Go Hangout with Strangers on the Internet
Greetings my dear reader,
I’m writing to you from a plane, which seems to be the only time I feel as though I can work on this blog while traveling. My last entry left-off over a month ago. Way back when I was leaving everything for awhile. I didn’t know for how long or where I was going outside of a loose plan of landing in London to stay with a stranger I’d met on the internet a few months ago.
In hindsight, this sounds a bit sketchy now that I think about it. But I thought it seemed fun to go help start a business and so got the ticket one morning as I had my coffee in Arizona. And it was the best decision I’ve yet made in my life. For nothing great is gained if nothing great is risked as they say! I grew up very safe and protected. I was weirly introverted, shy, and sensitive and spent my time trying to get away from people and society. I lived in a vibrant land of my own creation as a homeschooler in the woods, so now I’m going on excursions to be sure that the forest of imagination is indeed where I want to reside in as I settle into adulthood.
After this month of bumbling aorund a bit confused- loosing and breaking things everywhere I go, I’ve found the answer to this question of whether or not a life of relative introversion in nature is right for me is "yes!" One-thousand-times over to the deepest part of my soul, yes. But I cannot be there all the time, for this ecosystem of my own-making needs rain, sun, wind, and fire in order to be healthy. And as such I must venture out every now and again to summon these elements in order to keep the wilds healthy- to make my art filled with story, a cycle I hope in turn will inspire other’s to nurture their own woodlands of inner-peace.
When I dropped out of school, and found someone to take my home over, I was suddenly weightless. No assignments, no maintenance, no responsibility! Wow… it was just like homeschooling again. But then I rememebred I'm 24 and need to find a home-base and grow up just a little bit. My suitcase is down to two-wheels.
Getting to that weightless point again made me feel better, because I wanted to make sure I could still do it. A self-induced test to see if I still valued freedom over material things or titles. A very cliche tortured-artist move, but I had to do it. Now that it's done, I know it is not sustainable over extended periods of time for a homebody such as myself. But for those who are still trying to figure out who they are I'd recommend taking this leap if it's within your means, as there will be undoubtedly be stress, which will lead to answers to questions unasked. And also, I'm scared of growing up since it is a process that so often times seems to change people into unrecognizable creatures I can't quite understand...
Back to the travel story...
And so I got in my car, and drove from my university town in Arizona into the northern wastelands of South Dakota where I grew up. I left my car with my family, grabbed some things, and disappeared shortly after Christmas. Weightless, but not directionless I had plans, for an eccentric and wildly creative woman named Ambika had found me on Instagram back in September with a strange project indeed. It tied in dragons and spiritualism and community and alchemy! So of course I was hooked upon our first phone call. This random yet perfect connection via the internet is the way creatives find each other in the modern world. I have been honored to be part of the process of the building of Anima, and will continue to manifest magic with this creative soul who helped draw me out into the world! For there are many sticks that break a camel’s back, but this lovely human was the final straw that untethered me from grad school to run free into the world as an artist. So despite all the nastiness of the internet, it can be quite wonderful for connecting those with similar passions.
Sometimes I feel as though the Fates of Greek myth are spinning the algorithmic strings of destiny that seem to fill our lives with ever-growing instances of coincidence and serendipity in this age of modern magic!
Being a human who loves the woods yet needs connection, the internet has been my way of sending myself out there without having to go there. Whether that be through sculptures, poems, or paintings. Like the Lady of Shallot, I weave tales from my interpretations of life through a far-off mirror, guarded in a tower of geographic and social solitude. That is where I work best. But because of luck, and a lot of time, I have been asked to come places around the world as people can see my passion on the internet. I have had to learn to say yes, and to say no. To realize that the most precious resource is time when you have something you love to do. Here are the lessons I have gleamed from this last sojourn:
Once upon a time…
This is a story about being found in the midst of being lost. About being OK with the feeling of not being OK. About appreciating the sensation of being scared, and finding safety in the unknown and comfort and mystery within both the lightness in the dark. It’s about jumping onto the backs of nightmares and facing fears because that’s the only way to truly be free and know what is not meant to be. That’s the trick right there- we must push through especially when wanting to turn back most. Because if one doesn't pull the splinter out today, they'll have to do it tomorrow. And what’s worse is the day one spends with it left in there, a pain and agitation will take them out of being fully present. Be brave, whether we face a mighty mouse or timid lion... for they are one-in-the same.
Enjoy the struggle in the strife and sail the ups-and-downs inherent within the highs-and-lows of the mind's ocean. Try to keep perspective and know that we’re all going through it. We’re all navigating the same sea. Yes, there are a myriad of different currents of infinite of azul depths. But nevertheless, it’s always the same sea, the same luminous aether.
Fall in love, fall down stairs, stumble into walls, trip over curbs, eat too much, drink too much, sing too loudly, cry your heart out, and laugh all the while! For what is life for is not to mess-up? To embrace the beautiful chaos with open arms of the humor and the optimism of childhood. If you already know this, consider these words a reminder to take that chance, to be both courageous and kind at the mouth of the dragon’s cave. For they are really quite wonderful beasts, if not a bit misunderstood at times. Trust me, I have yet to meet an evil one and I’ve spent my life studying them in the wild.
Being a bit lonely traveling at times, I’ve come to an even greater understanding of how family and friends (both human and animal) are light. I’ve gotten better at reaching out to them when I feel cold or lost. I normally do things alone, but this is not always the way even though for some of us admitting we have a chink in our armor that needs repair can be very hard. And now I will lapse in to medieval metaphor as it makes it easier for me to talk about feelings with a velvet cloak of pageantry taken from a bygone era.
Know that this life is not meant to be faught as a solo-battle between two knights in gleaming armor- how boring! No, this fairytale needs more than a sole skirmish to satisfy its plot, it needs a court of complex characters, grand battles, impossibe quests, and a few evil sorcerers! There have never been stories of kings single-handedly slaying entire armies alone. Always there are knights of the round-table, Merlins to provide guidance along the way and noble steeds to carry those who are lost back-home through the dark woods. In any good tale there are moments of hand-to-hand combat where smaller duels will test a hero’s skills in archery, jousting, juggling, or broadsword. But these small challenges are only meant to prepare one for the grand battles that truly matter. Wars that must be fought together! Hand-in-hand, against the dark that threatens to swallow kingdoms whole. People have always had these systems of camaraderie designed to help when this shadow looms, whether they be in ancient realms of heraldry and oaths or the modern world of business, politics, and universities.
Find these people who make the soul sing. At the end of the day when the calm comes, I’ve found peace in my loving family and purpose in art.
The Forest of Joy and Flowers of Purpose
I’m lucky to have been able to find a living within the tendrils of my childhood calling, but that doesn’t mean my purpose is anchored to my art. Since illustrating brings me joy, I find purpose in it- not the other way around. The key lies in finding the joy and then following the path it leads one down, for it's along this trail that the flowers of purpose bloom. Admire them, notice them. Cut some if you must, and bring them with you! These will be the “art”-ifacts you return from the trail of joy with. Souvenirs of your adventure in the forest of passion, and they may be photos, paintings, sketches, music, meals, or simply memories. There are no rules in this lawless land...
A trail unique to the wanderer….
The world is magical because every-single individual has the ability to find joy in the world. And to thus find purpose is this forest of passion so many creatives take strolls through daily. When I’ve lost my sense of wonder, I go back into my memories of playing dress-up as a kid, running around the woods with stick swords playing fake-war with neighbor kids, drawing horses, and reading fantasy novels. Everyone’s source is unique to them, meaning it yields different results! Hence chefs, architects, decorators, cat lovers, poets, chemists, clerks etc…
Don’t forget an inner compass…
There is really no right or wrong way to go about life outside of straying from one’s sense of truth and joy. Destiny may not be painting, dance, music, money, leadership, children, or adventure. But then again, it may be all those things. Destiny is a mirror that may reflect someone exploring Antarctica or conquering Mount Everest, it may be depicting a quiet green garden or a tiny cabin. Like all things within mirrors though, it follows the gazer, so take the reins! Choice is there, ripe for the picking. We manifest the reflection. So whatever the thing that is beautiful and wonderful appears as in dreams, create it. That is the secret.
To illustrate this point….
When I paint, I imagine fantastical things, and then they appear! Mermaids, gnomes, talking plants, floating castles, timid unicorns, and golden gryphons all appear on my pages like magic. I have so much fun, that I barely feel time pass as I go hunting for these beings of myth, for I’m running along the paths of that forest of joy, in search of a glowing flower to bring back home with me.
This act of getting lost (flow state as they say) in the mind’s woods is one of our greatest gifts. It has allowed people to escape from terrible realities when all light has faded, and given the space needed to spark the dawning of new and wondrous tomorrows. It is alchemy of great magnitude that can take any form. The trick lies in taking note, in listening to the music, in following the heart, as it beats to the very same aria the flowers and the planets sway to in the ever-flowing cosmic breeze of an eternal spring.
The Song of Spring...
Now my friends, this song is the final thing I will touch upon in this entry. For so many ideas, and revelations approach me while traveling, that I often feel myself bubbling over with so much overstimulation that I have hard time even starting to assimilate and synthesize the beauty. For there are an infinite number of ways to the full prism in all its colorful wonder. So will end this piece with the song of spring.
Travel has proven to me that despite location, there is an ever-present melody playing at all times on this beautiful blue globe. It makes the moon swirl around the earth, and the earth swing around the sun! And around which the planets waltz to the grand orchestra of the cosmos. This is a large-scale example that can be easy to forget for terrestrial beings with a deep connection to the soil below and sky above.
When I get out-of-step with this melody, I go to the hills. I’ll look at the grass that grows, and lean against the solid trees, for they really don’t mind. Then I’ll take note of the moss and mushrooms and the spring leaves and how the bird songs sparkle on the breeze.
This song gets louder everytime one feels the warmth of the sunshine in their heart as their dog wags its tail upon their return home. Every time a loved-one calls to check-in. When a stranger goes out-of their way to help. The song of beginnings and of new starts.
Jump into the world. For the inner forest of joy will always be there, but it must be watered by people and places.
Cherish memories, but do not chase them. Look forward to the future, but don’t hurt the eyes staring at it. That’s rude after all, for anyone would get shy if they were gazed at too intently, so just let the future be. (Plus if you dislike extended periods of eye-contact like me this won't be too much of an issue).
And so the world is a forest, a mirror, and a song. What a lovely way to look at things…
Well my friends, there you have it, the majority of lessons learned from this busy start to 2023. I know much magic awaits just around the next bend in the trail, so for now I’m going to close with this for all those who have held on this long. It’s my favorite poem by an English author by the name of Neil Gaimann. He writes modern fairytales, and translations old books of myth. I’d highly recommend American Gods and his short story collection Fragile Things. For he has a way of cloaking the truth in wonderful tapestries of optimism, humor, and a bit of gnarled darkness to keep things interesting. All ages will enjoy his satires for a plethora of reasons.
Now, I give thee the wonderful “Instructions” to head out into the world with:
"Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never
Say "please" before you open the latch,
walk down the path.
A red metal imp hangs from the green-painted
as a knocker,
do not touch it; it will bite your fingers.
Walk through the house. Take nothing. Eat nothing.
However, if any creature tells you that it hungers,
If it tells you that it is dirty,
If it cries to you that it hurts,
if you can,
ease its pain.
From the back garden you will be able to see the
The deep well you walk past leads to Winter's
there is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here,
you can walk back, safely;
you will lose no face. I will think no less of you.
Once through the garden you will be in the
The trees are old. Eyes peer from the under-
Beneath a twisted oak sits an old woman. She
may ask for something;
give it to her. She
will point the way to the castle.
Inside it are three princesses.
Do not trust the youngest. Walk on.
In the clearing beyond the castle the twelve
months sit about a fire,
warming their feet, exchanging tales.
They may do favors for you, if you are polite.
You may pick strawberries in December's frost.
Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where
you are going.
The river can be crossed by the ferry. The ferry-
man will take you.
(The answer to his question is this:
If he hands the oar to his passenger, he will be free to
leave the boat.
Only tell him this from a safe distance.)
If an eagle gives you a feather, keep it safe.
Remember: that giants sleep too soundly; that
witches are often betrayed by their appetites;
dragons have one soft spot, somewhere, always;
hearts can be well-hidden,
and you betray them with your tongue.
Do not be jealous of your sister.
Know that diamonds and roses
are as uncomfortable when they tumble from
one's lips as toads and frogs:
colder, too, and sharper, and they cut.
Remember your name.
Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped
to help you in their turn.
Trust your heart, and trust your story.
When you come back, return the way you came.
Favors will be returned, debts will be repaid.
Do not forget your manners.
Do not look back.
Ride the wise eagle (you shall not fall).
Ride the silver fish (you will not drown).
Ride the grey wolf (hold tightly to his fur).
There is a worm at the heart of the tower; that is
why it will not stand.
When you reach the little house, the place your
you will recognize it, although it will seem
much smaller than you remember.
Walk up the path, and through the garden gate
you never saw before but once.
And then go home. Or make a home.
Thanks again for reading everyone. This is such a joy to put my thoughts down every once-in-awhile. I hope this finds you happy, healthy, and curious:)
Feel free to follow along:) I hope to make more "how to paint like a wizard" content soon. You can subscribe for email updates here