Human Flower Project

Secular Customs

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


May Day honors workers in Greece, but it also occasions flower picking and wreath making, an old custom from the days when everyone was a worker.


Children in Crete collect flowers to fashion into wreaths, May 1.

Photo: Brent Scheneman

Protomagia is Greek even we can understand. It’s the celebration of May 1st – the peak of spring wildflower season there.

In Crete, and other parts of Greece too, the day draws people out of doors to pick blooms and turn them into wreaths that will hang on and about doorways for the next several weeks.

Effusive blogger Sunny Fotini  writes that Protomagia is a “day off for everybody.” (It’s also the national Labor Day holiday.) “We did what our ancestors did thousands years ago,” writes Sunny. “Celebrate the Mother Nature!”

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Posted by Julie on 05/01 at 12:58 PM
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Homage and Horror Vacui

An artist’s floral installation pays final tribute to Boston’s 90-year-old mental health center.


The barren Massachusetts Mental Health Center opened

to the public, blooming for four days before its demolition.

Photo: Bloom

“How does one memorialize a building impossibly rich with a history of both hope and sadness?” asks Christopher Jobson on his intriguing weblog Colossus (many thanks to Annie Ardery for pointing us this way).

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Posted by Julie on 03/21 at 09:11 PM
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Saturday, March 10, 2012

This Blessed Plot

What happened to the front garden? The original home theater and neighborhood forum, a gift that’s been retracted. (Thank you, John.)

imageEssay and photos by John Levett

There’s a saying: ‘Don’t change yer clout ‘til may is out.’ Discussion used to always arise about whether changing clout (clothing) should take place after the may (hawthorn) came out or May came in. Whatever. The may is out and in these parts it feels as if the season is on the turn. The weather has been kind this year. It’s just turned March and I’m in credit with the energy company. We had a cold spell at the opening of February but you get the feeling that that’s that.

March is busy: finish pruning anything left before nesting time, clear the space of rubbish, repair paths, wash out the shed & re-prime, buy in the mulch, first feed, tie in stray shoots, secure ramblers—get to the point where you feel you can start sitting in the garden. It’s a long month to come before I’m in that state but it’s started.

It’s a time when the planning trope creeps back in. What’s the new grand design? What’s not there that should be? What have I always planned to raise? Everything’s possible at this time. Nothing that’s not worth a shot. Gardening in heroic mode. (Note to self: “Yes it’s failure, but how good a failure?” - Cornell West.)

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Posted by Julie on 03/10 at 11:03 PM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePoliticsSecular CustomsPermalink

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flowers of Resolution, Christchurch

How do secular societies face a common tragedy? Christchurch, New Zealand, devises a public ceremony, with flowers.


Gathering points along the Avon River in Christchurch,

New Zealand, where residents today made a memorial

“River of Flowers”

Map: Healthy Christchurch

Today Christchurch, New Zealand, marks one year since the deadly earthquake that killed 185 people. A community health group polled the residents to ask how the disaster should be commemorated.

Cantabrians expected another huge gathering a Hagley Park, where a memorial had taken place several weeks after the tragedy. Yet, many residents also wanted to gather in their respective neighborhoods, “to allow communities to be together to commemorate, and to look to the future.” Human lives had been lost, and so were many of the city’s buildings. 100,000 houses were damaged, and 10,000 were entirely demolished either by the quake itself or thereafter. This was a tragedy of place.

The ritual enacted today paid tribute both to individual loss and community despair. People gathered at 15 spots along the Avon River that winds through Christchurch and dropped flowers into the water. The river leads to Pegasus Bay and the South Pacific Ocean.

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Posted by Julie on 02/22 at 03:13 PM
Culture & SocietySecular CustomsPermalink
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