The following is an experpt from my interview with Richard Kidd of The Sharing Tree.
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Richard: You wrote on your web site that starting a new career in the field of chemical dependency in 1990 inspired you in creating the New Leaf Project, and since that time you've been planting the idea that we do have choices, and if we choose to, we can turn over a New Leaf. Since that's the message you've been putting out there, has the Universe made a response back to you through the New Leaf Project, Carol?
Carol: I think the Universe is always talking to us. And while a single event can create an opportunity, real change is the result of continuous effort.
New Leaf has enforced a spiritual discipline on me that keeps me honest in my intentions and my actions. When I began this, I saw New Leaf as a way to build a reputation as an artist. But it has been 5 years and the paintings did not sell, the grant money did not come, and the forces that be in the art world did not come knocking at my door.
I would occasionally get e-mail from people who felt finding their leaf helped them in some way, and that was really better than anything. It's like the Universe was saying "why are you really here? Put up, or shut up!" Eventually, I realized what was really important to me, and it wasn't getting a show in SoHo. After 5 years the only reason left for doing this is that it's the best way I know to use my talents to make the world a better place, and I feel like doing it. Everything else is immaterial.
New Leaf enforces spiritual discipline in many ways. Several planters have reported getting lessons in letting go, letting the Universe do the work. To create something and then put it out to an unknown future, to just walk away from it, in essence to say, "Leaf, I did my part. Now you belong to whomever the Universe sends to you," is an act of "turning it over."
It's like a prayer, and you have to trust the process. You have to really walk away. You can't be waiting for those e-mails to come or that important collector to find it and offer you that huge commission. You have to be totally happy about letting it go with absolutely no expectations or else it isn't any fun. It makes you aware of what is required to make a totally unconditional gift. If I don't play by my own rules, something happens.
When I was in Washington, my friend Georgia and I were riding the subways on the second day because they had this day-long, total deluge. I've never seen rain like that day. So she took the Red and Green Lines and I took the Orange and Blue. We would hop a train, plant a Leaf on our seat and get off the next stop, plant one in the station, catch the next train. We worked our way up the lines like that.
On one train, this wonderful woman sat next to me. She was disabled; she walked with those steel braces that have the cuff for your wrist and she had those big heavy shoes on both feet. She was talking to some people on our end of the car and she was so cheerful, it just lit the car up. So I was sitting next to her listening and was thinking that I really wanted her to have a leaf.
It's against my rules to plant a leaf for an individual, the idea is that the leaf is a gift to anyone whom the universe chooses, and it's not up to me to decide who that is.
But I am thinking, here is this wonderful woman who has not let her handicap keep her from being happy and making others happy, so just this once, I am going to break my rule. I carefully snuck the leaf on the seat beside me, hopped off at the next stop and hurried away.
This other lady grabbed the leaf and was hollering out of the subway car that I left it behind and I hollered back that it wasn't mine and kept going. She hurls it after me and the door shuts and the train pulls away. There are all these people watching now. I have this thing laying at my feet on the concrete and I pick it up and lean it against the wall and walk on. New Leaf is hell on control issues.
Of course, I met up with Georgia at the end of the day and she had the perfect answer for what to say if you get caught planting. But the Universe wasn't going to give me that answer until I'd had my lesson.
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