I’m posting this to our cherished Wallyhood to share my admiration for Nancy “Appleseed” Merrill, a Wallyhood star for certain: artist, author, tree planter and steward, and resident of Wallingford for 20 years. Most of those years – perhaps all – have been lived in a leaf embraced home on one of Wallingford’s modest avenues: Thackeray. It runs only from 50th to 42nd Street, and one way – south – for the rumbling No. 26, which Nancy and her neighbors by now expect like good clockwork. There are also the sounds of squirrels leaping in the canopy that mostly shades this avenue and the by now comforting white noise escaping from the top of the ship canal bridge. It requires only the power of imagination, and Nancy has it.
And now Nancy has won an award for her part in last week’s citywide PARK-ing Day. It was a citywide artistic promotion of green in place of blacktop and other hard surfaces. Of the six awards her “It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Living) Tree Museum (With Chickens)” park won the prize for the “The Greenest Park.” Other city-wide street abutting park artists won prizes named the “Most Multi-Model,” the “Tastiest,” and “Most Playful,” the “Best Execution,” and the “Most Original.” But none are named so well for parks as Wallingford’s own winner, Nancy Merrill – Green. We now imagine Nancy embracing her Green Prize: “five eco-living themed books.” We figure that she will read them all.
Here follows first Nancy’s PROCLAMATION (it’s quite “activist”), followed by her less formal recollections of what she did, and who helped her. Interspersed in whatever order Wallyhood’s editors choose are several photos I took on Friday last at the Thackeray site. There is one other photo of Nancy as well, in which she represents the Statue of Liberty, as she also acts as one of five grand marshals in this year’s Wallingford Kiddies Parade. All either wore or had white beards.
Whereas reliable estimates suggest that at least 30% of Seattle’s land area is devoted to automobile use (roadways, highways, parking lots, driveways, garages, car dealerships, etc.) and that only 12% of the city’s area is devoted to parks, perhaps half of which is dedicated to recreation (golf courses, playgrounds, ball fields, etc.), leaving, therefore, only about 6% of our urban environment as pastoral and arboreal places to escape the pressures and frenzy of city existence and
Whereas most city dwellers accept that cities were not created to accommodate the needs of motor vehicles at the expense of the well-being of humans, surely not to the extent of yielding 5 times as much space to motor vehicle as to genuine parks,
Therefore, in that spirit, we hereby declare that creation of this
It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (living) Tree Museum (with chickens)
is a small, but significant, step in the human reclamation of our terrain towards the goal of making public space more suitable for the parking of people than of cars.
Once upon a time this summer I wondered what would be next to emerge from the art chute. I had a little exhibition at Hiroki in Tangletown in February and now PARK-ing Day presented an opportunity to create an urban installation and celebrate 17 years of the It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Tree Planting Project. I am drawn to now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t arts, and the concept for It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (living) Tree Museum (with chickens) was hatched. I first learned about Seattle’s PARK-ing Day via the Wallyhood blog. I knew something about the guerilla ones in San Francisco in 2005; Seattle’s Feet First provided event information and also secured individual site permits through the Seattle Department of Transportation.
My initial design got returned for revision because it needed the total of parking cones to be at least 7 and to make sure the guts of the installation didn’t protrude beyond the 38′ by 7′ footprint. So I drew a more detailed plan and the permit was issued. The site also needed a one-time No Parking permit from SDOT, free. My husband Stuart Herrick collaborated and we staged it as it was being built so the set-up would go well, which it did thanks to the able assistance of Loretta Turner. Nicole Starnes Taylor and Ret Taylor loaned us the chickens, and the abutting neighbor households were fabulously supportive.
The wood elements involved resemble a petrified wood fence, and the purchased sod was a park in reverse: the paths were sod and the gathering space was the street, allowing me to procure a small amount. A stroke of complete luck landed the Arbutus tree branch with attached crow nest and the finished sculpture included urban found objects as “eggs.” I like it when all sorts of people become part of an installation and that was the happy outcome. At the end we all had Happy Leaving* and went home.
* “Happy Leaving” is also the name of Nancy’s children’s picture book, which is yet a work in progress.