Channelling creativity, curiosity and spirituality through her family, home, and freelance design practice, Dee Tang lives in ‘the Lady California,’ a beautiful old California-style bungalow in Fremantle, Western Australia. She and artist husband Desmond have three children: Rafa Rose, Beau Sunray, and angel daughter Kawa Leaf. Dee explains how she looks for the heart, in life and in nature.
What’s your favourite thing to do in nature?
A swim in the ocean is always a good idea. My husband says I am annoyingly cheerful, erring on smug when I come back from an early morning dip. Otherwise an arvo swim always washes away the cobwebs of the day. Recently our Labrador puppy Nami has found her sea legs and she is now frothing with joy in the ocean with us.
Describe your connection to nature: what positives does it bring to your life?
Our home is surrounded by an immense, rambling garden, and birds are constantly congregating and chatting here. My little shack where I work is nestled beneath a huge gum tree. It's been a constant source of sheltering, creative inspiration with its muted native tones and dancing dappled light. Being nestled in nature makes it feel like there is no need to get away, as our backyard is an oasis in itself.
What are your fondest memories of spending time in nature?
The memory that immediately springs to mind is hugging trees with my angel daughter Kawa. I would often turn around and find her hugging it out with a tree: palm trees, gum trees, you name it, she was a tree-hugger from day dot. When we lived in Newport [Sydney’s Northern Beaches] we would walk home past this gigantic gum tree in this old dude’s front yard. Kawa stopped to hug the tree one arvo and the old guy came out and caught her mid-hug. I stood there awkwardly attempting to explain, “Um. Pardon us! My baby girl really wanted to hug your tree!” He paused for a moment while we stood there sheepishly. He then answered, “You can hug this tree anytime you like. It's a lemon-scented gum” and he picked up a leaf, sniffed it and passed it over to us. Kawa beamed with the joy of being given full-access tree-hugger permission. It smelt wonderful and was our introduction to the lemon-scented gum tree native to the east coast of Australia.
Many of us are time-poor, and might not get out into nature as much as we’d like. Any suggestions for a quick nature-based pick-me up? Something sensory, experiential…?
I like to stop and smell flowers and leaves when we go for walks with our little people, while my husband likes to point out colours in nature and the tones that light and shadows make. I am not scientific or very knowledgeable about varieties, but I do enjoy the sensory smell experience of native flora.
I am slightly obsessed with shell picking. When I go for beach walks sometimes I have to remind myself to focus on the walk itself rather than looking around for cute shells. I like finding ones with pre-made holes, which my daughter likes to string together to make necklaces. I also enjoy finding heart shapes anywhere in nature: on the path, rocks, imprinted on trees or leaves. Someone will yell out “LOVE HEART!” and we will all go over to inspect and nod accordingly if it meets our heart- shape expectations.