It’s been an eventful couple of weeks for the Generositree, with a return to Hackney Downs, a workshop in Eastbourne House Arts Centre and a debut in Brockwell Park, as well as an invitation to Buddhafield Festival in July! (Buddhafield is vast and glorious and deserves its own blog entry, but briefly said – I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of it!)
I’ve started hanging paper cranes and swans from the tree and offering them to passers by, which has been great for introducing them to the concept. Over the past few weeks, I’ve received (and passed on) some pretty amazing gifts – including an Evil Eye pendant, and some lace knickers! The communication that happens is revealing and humbling. Instead of hurrying past, people stop, chat, exchange, play, and inspire. Some of the people I have met have been:
– a Headteacher on her lunch break. She said that she would get the kids at school to make paper cranes to hang on their tree of good deeds – which she would now call the Generositree!
– An Italian woman who said she wants to learn how to meditate, and will use the swan I gave her as a reminder.
– A little boy who gave me the star sticker, which his teacher had given him.
The lovely Anna Marie Franklin came along to Brockwell park to sing, frolic and take video footage.
Even when I’m not actively standing in the park and singing around the Generositree, it seems to be working its magic… Last week, I transported it in pieces from Brixton to Walthamstow (stopping in a few shops along the way), and then back to Hackney. Literally everywhere I went, people wanted to talk about it (even on the tube – where Londoners typically avoid contact at all costs).
Probably the best instance was when bus driver asked me about it as I got on. I said it was an installation for a performance art piece. He said, driving away, “Can you explain it to me? I’m not that good with art…” So I told him the idea – that I exchange small gifts – anything – with people, as a way to start dialogue, and make connections. He said: “Huh. I guess it’s working then, even now!”
These connections remind me of a post that went viral a few weeks ago, about a woman in a niqab and a drag queen sitting next to each other on public transport, minding their own business. (The American Conservative angle: “This is Liberals’ vision of America…” The Liberal angle: “Actually, yes it is! A diversity of people leaving each other alone!”)
I understand that (and hooray for the amazing responses to the above post!). London can be full on, and sometimes I just want to shut out the barrage of noise and advertisements. But there is something about the Generositree that feels gently countercultural in the fact that it doesn’t subscribe to the “mind your own business” ethos. It actively cultivates an attitude of not just talking to strangers, but exchanging with them, playing with them, and – if I’m very lucky – getting them to sing with me.