Pegi Christiansen: Distance 9

August 24, 2015

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email info@lyndensculpturegarden.org and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

Sura Faraj and I have known each other long enough that even though we can’t remember when we met and when we last saw each other, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation during our three hours together on June 24. When we connected via email in March to do a “Distance” visit, she was recovering from a herniated disk that had kept her flat on her back for months. Thanks to acupuncture, Sura was able to stroll through the grounds and sit on the grass to share a picnic lunch.

Sura’s mother died in May of 2012. In response to her grief, Sura started to learn about medicinal herbs and plants, which her mother had an interest in as well. Sura told me stories about her mother’s capacity for healing, and how her mother overcame shingles while Sura’s uncle, a doctor, didn’t.

Jewelweed
Jewelweed at Lynden

Sura takes her dog for walks along the Milwaukee River and also identifies and studies the plants. She pointed out Jewelweed for me at Lynden and explained it is excellent for poison ivy and soothing insect bites. I admire Sura because when she sees something that needs to be done, she figures out a way to make it happen. When she started to get angry with the mountain bikers who cut their own trails along the river, disrupting sensitive ecosystems like a beech grove, she founded the Milwaukee River Advocates. Its goal is “to protect the natural habitat” of the river from many threats, including “intense and irresponsible recreational use.” (I learned a new term from Sura: greenwashing. It applies to the bikers who would tell her they were creating “sustainable trails,” which sounds environmentally friendly.)

Sura’s study of plants led to her developing tinctures and infused oils, now primarily from plants she grows in her own yard, like Solomon’s seal. You can find her Root Flower Remedies tins of ointment and lip balm at Fischberger’s Variety and the Riverwest Co-op.

Our roving conversation swung around specifically to the topic of distance. Sura believes our current capacity for long distance travel has disrupted our connection to the land and habitat. “Travel has allowed the human species to dissect the earth and disassociate from it,” she said. It pleased her to see how the Lynden Sculpture Garden has been a careful shepherd “rewilding” the grounds. She adored the removal of the fence that used to stand around the formal garden, with only the wooden gate remaining.


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