Colors of Hudson Valley is a series of stencil paintings made with natural pigments extracted from local non-native plants. I stopped calling them “invasive species” as I learned more about them working on this project.
In spring/summer I joined weeding at Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program’s garden. I took some of the removed plants home to make pigments with. I learned from Claudia Knab-Vispo, an ethnobotanist at FEP, that non-native species are not necessarily “invasive.” A species becomes invasive when it takes up resources away from others and harms biodiversity. Invasive is more about specific situations in specific locations, rather than the species itself.
In September I interviewed Erik Kiviat, wetland scientist and co-founder of Hudsonia, a not-for-profit institute founded in 1981 for research, education, and technical assistance in the environmental sciences. for my bird radio show Beakuency on WGXC. He told me about plants that are called “invasive” but in some places found a positive role in the local ecosystem, such as providing bird habitats.
(Listen to this episode here.)
This learning felt inspiring personally. Having been an immigrant - non-native species - for over a decade, I’ve thought a lot about what integration means to me. Coming to a foreign country is one thing, staying is another matter. One has to find a way to adapt. At the same time, I cannot not be what I am. I will always be Japanese at the core of my being (funny how so many invasive species are called Japanese) and there are cultural clashes that I find hard to come to terms with. How do I find the happy place where I can be who I am while being flexible and integrated into society has been a big question. And the answer differs to each individual immigrant. In my 13th year in the US, I am at a much happier place in this immigration journey thanks to all the birders, farmers and field biologists I met and learned from in the Hudson Valley.