Day by Day, Step by Step in Yosemite

TODAY is the first day of my Yosemite series, which will appear for the next twelve weekdays, each day at 10:00am Pacific Time, on my Wild Tomato Arts blog. I recently spent twelve days in Yosemite National Park, six days backpacking and six days as a volunteer with Yosemite Conservancy.Come with me and enjoy the illustrated journey in one of our nation's treasures.

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Listen to my podcast on Self-Confidence with Sheena Yap Chan

Sheena Yap Chan is creating a valuable resource for women everywhere, with her podcast The Tao of Self-Confidence.She recently interviewed me, and I hadn't thought about the topic of confidence for quite some time. It had never occurred to me that I lacked self-confidence, because I had always been a high achiever. But in the interview, I realize that my source of confidence has shifted from outer accomplishments to an invisible inner source.

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Remember, Celebrate, and Acknowledge...YOU

One way to define love is "sustained, compassionate attention". These words came from John Muir Laws, a naturalist, educator, and artist who inspires stewardship of the land by sharing his practice of nature sketching. When I read these words, I began to see the importance of my own art practice in developing sustained, compassionate attention for myself.

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Coming Full Circle

  Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose Medical degree burningI recently returned from a week-long stay in Keystone, Colorado. I was there with a small group of physicians gathered to restore their voice to the practice of medicine.

How I got there was through a series of events I can only call synchronicity.

What I felt was a profound feeling of "coming home".

I showed up as all of me, in full color. My role was to listen deeply and expansively, and I chose to record what I heard in visual form.

It was as if everything I practiced was serving me in my service to this gathering. Each morning I woke early and rode my rented bike along the many trails around Keystone. I listened to the Snake River winding its way through the trees. I inhaled with awe each time I arrived at the vista of Lake Dillon. I clawed my way up a steep hill only to be rewarded with the jackpot of a stunning view of Breckenridge and beyond.

I had learned from these past few years of practicing self-care that these morning steps were my fuel for being present and thinking creatively. I knew what to do - even in an environment away from my familiar surroundings at home - because I had practiced them into new habits. I had my biking clothes, I was comfortable riding, and all I had to do was explore new roads and read new maps.

I also had my daily sketching and art journaling practice in place, something I started only within the last two years. I have experimented with many different formats and media, and I am comfortable drawing outside. On this trip, I brought a small Moleskine Japanese album with accordion pages. It fit in my small travel purse or pocket, and I carried a pouch with pen, markers, and water brushes.

On my morning rides, I often sketched a scene quickly in ink, filling in color later in the day or in the evening. I noticed what I noticed. I took note of the stories I wanted to tell. And by the time I got home, there were three or four panels that needed coloring, which I completed within a few days.

New experiences, new people, new places -- all of these fuel my creativity and keep me inspired.

I am grateful for the daily practices I cultivate at home, so I am well-prepared to stay open when I'm on the road.

For a frame-by-frame caption story of my Keystone travel journal, see my post here.

For an in-depth reflection on the contents of the physician meeting and its impact on me personally, stay tuned!

A Journey in Sketches

I recently returned from a week-long stay in Keystone, Colorado. I documented my journey in daily sketches created in a Moleskine Japanese album (small size). My tools were Pigma Micron ink pens, Faber Castell Pitt Artist pen, Kuretake Clean Color Real Brush markers, Derwent watercolour pencils, Sakura Koi field sketch watercolor set, and Kuretake waterbrushes. First, the SFO airport. There was an exhibit on Art Deco and I loved the patterns, colors, and shapes in it. Since I had a couple of hours to wait for my delayed flight, I started sketching and painting.DSC06899DSC06900I went back to photograph the original pieces that had inspired my memory.

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Then I looked over my shoulder to see that a large watercolor mural had been placed high up, near the ceiling. I copied the quote on the painting and general feeling of it.

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Then I noticed the number of billboards in this terminal devoted to issues of network security and cyber attacks. I captured this by placing three of the ones I remembered together.DSC06902

On my flight I read two magazines I never usually read. One had Amy Poehler on the cover as one of the "100 Most Creative People In Business". The other had a headline and article I will never forget (much as I would like to), entitled, "Why Die?". It describes the efforts of PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel's multi-billion-dollar venture fund's investments in biotech. He is focused on "eradicating death" from human experience, envisioning a future in which this "disturbing inconvenience" is made obsolete.DSC06903

I road Colorado Mountain Express shuttle from the Denver airport to Keystone. I captured a few quick sketches of what that ride is like. Flat flat flat, then you're in the Front Range, with walls on either side and endless ranges unfolding in front of you.

I-70 from Denver Airport to the Front Range I-70 on the way to Keystone from Denver I-70 Eisenhower Tunnel from Denver to Silverthorne Colorado

My driver was a Keystone local, and he recommended the Mexican restaurant directly across the street from my airbnb condo - Dos Locos. I hadn't rented a car, so this seemed like a perfect dinner option on my first night. Ended up being the best pork chile verde I've ever had! Plus some great conversations with locals.

dos locos mexican cantina in Keystone

The altitude was noticeable right away, and I was glad I came equipped with plenty of water, hydration mix, energy bars, and herbal tea. essentials for high altitude travel - yogi tea vapur element bottle kind bar and scratch hydration mix

I had plenty of room to stretch out in my studio rental from airbnb.

my studio airbnb rental

I woke up early and took a walk, noticing the wildflowers along the Snake River. I also almost walked right into a mama moose and her twin calves, standing in the road and munching on some leaves. They looked like horses until they turned their heads and I could see the shape of their snouts. Their legs were also extra lanky.mama moose and her twin calves at Keystone

morning wildflowers Keystone Colorado July 2015 field of wildflowers Keystone Colorado July 2015

Colorado wildflower sketchesColorado wildflower sketchesWhen eight o'clock rolled around, I was first in line for a bike rental at Mountain View Sports, next door to Dos Locos. I took a quick ride of about 10 miles round trip, not sure how the elevation would affect me. The first glimpse of Lake Dillon gave me motivation for the next morning's ride.Biking from Keystone to Dillon Reservoir sketch

Lake Dillon Morning July 2015 Colorado

I was ambitious and determined to find the Natural Grocers store I had researched in Dillon. I had no idea whether I would be cooking my own meals for the week, so this was part of my self-care plan: find the local organic grocery store. One very steep hill climb nearly shredded my lungs, but I made it. Awesome staff, beautiful food, and a great thing to find while traveling.DSC06916

Dillon Natural Grocers Store Colorado

It was raining by the time I got to the store, so the helpful ladies showed me the schedule for Summit Stage, the Summit County free bus system. I could have gone to Vail, Breckenridge, or any of the neighboring towns all for free on this system! Instead, I put my bike on the rack in front, and took the ride back to Keystone, where the sun was shining and my five-minute ride back to the condo was easy. DSC06913

The next day I rode in the opposite direction, up Montezuma Road. Montezuma is a ghost town, and Montezuma Road hugs the banks of the Snake River heading east out of Keystone. I only got about a third of the way from Keystone to Montezuma, but I was rewarded with a lovely view of the canyon and riverbed. Montezuma Road Snake River Morning Colorado July 2015

Montezuma Road Snake River morning Colorado July 2015

I also took a moment to create my "ode to aspen trees". Aspens are everywhere in this part of Colorado, and when the wind blows, their leaves do a dance that looks like "jazz hands" to me.DSC06915Later in the afternoon, I had about an hour to sit by the lake and do some reflection. The theme of that day was fear and courage. I was thinking a lot about how fear turns into courage, and how we can facilitate that transformation in ourselves.DSC06919 DSC06920 DSC06921The next ride I did was Swan Mountain Road Trail, which leads from Keystone to Breckenridge, which requires climbing a big hill. I started out early, and didn't know how far I would go. The light was gorgeous, and the wildflowers were everywhere on this paved trail. I kept thinking I would turn around but every turn brought new wonders! I finally reached the summit and the reward was a jackpot view of Dillon Reservoir.Swan Mountain Road bike trail Keystone Dillon Breckenridge Colorado

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Saturday I did not take a big ride, but simply captured this feeling from all the love I experienced during the conference.

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Did I mention my reason for being in Keystone? IMG_1037Through what I can only call cosmic alignment, I was invited to be part of the Let My Doctor Practice Summit. This was both a virtual and live gathering of physicians committed to restoring their voices to the practice of medicine in America. I had spent the week taking notes during the webcast portion of the summit, and then on Saturday I captured as many of the back-to-back live talks as I could, going through almost three complete pads of easel paper! Now that I am home, my next project is to go through all the drawings, check for accuracy, and assemble the individual images into a book. Here are some examples of the drawings and the live proceedings of the Summit:

Sunday morning I took the 9am transport from Mountain View Sports to Vail Pass. I road 26 miles back through Copper Mountain, Ten Mile Canyon, Frisco, Dillon (the perimeter ride of Lake Dillon is GORGEOUS!), and back to Keystone to feed the ducks and geese in the pond. I also bought some local jerky, local honey, local organic stone fruit, local corn, and a locally baked gluten-free lemon-lavender muffin.

DSC06926 DSC06927Vail Pass Bike Trail Ten Mile Creek along Vail Pass bike trail Farm Stand near Frisco

As I sipped a chai in Frisco and reflected on the themes I had just witnessed during the Summit, an article in the local paper announced that the CEO of Vail Resorts had donated one million dollars to his alma mater, the Wharton School, to fund research on Leadership and Emotional Intelligence. These three words popped into my mind as not only the keys to leadership in business, but leadership in any arena in today's evolving world:

passion participation trust - leadership qualities for the new era

What Feeds You?

Circle of Life

"When you touch one thing with awareness, you touch everything." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Since moving to the coastside community of Half Moon Bay three years ago, I've become more and more inspired by farmers. Specifically, local organic farmers and the ecosystems they steward. I am not sure how this evolution happened, but somewhere along the way, in the age of industrial farming and processed foods, in the trance of busyness that convinced me to prioritize my "job" over taking the time to feed myself well, I woke up to the way farmers are actually key players in the health care ecosystem.

For me, the past few weeks have included the following. On the first Saturday of May, my acoustic rock duo provided the live music for our local farmers' market. Our evolution from being loyal customers to becoming more active participants in the ecosystem providing this precious resource for our community has been a dream come true for the kind of musicians we desire to be. We play for tips, lettuce, strawberries, olive oil, bread, chocolate, a bit of cash, and a big dose of the love that comes from knowing we are feeding the community with our art and joy.

Two weeks ago, I became a member of my first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This means I signed up to get a box of locally grown, organic produce delivered to my door by a farm collective every two weeks. In each box is a note from Farmer Paul, with a poetic missive on his observations in the field, followed by some bullet points on "how to be a great and green member of the farm family". These two lines really hit home for me:

"Remember, you are not a customer; you are a shareholder in our farm.

Paying your bill is not enough. Owning a share means doing your share."

The "aha" for me was that I do have a responsibility. I was not just "buying" a box of food delivered to my door each week. I am now responsible for holding a piece of the thread. I am now a weaver of our local ecosystem. I am adding my voice to the chorus saying "Yes!" to locally grown organic produce, picked by hand, delivered by hand, and gifted to us all by the land. Do you feel that? We are gifted our food from the land. The land is not a factory. It is a generous donor and partner. And what we give to the land it gives back to us in multiples.

Several days later, I attended a lecture by Daphne Miller, MD, a family physician and author of the book, Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing. Her curiosity about the relationship between her patients' health and the health of our soil led her on a global odyssey to visit small family-owned farms, as well as agricultural scientists and ecologists studying organic farming practices. The one-sentence summary of her talk was, "We are the soil." What we put into the earth, we put into ourselves. And what we put into ourselves, we also put back into the earth.

All of this has gotten me thinking more about both how we feed our world, and how we are fed by our world.

The thought seeds that take root in our consciousness create feelings which course through the cells of our body as chemical signals and are digested in each cell, creating our experience of life.

Imagine the gut - our digestive system - as the place where our feelings about the world are taken in, broken down and digested into the elements that fuel our entire being system of Soul+Body+Mind, driving our decisions and actions in the world.

Each of us is a mini ecosystem living within a sphere of progressively larger ecosystems - our bodies, our relationships, our homes, our families, our communities, our nations, our planet, and our cosmos. Mindfulness of food - what we put into our mouths - equals mindfulness of what we take in from our experience of life and what we perceive through our consciousness.

When we touch the essence of "WE ARE THE SOIL", we see that what we feed our consciousness we also feed to our world.

What are some things you can do now, in your world, to live more from this awareness?

  • walk outside and breathe fresh air...imagine and feel the air feeding every cell of your body
  • notice the products you choose that wash down the drain -- this eventually becomes part of our soil
  • plant a garden
  • walk barefoot in or touch actual soil or living earth
  • vote with your dollars and support a local organic farmer in your area
  • receive the sounds in your environment and notice how they are feeding you
  • clean up your thinking...junk thoughts equals junk food
  • love what you feel and trust your gut

Your mind may react to this list as being too simple to have an impact. But I believe we can each find our own way of remembering the ecosystems we are already part of. And when we remember, we touch everything in our world in a new way.

We can reclaim our position as owners again...not just customers, but holders of our own share in this web of life.

Greeting Fear with Love

Fear has been up for me lately. I'm stepping into new unknowns and therefore a new level of courage is required. And in order to function, I've woken up to a new way of greeting fear. Instead of trying to beat it down, or conquer it, which both contain the quality of resistance, I practiced this: "It's OK, fear. Come on in. You are welcome here. Sit down at my table."

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