by Katie Rogers
Birmingham has so much potential.
Do you ever hear that? Well, I do. I hear it in my own head. I also am lucky enough to socialize with people who happen to think the same thing.
Yet, when I showed a new friend a draft of this article, he exclaimed, “I never hear that!” He has lived here for almost a decade.
“Yeah, people here don’t say that.”
Sad, I thought. And dumbfounding.
My optimistic group of friends, collectively, has lived in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Nashville, London, Paris, Prague and Montreal, as well as Charleston, S.C., and Austin, Texas, to name a few. This means that we have experienced the pros and cons of other cities and, therefore, have a certain perspective on what works and what doesn’t in urban settings. It also means we have something to offer about the way Birmingham operates.
But what does all of this have to do with feng shui?
Feng shui (to quickly define an ancient and complex art) literally translates to “wind water.” Think flow. As a feng shui consultant, my job is to go into people’s homes and offices and offer them “cures” (e.g., clear clutter, replace some artwork, build a new walkway, paint a room) to improve the feng shui of the space. The idea is that our immediate environment affects us on deep, subconscious level. Shift the space, and you shift your life.
So how does one feng shui an entire city?
The goal is prosperity, harmony and beauty, so that the people of the city are happy and healthy and generally enjoy life. Business should be thriving, plant life should flourish and people should feel connected to one another and the community as a whole. It should be inviting to outsiders, welcoming new ideas that help keep a place from stagnating and limiting itself.
In feng shui, everything is a representation of something else. For example, if a client has a stuck door, she may be having trouble transitioning to greater things in her life. If I come across a leaky faucet, money may be “leaking out.” If someone hoards clutter, he may have a fear of “letting go.”
Apply this concept to a city and things get interesting. When street signs aren’t marked well or are hidden or illegible, it creates confusion to those who aren’t familiar with the map scape, therefore sending out a signal that “you aren’t wanted here.”
When neighborhoods lack sidewalks, it creates a subtle barrier between neighbors, breaking up the community bond.
When bike lanes are absent, and public transportation is in shambles, it creates an obvious dependency on cars, which also perpetuates this sense of isolation, not to mention adds to the pollution problem.
When the town that calls itself Tree City USA is signing off on a new shopping plaza that will cut down over 200 trees (Lane Parke in Mountain Brook), it represents a lack of ingenuity in its vision.
And blast these traffic lights in Birmingham! Somebody please reset these and put some timers on them, so that traffic can actually move. Hence the concept of “flow.”
As an Alabama native – I’m from Mobile – and having spent the greater part of my adulthood in other places, I get very tired of hearing the stereotype that my beloved home state is “backward.” I’m here to say that we should give people no reason to think that anymore. There are no excuses. I say let’s harness the potential of Birmingham, and put it on the map as America’s Most Forward-Thinking City (yes, you heard me) — and feng shui the hell out of it.
Katie Rogers is a feng shui consultant, filmmaker, arborist, and artist. To read more of her thoughts on urban planning and feng shui, visit her two websites, www.katierogersfengshui.com and www.carlessinla.com