Mental health counselor, Norine Cardea molded the earth from chicken wire, duct tape and papier-mâché. Her globe spins freely, suspended by wire from arching tree branches and surrounded by small crystals sparkle like stars in the sunlight. A hand-painted sign below beckons all to “preserve and cherish this small blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known ”— a quote from Carl Sagan’s book, “A Pale Blue Dot.”
As life creeps forward during this “great pause,” Cardea recognizes a worldwide need for ritual and shrines such as these. Her initiative, “Art from Chaos: A Call to Create Art in Place,” began in late-April when she called upon her neighbors to make their own altars in honor of Earth Day’s 50th anniversary.
Now, the event has evolved into a community-wide invitation to commemorate the nature and beauty surrounding life in quarantine through roadside shrines. Cardea will also host a weekly virtual discussion series that kicks off on Friday, May 22, and will provide a forum for local artists to discuss their current works.
“I hear it in the sessions that I do and from the people that I talk to, this pandemic is changing things,” says Cardea. “We feel how much we need each other more than anything. We are feeling how hard it is, the loneliness and limitations. So, if there was a way to represent these changes in an artistic way, they might endure.”
Cardea is no stranger to ritual. Before settling in Indianhead, she lived on the Miccosukee Land Cooperative. Annually, the co-op members celebrated All Souls Day by creating altars of flowers, photographs and art. People openly grieved and celebrated as they strolled the streets.
On Earth Day’s 25th Anniversary, Cardea helped to organize the creation of an expansive sand mandala and spent a month collecting shells, leaves and dried flowers with the community. Her long-time friend, writer and naturalist Susan Cerulean, recalls the power the mandala held as a resident of the co-op.
Cerulean has remained neighbors with Cardea in Indianhead, displaying her own quarantine altar just down the street. The shrine is comprised of several life-size replicas of her favorite bird, the swallow-tailed kite.
“I think Norine is on to something that we all need,” says Cerulean, who will release her next book, “I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird” in August. “In this time when we are destroying the habitat that birds need to live in, I was looking back at my career as a wildlife biologist and nature writer and the connections between care to the natural world and giving care to your family. I think that resonates for people now because lots of us are taking care of our children or our parents.”
Cerulean primarily writes about North Florida, musing on the relationship between the environment and the everyday and pulling upon her experiences as an earth advocate.
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