Trees are like friends

My husband recently posted an ode to one of his favorite trees that sadly caught a root fungus and finally died after 4 years and was cut down slowly this winter.

He was not the only one moved by the loss of the tree. Neighbors of the park, visitors, and other movers also expressed their sadness over the loss of the tree.

It seems strange at first of mourning a tree, but this phenomenon of bonding with and becoming fond of a tree, or multiple trees, is very common, and very human. Trees provide humans food, shelter from the elements, landmarks during travel, and safety from (most) animals. But they also provide us a level of consistency and reliability in our world – that tree doesn’t go anywhere – while also marking the changing of the seasons and change over time. It provides enjoyment whether you are climbing the tree or just resting at its base. Being in or near nature, even a single tree, has profound, positive effects on our physical and mental states.

In Melbourne, Australia, a few years ago people started using the park system’s email alert system to express their fondness for some of their favorite trees.

At my daughter’s  outdoor preschool the kids have slowly been naming the trees in the park during their daily hikes – grandfather tree, silly tree, spaceship tree, and others. These names help the kids orient where they are in the park, but they also represent a kinship with the tree, a familiarity and reliability that provides consistency and joy for the kids.

When a tree dies or is cut down, we feel its loss and we mourn. It is only human.

Eight new installations now on display in South Lake Union

Great opportunity to engage with local artists for free in an accessible way.

Storefronts

Shunpike proudly presents eight new installations in South Lake Union as part of its acclaimed Storefronts program, on display until July 2017. Examining the exchanges between teachers and pupils, the collaboration between artist and nature, the origin of dragons, the installations span from an accumulation of marks, of ribbon miles, and unifying markers.



ARTIST: Amanda Manitach

WORK: Frances Farmer Defends Herself

LOCATION: Harrison Storefronts

Manitach_Harrison Storefront East_FrancesIn Manitach’s large-scale wallpaper drawings, text melts into vibrating, hallucinatory design sourced from a 1885 French wallpaper sample. The pieces harken to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In creating them, she invokes a similar physicality to the story’s protagonist, generating drawings up to 30 feet long made with a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil. The pieces are smudged, worn and covered with fingerprints where the artist’s body has been. “Frances Farmer Defends Herself” (graphite on paper, 52 x 360 inches) contains a quote by Seattle-born film…

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Announcing a new project to build the case for more child-friendly cities

This is a great research project, I look forward to following the research and the results.

Rethinking Childhood

What does it mean for a city to take child-friendliness seriously? What makes decision makers put real momentum and energy behind the vision of making the urban environment work better for children and young people? What does it take to move beyond fine words, small pilot projects and one-off participation events?

I am very pleased and honoured to announce that, thanks to a travelling fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, I will be visiting a half-a-dozen cities in Northern Europe and Canada to get under the skin of this topic. One key goal is to explore the relevance of child-friendly urban planning to urban policy in the UK.

The fellowship will take in four cities – Freiburg, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Vancouver – that have led the way in putting into practice the maxim of Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa, that the child is an indicator species for cities. With these cities…

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This Is Your Brain On Walking. Any Questions?

A great meditation on walking from a good friend of mine.
My husband and I took our own short getaway this past weekend, and other than sit around reading books and drinking tea, we walked. We walked on quiet country roads, we walked along the tops of dykes, we walked a small portion of a small mountain.
We felt the different breezes blowing in our faces. We smelled the salty marshes of the flats where the ocean meets the farmlands the sea air blowing in off the Sound, and the cedars and firs on the mountain awakening from winter. We heard and saw various raptors, song birds, and water fowl co-mingling. And in just those few short miles we accumulated over the weekend, we felt more refreshed than we had in awhile. Even just a short walk in nature can do wonders.

camino times two

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I came across this story last week about Vancouver author John Izzo. A popular author, business speaker, and consultant, Izzo had a successful career writing and teaching about how to live and work better.

But he wasn’t happy.

So where did he go to rediscover himself? The Camino, of course.

“Izzo hiked in Spain for 29 days and found he was happier when he learned to surrender to circumstances, rather than hooking his happiness to outcomes.”

(Click here for the whole article)

(Sounds a lot like my Practice Acceptance mantra.)

Izzo isn’t pointing out something new. It’s been 2400 years since Hippocrates said “Walking is a man’s best medicine.”

Modern medicine still agrees:

Something as simple as walking to work makes you happier.

Committing to walking outside, in nature, has a host of physical benefits.

Walking specifically in nature, away from cities and traffic, has measurable effects on mental health. 

Something…

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How to Play-Fight with your Kids



After posting a blog about why I choose to play fight with my kids, I got a great response from parents and non-parents alike. What surprised me however was how many people – moms, uncles/aunts, non-kid affiliated adults – reached out to me and asked, "How do I even get started?"

It turns out a lot of people never play-fought as a kids…
They were told to never hit, never push, never poke.
Or they just never had a good example from their parents or older siblings or relatives.

Or as parents now, they have played with older kids but when they try to do the same thing with their little one she just cries and runs away.

That makes me so sad. There are so many benefits to play-fighting as a kid, and as a grown-up. Both my husband and I are huge advocates of physical play, including roughhousing. Play-fighting doesn’t have to be rough and tumble all the time either; there are some great games that involve the same elements as physical play but are more gentler on the body than traditional wrestling or punching games (pretending to be movable mannequins is one of my favorites).

Based on my research of studying physical play behaviors, and my own experience with my kids, not to mention observing my husband coach and facilitate grown-ups on how to play for the past 10+ years, here is what I’ve found to be good tips to get started:

Let the kids lead: Young animals of all species, including kids, are naturally the best players in the entire animal kingdom. It is how they learn about their world. So let them lead. You can come up with the game, but often times the kids already have a game in mind. Or, give them a gentle poke or push and see how they respond. Sometimes they might not be in the mood, but sometimes they will take your cue and run with it.
Anecdotally, I’ve noticed often girls will be done rough-playing sooner than boys or need more breaks, whereas little boys will often go and go until they start to cry, so don’t be surprised if either happens.

Match their strength…: When we see big dogs and little dogs play together, often the big dog will handicap themselves; they won’t push as hard, or they’ll get down on the ground so the little dog can actually reach them. Similarly, match your play partner’s strength. Push only has hard as they push, or hit only as hard as they hit.

…But show off yours too: Of course you can and should try doing lifts, carries, spins, gentle knock downs, and other things that require you to have more strength. That’s part of the fun of playing with someone bigger than you!

Let them win (sometimes): Similar to the dog play example above, if you want the game to keep going then make sure they’re having fun, which means letting them get a few punches in on you or knocking you down. (If you aren’t comfortable yet with falling down, think of this as a great way to practice slowly falling down in a safe way.) But that also means you get to win sometimes too; don’t be a punching bag, but it’s all about taking turns so you are both having fun.

Communicate: Check-in, see how they are doing. Ask if they want to switch up the game, or if you’re ready to switch it up or take a break, tell them. Which leads to…


Teach them no
: The whole joy of play-fighting is the give and the take (have I said this enough times yet?). When it’s not fun anymore, both you AND your child get to say no, stop, time out, or I’m done. At any time. And, as the grown-up, you also need to be able to read your play-partner’s cues and tell when they’re not having a good time, even if they’re not specifically saying no.

Tickling is a great example. A lot of people see ticking as "harmless fun" and it’s tricky when a little kid is laughing and saying no at the same time, but it can be quite scary for a kid (or a grown-up) if they mean no and it isn’t respected. But, it’s also a great way to build trust with your play partner, whether they are a kid or a grown-up. Now, I HATE being tickled! HATE it! No tickles ever, thank you! Ever since I was little. My mom has stories of her trying to tickle me as a tiny baby, and even so much as putting her fingers out to say "coochie coochie coo" and I would just freak out! And she listened. So no tickles. As a grown-up I have not always had partners that understood that tickling is not fun for me, or when to stop tickling (as in immediately). But thanks to my mom I knew that I could choose to say no and that needed to be respected.

The same goes for tickling your kid; if they say stop, even if they’re laughing, stop. If they want more, they will ask for it (kids are good at that sort of thing).
And this can be expanded to all kinds of physical play; we need to learn how to listen to our bodies and our limits. If we get scared or frustrated, we need to learn to take a step back and regroup, and that we’re safe to do so. Physical play with a safe person like your parents is a great place to practice that.

Have fun!: In the end, that’s what this is all about. Sometimes you’re not in the mood to wrestle, and sometimes you are, or maybe you’ve got knee pain and can’t get on the ground, so just go with what feels right in the moment. Make up stories ("we’re bears, rawr!"), give yourself challenges (you can’t move from one spot; you can only use one arm), and just see what happens.

There are lots of different fun games you can try out with your kids and prompt you both to play more. Here is a great example of kid-led play fighting:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqFJEQopKdY

I’d love to hear some of the games you have come up with with your little play partners, so share them in the comments below.

Harnessing the Power of Nature to Improve Our Cities

Adding to my Reading List.

(yes, even the city codes. That might seem a little dry to non-landscape designers, but they are important to understand as far as how to work with cities to promote and integrate more greenery).

The Dirt

Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design / Island Press Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design / Island Press

People feel happier, healthier, and more social when they engage with nature. Their cognitive abilities go up and stress levels go down. So why is nature so often thought to be found only “out there” in the wilderness, or perhaps suburbia? For Timothy Beatley, a professor at the University of Virginia, nature should be found everywhere, but especially in cities. Cities must remain dense and walkable, but they can be unique, memorable places only when they merge with nature. If well planned and designed, a city’s forests, waterfronts, parks, gardens, and streets can make out-sized contributions to the health and well-being of everyone who lives there. In his latest excellent book, the Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design, Beatley brings together all the established science, the important case studies, the innovative code and design practices from around the…

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Google works to restore wildlife habitat in office parks in the middle of Silicon Valley

This is fantastic! In many ways commercial parks like tech campuses, manufacturing, and storage lots are ideal places to create nature sanctuaries for animals, both migratory and local creatures like frogs, butterflies, and song birds. It’s secure at night with almost no human activity, and less traffic during the day overall.

​(photo credit: Fast Company)

A century and a half ago, the area that is now the Google campus in Mountain View, California—sandwiched between the bay and oak savannahs—was made up of wildflower-filled meadows, wetlands, scattered oaks, and sprawling willow groves.

Part of the land was later farmed, and by the 1990s it became an office park. In 2003, Google moved in. Now, the company is rebuilding pieces of the former landscape, with a vision of helping reconnect critical habitat for species like snowy egrets and burrowing owls throughout all of Silicon Valley.

Full article: https://www.fastcoexist.com/3067796/how-google-is-restoring-wildlife-habitats-in-the-middle-of-silicon-valley-office-parks


These restoration efforts are also better for the humans living inside the buildings to look out of their offices or go out for a lunch break and see a truly vibrant ecosystem of native plants and animals right there in front of them. The increase of mixed flora is also better for filtering pollutants caused by all the vehicles coming and going every day to these sites.

It is also easier maintenance and cost to plant native species rather than try to maintain exotic plants or single rows of trees.

There are many tech companies expanding on both the east and west coasts of North America, and I truly hope they take Google’s example to restore, maintain, or increase the native biodiversity around their campuses. Even a little bit can really go a long way.

The value of employee artwork in office buildings

At my work we are currently trying to get an "employee" artwork exhibit up and running. It would showcase different types of art or artists every two months.

This isn’t just some vanity project to show off how amazing our designers are. (Although from a corporate, showing-off-to-clients point of view that’s great too.)

For one thing, we aren’t just asking the designers to participate. Everyone is welcome. Researchers, marketers, engineers.

People who make rings as a hobby. People who crochet. People who take amazing photos while on vacation.

Obviously we aren’t the first company to come up with this idea.

Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook , and other large tech companies do as well.

Some Deloitte offices have a rotating installation…

(Photo credit: me)

Some airports are getting in on the action…

​(Photo: Bernadette Garcia at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport art show)

And of course numerous universities have employee and student art installed all over their campuses, and not just the obligatory shows put on by arts professors and students.

There are good arguments for why offices and work spaces need to incorporate more art into their spaces in general, and in particular filling the walls with employee art work.

For one thing, it lets the employees’ "outside" life come in to a space where they spend the majority of their waking hours. This gives them a sense of pride of their off-hours work, as well as putting more investment into their paid work.

It’s a great way to get to know your coworkers better. I had no idea for years that someone made jewelry as a hobby, or that another employee made hand-thrown mugs for all of his teammates one Christmas.

Showcasing employee-made art also helps promote overall wellness. One way is from the office space itself; there is a large body of science that demonstrates that people are more productive, happier, and less stressed when they are surrounded by things that make them happy, varying shapes and colors, and natural objects – preferably nature itself but even pictures of rocks or plants or the ocean. Art pieces can provide all of those things inside the work environment.

Another way it promotes wellness from a therapeutic perspective. Art is very cathartic for people, both as the maker and as the viewer, and while many companies pay lip-service to supporting mental and emotional health for their employees, this is a way to physically demonstrate that you the employer is serious about promoting work-life balance.

Hospitals and clinics will often display employee art for many of the reasons stated above.

(Carilion Clinic Art Show: Employee’s child’s submission "Robot Monster")

So our Art Committee will keep pushing forward to get the opportunity to showcase the amazing artistic capabilities of everyone here in our office. I hope you do too!

Parks Without Borders: Creating a Seamless Public Realm

A very important discussion of how to make parks feel like part of the city and not just pieces of land tucked away for kids or dogs.
Even in a lush city like Seattle, where I live, some of the parks are integrated into people’s every day commutes or habits, while others are beautiful but tucked away and hard to get to. They are slowly moving to add more centralized open spaces for communities as they see the economic benefits like increase in real estate values, as well as events like farmer’s markets and other festivals.

The Dirt

Rocky Run Park / Flickr Rocky Run Park, Arlington, Virginia / Flickr

“Parks are not islands that exist in isolation, they are connected to streets, sidewalks, and public spaces,” said NYC parks commissioner Mitchell Silver. “It’s our goal to create a seamless public realm for New York City.” The Parks Without Borders discussion series kicked off last week to a standing-room only crowd in Central Park’s Arsenal gallery. The enthusiasm generated by the Parks Without Borders summit held last spring inspired Silver to build the momentum with a series of shorter discussions. For this one, park leaders from three different cities, each with a uniquely successful park system, were invited to address the question: How can innovative park planning create a more seamless public realm?

Every day, 25,000 people go to work at the Pentagon, and the majority of these people live in Arlington, Virginia. How has a county that is both transit-oriented and a…

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