Dressing Objects: Addressing Our Longings

in Surface Design Journal (spring 2007); reprinted in The Way of St. Francis (January/February 2008.)

Dressing Objects

A recent journey from the Thai city of Chiang Mai to nearby Lamphun took me down a road lined with tall rubber trees whose lower trunks were wrapped with cloth.  Though the cloth had begun to fray and fade, this image of trees prized enough to be banded in cloth intrigued me.  Later I learned that the government had proposed widening the narrow and busy road.  This improvement would have included cutting down these towering trees.  Locals wrapped their trunks with cloth to remind loggers that these old trees deserved respect and sheltered spirits.  Dressing the trees marked them as holy; harming them would be an infraction against something sacred.  The project had to be abandoned.  The highway remains inefficiently narrow while the clothed trees stand as quiet reminders of values other than good organization…

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