It’s happening all over: Folks are making things not only for the pleasure of it, but also to raise social consciousness, resist injustice and work together to build a community. They are making things to make things happen. The movement has been captured in Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism, a richly illustrated compendium of voices brought together by editor Betsy Greer. The book is part manifesto and part philosophical inquiry. Best of all, it presents a peaceable army of crafters (“Craft Cartel,” “The Women of the Adithi Collective”) who have taken to the streets, schools, hospitals and government building plazas to Occupy (yes!) a new place in the cultural landscape. Through interviews with a broad array of artisans with unique artistic visions, we learn how crafting can transform public spaces, inspire young people to make their own things and (wait for it) make the world a better place. Too good to be true? No! Instead, too true to be good. These makers of things are wicked! They are subversive, outraged and ready to make trouble in the most beautiful ways.

For most homeowners, that strip of grass in front of the house out by the street is just a place we try to keep our neighbors’ dogs from pooping on. Now there’s a book that goes way beyond dealing with that problem, offering a life-enhancing project that can grow and grow. In Hellstrip Gardening: Create a Paradise between the Sidewalk and the Curb, Evelyn J. Hadden lays down an urban renewal’s worth of options for turning your boring green spaces into veritable miniature habitats, bursts of floral color that are self-contained and mutually thriving. Hadden provides detailed instructions on how to select the best option for your particular situation, considering every horticultural angle, from soil and light to rainfall and seasonal blooming. Possible issues with zoning and city ordinances are taken into account, and we learn a range of possibilities for “culinary and medicinal uses.” The intelligence of this author shines most in her strong statements about “Partnering with Nature.” If you’re going to redeem your hellstrip, you’ve got to know what corner of earth you’re living on: which plants will grow best and actually help restore the ecosystem, which your human community has inevitably undermined. That’s the way to build a heaven on earth, right in your front yard.

Author Tai Moses recognizes that we already inhabit heaven on earth and that it is teeming with animal “angels” who are far more at home here than we are. What we must do is honor the sacredness of the place and accept our stewardship of it by making room for our wild neighbors, who were here before we were. In Zooburbia: Meditations on the Wild Animals Among Us, Moss writes, “Ultimately, zooburbia is more than a place; it’s a state of mind, a lovely consequence of daily contact with living things.” The book is enlivened by Dave Buchen’s delightful linoleum block prints, which capture the book’s tone of playful reverence and close observation. Dog and horse, deer and mole: these are the flesh-and-blood spirits who attend Moses’ writing, metamorphosing her first-person essays into a radiant collective consciousness. We live in a zoo without cages. Moses’ book is a keeper.


This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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