Feature Friday - Linda Badami
What is your full name and where are you from?
I currently live in upstate New York. Woodstock. Where are you from is one of those simple first questions folks ask, but mine is such a long answer. Short version, my dad was military, my mom was an academic and they split up when I was young. Their careers took them all over. I’ve moved all my life so I’m not from anywhere. My hometown is wherever I’m living.
In your own creative definition or description, please share who you are :::
The question makes me think of what I currently do for a living which is buying broken houses and renovating them. Trying to bring the life back out of them. Is that what I am too? What we all are? Currently under renovation.
Please describe a meaningful experience in nature from your childhood :::
During the mid-1970s my mom had a consulting job at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. She was a professor with a PhD in Communications and was hired by the Park Service to teach rangers how to be more effective communicators. So we spent the summers going on every ranger led hike and evening lecture. It was fantastic.
On a hike in Big Meadows with the sun shining on all the grasses and wildflowers in bloom, a ranger asked us what was the difference between a flower and a weed. Without waiting for a response, the ranger answered, saying a weed is just an unwanted plant. I looked around at all the beauty and realized that all these plants could be seen as weeds. From there on out I knew I was the type of person who would have a yard, but never a lawn.
At the suggestion of a ranger, my mom and I went on a silent morning hike together. We were to walk as the light came into the woods, then sit in silence and see what happens. My mom was an academic feminist, a science fiction lover who had grown up in the city. My primary interests at that age were playing soccer and watching Saturday cartoons. That is to say, neither of us would have thought to take this hike, but we were both up for the adventure.
We got out before sunrise and walked quietly on the dew covered trail. At some point, we gestured to sit together on a rock. After resting a bit, my mom’s eyes suddenly widened and her face conveyed total delight. She tried to restrain her movements as she excitedly pointed to something. I kept looking into the woods to see what she was seeing. My mom kept shaking her head no, her joy escalating, her gestures becoming more animated. I finally realized she wasn’t pointing into the distance, but close up. A tiny spider had cast a single web between us and she was surfing thru the air, right between by our heads.
It was a magical moment. Such a little thing. A moment we shared because we were willing to walk in the woods, sit together and watch.
What role, significance or theme does the natural world hold for your life today?
The natural world helps me come back to center and get perspective in my thinking. Work, daily living, news, distractions can separate me from what matters. Or rather, can narrow my field of vision or thinking. Being connected to the natural world helps me remember the expanse of possibility, creativity, inevitability, justice.
Some trees between two houses had gotten so big they were a hazard. My neighbor was going to use them all for firewood. Unfortunately, to get to those trees, we had to take down some smaller maples trees and clear some limbs so the bucket truck could get in. The branches were being put into the chipper and I just couldn’t stand it. I thought I make something with these beautiful branches, maybe coat hooks, so I pulled some and threw them in my truck.
Some weeks later I was making coat hooks with my nephew and he asked if he could just whittle a branch down. I think it was just fun to use a knife. When he handed back to me what he’d done, I said, oh my gosh! We could make that into a pen! So that was my first one. A collaboration with my nephew.
Now I have a big pile of branches on the patio. Some days when I want to productive but am too tired, or I just want to quiet my head, I make a pen.
Making order from the chaos. Making something discarded into something beautiful and functional.
That’s what I was doing. I was erasing myself. Erasing myself.
It’s horrible, it’s unnatural. It’s so obviously wrong. A waste of the talent, the natural beauty, the resources, the gifts that we have within us.
It’s what we can do to ourselves and what we are doing to the planet.
We are called to be our best selves.