Inspiring G*A*R*D*E*N*S

If you want to know what vegetation is like in a given area, visit a local plant nursery or botanical garden.

I was driving through Phoenix, Arizona with a friend recently, and was mesmerized and pleasantly surprised at the plant nurseries we passed, stocked with cactus, palm trees and other desert plants. How fun and exotic! I even saw a cell phone tower hidden by an artificial palm tree as we drove through the city streets! In my part of the northwestern United States, it would have to be a Ponderosa Pine tree or other trees suited for the Eastern Washington ecosystem. Pretty amazing how diverse the plant world and natural landscapes are, with a mind boggling spectrum of super cool vegetation and critters that inhabit those landscapes. For each natural landscape, there is a ecosystem that thrives perfectly in that particular local. Nature’s design is perfect.

Nothing but blue skies….

A few weeks ago, I did something I have not done after all the years of coming to Oaxaca, Mexico.  I visited the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca  near the colonial city center. It was delightful! Located on the grounds of the impressive Santo Domingo Church, it is a magical collection of cactus, exotic looking plants, and beautiful landscaping that seemed so…..well, Mexican!

Being from the Pacific Northwest, I love how the plants and landscapes here are so different from my bioregion,Continue reading “Inspiring G*A*R*D*E*N*S”

Inspiring S*T*A*M*P*S

What the heck is PHILATELY?

Well, I found out a few days ago, when I was inspired by the big, bright blue Oaxacan sky to get out and about to enjoy Oaxaca City by foot.  I decided to stroll the city and try to find something new.  The  unexpected gem I stumbled upon captivated me, and I learned something new. Philately.  Do you know what it is?  Read on, my friend.  Read on.

Don’t you love when something unexpected comes into your path?

Knight Service? Sounds fun.

I was wandering  along the sidewalk near the center of the city, and peered into the window of what looked to be a museum shop.  Poking my head in, I saw a security guard at a rather official-looking desk, surely there to take my money to see whatever there was to see behind the desk.  So I ask, “How much is it?”   Coming out from behind the desk, he told me with a smile that  it was by donation only, pointing to an old metal mail box that served as a donation box.  Fun! I had stumbled onto MUFIMuseo de Filatelia de Oaxaca or Museum of Stamp Collecting).

Who knew, but apparently philately  is as follows:

“the collection and study of postage and imprinted stamps: stamp collecting.” (

Basically it is the hobby of collecting all different types of stamps, envelopes, and postcards from different time periods and places in the world. (Can’t pronounce philately?  Listen to it pronounced here.)

Maybe this is a hobby I should pick up, considering I LOVE to send postcards, handwritten letters, and the thought of something traveling from one’s hands to another’s in a different location (sometimes on the other side of the world!).  I once sent a postcard to a friend from Dakar, Senegal to Leon, Mexico and it arrived I believe THREE months later.  At least it arrived, right?

It ended up being one of my favorite museums!! (the first being the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Fabulous.  Go if you get a chance. Totally turns stuffy, orderly museum displays on their head!). Currently there is an exhibit that combining postage stamps from around the world with fun art installations.

So, as some may know, I whole-heartedly believe in the magic of handwritten letters, and they would have no way to arrive if someone to not afix a stamp to them!  So, in honor of my love of handwritten communication and fun, whimsical art displays, this post is dedicated to small (postage stamp size, in fact!) but magical works of art  that surround us in our world!

I truly love when you see something and you think to yourself, “wow, I would have never thought of that!” I would have never thought to comnine postage stamps and art to make an exhibit, but it was totally fun! The human imagination is pretty amazing and the creative spirit is even more impressive I think.  It was fascinating to see little stamps from around the world, from different eras, featuring different subjects, all arranged whimsically next to each other.  Let me tell ya, a person sitting with their back facing you is alot different in Denmark then it is in Abruba !

Back shot from Aruba….
Back Shot from Denmark….

So here are a few images from my time there and some of the stamps displayed. My hopes in this post is to inspire you to notice the small artwork that surrounds us, offering simple beauty or a message.  I was happy I took the time to appreciate  the creative spirit that shows through in the diversity of these mini masterpieces.  Handwritten correspondence continues to be a dying art in our fast-paced world of high-speed internet, cell phones, and IPODS. MUFI is a fun, whimsical place to experience what the world has come up with through the years .

Lovely buidling and I would recommend a visit if you are in Oaxaca!

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I must admit, when I was writing this post, I was thinking, “come on Melissa, you gotta stick to a theme…sustainablability related and inspiring projects documented through your fabulous photography!” (maybe not fabulous YET, but it is improving!) But then, I remembered!  The USPS put out GO GREEN stamps last year!

So, to follow my theme, and to show big messages and creative expression can be displayed to these under-appreciated little pieces of sticky paper, I give you two of my favorite messages from the GO GREEN stamps.

“Compost” and “Let nature do the work” from the GO GREEN stamp series (USA, 2011)

For more information:

Other Fun Philately related pages:

Inspiring C*I*T*I*E*S Mexico City

Curious how big cities seem to work almost like clockwork despite being…..well, huge?  Mexico City, one of the biggest cities in the world (population 114.8 million (UN, 2011)), is taking on the challenges facing all modern cities today like pollution, growing urban populations, traffic, and lack of green spaces, in innovative ways.

Granted, I have never been much of a city girl myself, but I must admit, I am impressed by how they seem to function despite the chaos that appears on the surface. Flying over the vastness of Mexico City for the first time, I was in awe of the city lights sparkling against the blanker of darkness that seemed to go on forever, like the opening scrolling lines from a Star Wars movie. As the plane descended upon the city, the small lights came into focus. Cars dotted the scene below, moving along the mazes of highways. Major streets were lined with lamp posts, billboard screens flashed wildly in the night. It was mind boggling and exciting all in the same moment. I could not wait to get on the ground and explore.

Since that first trip, I have flown over some of the biggest cities in the world.  Bangkok, Mexico City, Tokyo, Lima, New York. When I started to be interested in how we can create a more sustainable world (if that is even possible), I began to realize that we must focus on cities. Although it is exciting to build something brand new like a “green office building” that is flashy and has all the new bells and whistles available through the exploding sustainable technology industry, the reality is that we are living in a built-world that needs to be retrofitted. Mexico is on the forefront of this, looking at ways to re-create itself and it’s cities. So, for today’s blog, I looked into something that will be topic that just keeps getting bigger: C*I*T*I*E*S!

Continue reading “Inspiring C*I*T*I*E*S Mexico City”

Inspiring C*O*L*O*R

When I first came to Oaxaca, Mexico in October of 2002, I quickly fell in love with the brilliant explosion of colors, sounds, flavors and the overall vitality I saw on the bustling streets. It was unlike anything I had seen before. So, to kick off my blog which will be highlighting inspiring people, places , and projects, I would like to focus on one of my favorite things here in Mexico: C*O*L*O*R!

Let the inspiration begin.

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As you are driving on the highway from Oaxaca into the picturesque village of Teotitlan del Valle, you quickly notice the signs outside many houses advertising handwoven rugs made of 100% lana (wool) and many also boosting natural dyes.  With all the beautiful colors on display in nature for us to feast our eyes on, do we often look at our everyday items and wonder what exactly created that hue we love so much? I was lucky enough to do a mini photo project here in Teotitlan while helping a friend to document her family’s rugs and the process of turning plants, insects, and other natural materials into a rainbow of colors.

Continue reading “Inspiring C*O*L*O*R”

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