s when they almost always start to cry. And I find on a day when I am selling very little, when business is slow, when I’m worried about paying my bills – it’s the best thing I can do. Although I may reduce my profits even more, I’ve done something way better because it always makes me feel full and alive – and reminds me that the best things in life have nothing to do with money.
April Fool’s Day can bring all kinds of pranks- mean pranks, slapstick pranks, elaborate pranks and witty pranks. But THIS! This video is an inspiring story about an ordinary good person, Chelsea, a waitress at the Sprint St. Smoke House, and the gifts that her community arranged for her in the form of a positive ‘prank’. Her friends and coworkers worked with a television show to plot ‘The Best Shift Ever’ for her.
She receives amazing tips from customer after customer, and although she’s amazed, doesn’t seem to suspect a thing.
1. At 1:31- $1000 cash tip.
2. At 2:14- Vacation to Hawaii as a tip
3. 3:20- Her dream job offer!
4. 4:30- A new car to replace her junker!
5. 5:38- A visit from her old friend. Here is where the tears start to flow!
What an amazing woman and heartwarming story.
Have you ever done a “positive prank”? Or received one?