I joined the sustainability group at Los Angeles Valley College because two professors whom I respect are members and they were looking for volunteers. The signal achievement of the committee is the acquisition of Tree Campus status for the college, an honor bestowed by the Arbor Day Foundation. Little ol’ LAVC is the only community college in California with this distinction. I can’t take any credit for this because it happened before I joined. I felt a little like the Little Drummer Boy who had no gifts to bring other than a willingness to help out where I could.
Unfortunately, sustainability is a bad word in many circles. It induces everything from eye rolls to outright hostility. I have experienced these reactions first-hand by people I otherwise respect. One of my friends told me that she liked her new tenants, except that they were “sustainability people.” I didn’t have the wherewithall to ask her exactly what she meant. I have neighbors that I presume are evangelical Christians because they gather every Tuesday in their back yard, speak loudly in tongues and end the ceremony by sounding a real honest-to-god wild animal horn. I chalk it up to local color. I’m not sure what sustainability people do that is so offensive—plant heirloom tomatoes and collect rainwater? And sustainability is not the only trigger word. When I mentioned a novel that, I admit was a bit preachy for my taste, another friend dismissed it with a wave of her hand and said “it’s about the environment, need I say more?”
So I was disappointed but not surprised when my teacher said that she couldn’t use the word “sustainability” in her pitch to get two minutes before the entire school faculty on opening day. After sustaining several hours of beaureaucratic meetings with the higher ups, she did manage to blurt out that the presentation would be about “beauty”. For whatever reason, the powers that be were sold on the idea.
Mad Men where are you?
After acknowledging the obvious absurdity of not being able to mention the word sustainability to recruit members for the sustainability group, we got down to business. How were we going to promote ourselves? This is when I wish Don Draper would step in and develop a kick-ass ad campaign that turned the world around. I am old enough to remember just such a campaign that aired on TV throughout my cavity-prone years and left an indelible mark on my soul: Keep America Beautiful (aka, the Crying Indian). I am also old enough to remember when this moniker was not considered offensive. Before the ad aired, people threw trash out of car windows and dropped empty bags, bottles, cans, and plates on the ground as a matter of course. Afterwards, they stopped doing that for the most part. In other words, the ad campaign worked. Perhaps my teacher was tapping into the same memory when she blurted out “beauty” in the meeting. It’s not as crazy as it sounds.
Walking the walk (in beauty)
Since we are a handful of a few diehards with no budget and no political clout, the sustainability group decided upon making a 2-minute DVD with a photo montage of beautiful images of campus trees, students studying outside, plein air art classes, and “live” biology classes with background music and the words, “There’s a movement on campus”…”Beauty”…”Join the movement”. lavc.edu/gogreen. This is when I raised my hand and offered to make 300 paper pots with succulent cuttings–enough for every faculty member attending the meeting. The paper pots were a big hit at the recycled art show earlier this year. Before I could shovel the words back in my mouth, I resolved to hit up my friends for help. I have to thank RK from jewelsandco (aka Rock) for the original idea and the implementation. She designed two rubber stamps for LAVC:
RK and two other fellow artists Bonnie Lambert (aka Paint) and Lynnda Rakos helped with a stamping and recycled paper pot rolling party. We have many more to go, plus gathering succulent cuttings before I bring them in to school and enlist the sustainability group to pot the them, but all involved agree that it is meditative to work outside on a beautiful day amidst the patter of friendly conversation and a gentle summer breeze.
In beauty may I walk
All day long may I walk
Through the returning seasons may I walk
Beautifully I will possess again
Beautifully joyful birds
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk
With dew about my feet may I walk
With beauty may I walk
With beauty before me may I walk
With beauty behind me may I walk
With beauty above me may I walk
With beauty all around me may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk
It is finished in beauty
It is finished in beauty