Happy Holidays: Inspired by a Shopping Cart Tree

Shopping Cart Tree by Artist Anthony Schmitt, Santa Monica, CA, 2010

Chanukah came right after Thanksgiving this year, and I felt compelled to visit my grown kids in Venice, CA, to celebrate both holidays—especially magnetized by my grandbaby of fifteen months, already a jokester in her own right.

On one of my walks near the beach, I became captivated by the Shopping Cart Tree at Edgemar, itself a site with a storied past. Named for its proximity to the ocean (mar in Spanish), it was once the home of an ice plant, then an egg hatchery. The current arts center, built by Frank Gehry using the original structure, housed the Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMOA) at its inception.

My first fascination with the tree was the message it seemed to impart about how commerce defines Christmas. Yet the tree appeared so pretty and delicate taken as a whole. It was a brilliant dichotomy, indeed—expressed in an almost three-story-high tree made of 86 full-sized, coated steel shopping carts. (Ever try to wrangle one that’s got a recalcitrant wheel? Acgh! Urgh! They’re unwieldy, heavy, and bulky.)

When I looked up the artist, the narrative he gave of his work’s meaning was a 180 degree twist from what I’d imagined. Schmitt says,

The tree symbolizes generosity and abundance as well as acknowledges those less fortunate, where their whole world may be housed in a shopping cart.

My Y2010 contained hard work and fighting for financial increasing against a background of family joy. During the course of some of my work I interacted with hundreds of troubled homeless and sheltered people. In the course of my somatic and headache practice, freelance editing, and personal life, I helped others who gave me their trust and support, and felt sustained by the deep compassion of those who helped me. Everything seemed to grow in momentum and depth as the year progressed. I am in appreciation and awe of everyone’s generosity.

But in the end what really sold me on the tree was its construction. You see, the sculpture’s only means of structural support was a circular iron frame at the very bottom of the piece which secured the bottom layer of carts. The entire rest of the work was held together merely by balance and plastic grip ties. I was mesmerized.

In the case of living beings, having the most basic connections in place as framework can sustain us, fulfill our needs and wants, and supply the basis for the rest of our connections. I see this at play in my granddaughter, as she grows with confidence into toddlerhood, based on the love in her family.

This year, I was gifted with meeting my first grandbaby over four separate periods of time, participated in the wedding of my first born, landed a book contract, new clients, venues, and channels of referral for my Somatic, Headache Coaching, and Bodywork practice. The unexpected conversations and “accidental” meetings with strangers provided welcomed sustenance in a city suddenly no longer inhabited by my immediate family.

I appreciate all of it—even feeling somewhat alone here in winter. My reward of imaginary distance is in sitting in my NYC writer’s den-styled apartment and writing my book—in the midst of a quiet corner on the busiest island in the world, three blocks from a river where barges, ships, tug, tour, and police boats, water taxis, yachts, and jet skis travel with and sometimes against the currents. I turn inward in order to extend my voice deeply into the world.

In the end, isn’t all the gift-giving really about wanting and trying to give people what we think they want or need, or what they tell us will make them happy? That’s such a darned good thing to attempt, and hopefully it fills us with joy in the process! These days, for me, the thought and care that go into my decisions are necessarily more important than the dollars spent.

It’s my wish for you that your deepest and most precious dreams, needs, and wants are fulfilled and enjoyed. May we all continue to open our hearts to love and appreciate the time we have here together–whether in-person or across the miles. May we extend our inner depth and our outer reach to reach our ultimate purpose. And may we grow as we increase in compassion for ourselves as well as others.

Happy Holidays, Happy Belated Chanukah, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, everybody!