Stories from the field

Winter is slowly fading away and we are starting to walk into the streets of Red Hook. Starting again in January, we honor and reflect on the dormancy of plants and quiet regeneration of the earth. We have been taking our time to digest and assimilate our experiences during the summer and fall season in Red Hook when we created and performed the first rendition of ro͞odərəl. To do so, we are taking slow walks—to witness and merge with the pace of the silent nature — as well as experimenting with the residue of ideas and fragments from previous interviews we have available to us.

March 13th 2015

It has been interesting to observe how people in the streets are moving fast, trying to keep warm and quickly move through the cold air. Today, we walked through the neighborhood of Red Hook. The sun is beginning to show himself; and the passersby’s slow-down to enjoy the gentle warmth in the beginning of the spring season.

During our walks thus far, we deployed our bodies as a living archive. Little pieces of paper were “planted” in hidden places in the sleeves of our winter clothing and edges of our boots.  Each piece of paper holds a memory of the discussions and interactions we had with people and the environment during the previous summer/fall season here. There are single words and short phrases pulled from these interviews and the research on ruderal, edible, medicinal plant species and trees growing in Red Hook. Following this thread, we offer pieces of information as fragments to the community. We see how they can inspire others, build associations, and transform our encounters on the streets. The more we give the gift of interaction and knowledge from the plants and trees around us, the more valuable they become.


Sitting on the bench at Coffey Park, Yvonne smiled at us from the other side of the street. We invited her to pick one of our words from the “body-archive.” She chose one standing in Corinne’s hair. “Wild,” she read. “I am wild all over my body,” she told us, “because I am a wild person.” She goes on to describe stories about her neighborhood and her constant fight to raise her children in the challenges of the environment here, noting the prolific violence and drug use. The entire time she kept an upbeat, positive perspective, particularly about her pride in how well her sons have turned out; their plans for college and their choice to disengage themselves with these negative aspects of life in Red Hook.

Earlier a woman named Mia had approached us with her two children by her side. They each picked a word from our bodies with anticipation. The little girl chose the word “crunchy.” When we ask where she feels crunchy, she touched her belly and smiled. She talked to us about the popcorn in her belly from snack at school. Mia chose a paper with the phrase, “made of earth.” Her immediate response to where she feels “made of earth” on her body was, in her hair! Her hair is very curly and she wore it tied up in a bun.

Saluman meets us in Coffey Park, March 13 2015

Saluman meets us in Coffey Park, March 13 2015

A well-dressed broad-chested man comes strutting through Coffey Park with an extra bounce in the rhythm of his walk. Mr. Saluman. We offered him gift from our living library of words. He chose “shared power.” It feels so right. He expressed interest to learn more about what we are doing and the events we explained are in the works. Before leaving he holds the phrase up between his hand and Eva’s; and off he went.

IMG_2482A young man named Brian, well dressed and thin approached us. He picked the word “soft.” He smiled and said, “well my brain is pretty soft right now,”referring to the long-time he spent in front of the computer. Perhaps this late-afternoon Friday walk is a way to refresh?

A woman who appeared disinterested with us walks toward us. We offer her, Kat, the option to pick a word. In a hurry she expressed some hesitation. However, her hastiness opened up and she shifted her approach to time. She chose “cooperation”!! When she reads the word she took a deep breath, a pause to go inward. And she asked herself out loud, “What do I have to learn from this? … I know I am not patient. I have anger management problems with people.” She comes back from this moment of self-reflection and looked at us with a big smile. She finished by telling us “thank you,” and departed just as quickly as she arrived.


Later as we are walking down Seabring Street, we came across a big garage full of antiques and curiosities hanging from the ceiling, walls, and automobiles. A man named Randy invited us inside and played music for us on his old megaphone. We shared some of our body-words. He picks two pieces: “shared water” and ” community”. Immediately he referred to his rooftop garden and his work building an irrigation system from rainwater collection. He connects these two fragments (shared water and community), noting that since he already has many water containers he realized he could certainly “share the water with the community” he suggested. Like everyone else so far, he link his words to his personal experiences.

IMG_2487Walking along with her man, a lady named Dina, who so was curious about all the papers sprouting from our winter clothing she had to stop. We proceeded to explain that she could choose from our living library of words. Exited by the invitation, she enjoyed taking her time to connect with us and pick consciously one that drew her attention the most. The word is “iron.” She closed her eyes and moved inward with her attention. She connected with truth, and mentioned the iron-like quality of her truth she seeks. With sharpness and directness, the word “iron” reminded her of the truth that she is soft inside of the hard exterior she sometimes uses.

Earlier as we walked toward Coffey Park, a police officer approached us. We were surprised when she stopped to participate in our selection game. She picked two words, one from Eva and one from Corinne: “Sweet” and “wisdom.” Officer Joan beamed with a loving satisfaction. She explained to us how “Sweet wisdom” was just what she needed; and off she went along her path.


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