Lover of nature, color, art, life, adventure. Choosing to find beauty. I hope you can find inspiration and joy while you're here.


Peace Out, Peace

Oh, friends. I gave it the good college try this year with my word of the year (WOTY). Here's how it went down:

The word I picked for 2014 was 'peace' and it was much needed. I realized that I was driving my family crazy with my busyness and non-stop to-dos. They wouldn't ever say anything to me about it because they are super supportive and way too nice, but I could tell they were getting exhausted being dragged around all willy-nilly.

So, in one of my little self-evaluations at the end of the year when I was considering a word to explore, I became keenly aware of the need in our lives (because of mine) to introduce peace. I realized I had to get to know peace a little more personally and learn how to incorporate it into my life.

I knew the most efficient way to make that happen would be to settle down a little bit...or a lot. I took a much-needed break from my to-do lists and considered the level of burnout I was about to encounter. As is usual with the whole WOTY experience, I considered and incorporated many avenues of exploration. This year, though, the most significant change I made was to not be driven daily by my to-do list and to take some time to relax.

Although it was hard work, I managed to take a chill pill and turn into a lazy person. I think my family really loved it, but I only made it approximately 9.5 months before I couldn't take it anymore. I'm happy to say my to-do list is back and I'm finding that motivation I thought I had lost for good. I made a good effort, but I'm relieved to be back!

It's not like my WOTY went unused (as if anyone could benefit from peace), I merely realized that one aspect of the word wasn't working so well for me. And, I still learned a lot. I'm making a bigger effort to not let my to-do list exist for the sake of doing things, but to use it as a tool to focus in on the things that are most important.

And, good news: I already have a great word for next year and I'm excited to see where it leads me! I love how adopting a word for a year really influences my perspective. It's become a meaningful practice for me that I will continue for a good long while.

Do you have a word of the year or another meaningful practice you'd like to share?


Forest Cones Watercolor Series

Inspiration is so easy to come across in the forest. It's a place of peace, refuge, and full of raw reminders of the life and death experiences we will all eventually share. Often on my hikes I'll pick up little nature mementos of the places I go and the feelings that grow in those places. I bring them home where they serve as gentle reminders to choose goodness and gratitude.

Mini-me has exhibited similar habits (...maybe it's genetic? ...maybe environmental?) and for most of her little life has collected pretty much every single pine cone she's come across. She still presents me with fistfuls of cones, and although I don't keep every single one she gives me, I do take the time to look each one over and see what it's all about.

Even though I've examined an infinite amount of pine cones in the last few years, I always find something that surprises me. I have noticed that each one is unique when I take the time to really examine it. I think people are a lot like that, too. When you look at something as part of a collection, you focus on the similarities, but when you look at something individually, you notice the quirky beauty that makes it unlike any other. I selected some of my favorite cones that we've gathered from evergreens in our area to showcase some of the variety we get to enjoy around here in a series of life-size watercolors:

Black Spruce

Lodgepole Pine
Douglas Fir
Blue Spruce
Jeffrey Pine
I spent some serious hours on these, and let me tell you, I got to know these guys pretty well, like, at a personal level. We're pretty much best friends by now, these cones and me. When you get to know something so well you really learn to love it. I love their tiny details and color nuances.

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised at seeing details for the first time on something that previously seemed everyday? It's quite the refreshing perspective!

If you'd like to, you can also see a similar watercolor series of found feathers here.


Gratitude vs. Thanks

I love this time of year! I love that people focus on gratitude and the most meaningful aspects of their lives. I love the positive vibes, especially around Thanksgiving in the US. It's a time for us to gather with our families and pay special attention to the blessings we have received throughout the year.

I don't know about you, but I have been blessed with so much! I came from a (relatively) sane background with parents who wanted the best for me. They made sure I had a good education and encouraged me in my pursuits. I have a nutty family that I love so much (and who love me back!) anyway. I have kind and intelligent friends who are spiritual giants. I have an amazing relationship with my Dreamguy. I have a smart and cheerful daughter. I have a comfortable and adventurous life and have had many opportunities I wouldn't have dreamed would have been afforded me. I have chances to reconnect with nature on the regular, and have been to some incredible places in this huge world. I have truly been blessed.

In the spirit of the season, I've been sharing a #monthofgratitude post every day this month on Instagram. I've pondered on the many things I have in my life to be thankful for, and I've realized that there is a definite difference between gratitude and thanks. I wish Thanksgiving were called Gratitudegiving because I think it would be taken more seriously with more intention. Gratitude is more like an attitude or way of living, and thanks is a reaction.

Don't get me wrong, thanks is wonderful, but it is giving thanks that begets gratitude, the more deep-rooted and wise mother of the two. Thanks is shown through words. Gratitude is shown through actions. Gratitude requires an added measure of maturity and an extra step. It requires a follow up and a reciprocation of your thanks.

So, I'd like to invite you to join in this tradition of gratitudegiving. It's never too late to start showing gratitude, and if you start now (if you don't already have such a tradition), your mind will be in a thoughtful and open place come Thanksgiving Day. Warning, though: once you start counting your blessings, it's hard to stop!

What have you done lately to express your thanks and act on your gratitude?


Behind the Scenes: Mistakes

So, we all know the internet tells lies all day long. It fibs about people and their lifestyles and it has this knack for making people feel less than they are. It proposes ridiculous expectations and stretches the reality of actual real life by showing only the sparkliest of sparkles. One reason for such glittery goodness, though, is to project professionalism, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Being selective about the content and making it more beautiful (or highlighting the found beauty) isn't anything to be ashamed of.

However, I was pondering this very topic the other night and as I was flipping through my sketchbook realized that it might be interesting to see the all-too-truthful context regarding an  Instagram post from a few weeks ago.

And this is what that sketchbook page looks like in its entirety:

(I threw in the messy counter as a little peek into my reality. You're welcome, extra bonus. Obviously I have better things to do with my life than keep that huge counter spotless all the livelong day.)

As you can see, the little doodle I posted was not my first attempt. And, it also wasn't a finished piece of artwork by any means. It was even doctored up a little to increase the contrast. And it still wasn't perfect. I mean, take a close look at that "N", would you?

However, it was still the best out of the few attempts I took at doodling this phrase. The other two took a skiwampus turn for the worse and had to be abandoned. So, mistakes. They happen. You can either get dejected and turn it into a huge deal or you can study it and improve the next time. What I'm trying to say is that all those effortless photos that are plastered all over the internet may not be that effortless after all. More likely, hours of work as well as trial and error went into the production (and post-production, let's be real) of something beautiful, and you shouldn't expect immediate perfection from yourself or others without first encountering a few mistakes.

I'm not one to become easily discouraged when I make a mistake. Sure, it's embarrassing (darn typos!) but by golly, I'm human, so I do what I can and get over the rest. It's more of an means and less of an end, you know? Also, I feel relieved and trust people easier when they are real about their little lives. I always feel more at ease when I know someone is just a regular person after all.

Do you feel the same way? What do you think the difference is between editing + curating and living a life full of lies?


Hand-drawn Sympathy Card

Just popping in real quick-like to share this little hand-drawn sympathy card I doodled:

Because of the peeking window, I layered the pine bough, feather, and berries wreath on both the inside and the outside of the card. Honestly, though, I was having a difficult time of it trying to find the right words to say, so I kept drawing and adding to my doodle until I had my thoughts collected and could write the message that was in my heart. You can see I had to think for a while on this one.

That's one of the things I love about drawing. It is my heart's purest message when words fail. And it's therapeutic. It helps me concentrate on the important things in my life.

What helps you concentrate the best or share your heart when you otherwise struggle to?


Deadwood's Mount Moriah Cemetery

Deadwood was a charming little stop on our trip to gorgeous South Dakota. It's a tiny historic mining town tucked up inside a narrow canyon. We could have stayed forever exploring every nook and cranny (there have got to be like two dozen haunted sites there, just saying) but we went with a purpose: to check out the Mount Moriah Cemetery.

You may or may not know that we love cemeteries. Like, we could geek out about them for forever. Visiting them is something we would do if we had all the time in the world. We've been known to pull into cemeteries that look particularly interesting and take a couple hours perusing them. (Weird fact, we got engaged in one! So fitting.) And, I married me a history buff, who has an affinity for the wild west, so we made sure to hit up the cemetery in Deadwood, for sure.

Guys. This cemetery is one of our top three we've been to. We went there to pay homage to Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane and found their resting places without any troubles. It's up on a mountain (surprise--the name is to be taken literally--some hiking required) so the grave plots are terraced, which gives an amazing affect. It is beautiful and rich with character.

Well, this concludes the last installment of our South Dakota trip. (If you haven't already, check out the previous posts here, here, here, here, and here) Thanks for hanging out through all these pit stops! I was blown away with the beauty and grandeur in South Dakota. (Who knew?) I know it's nothing new to some people, but It's like we discovered one of America's most best-kept secret gems and I would see myself going back several times. I can't believe we waited to long to plan this trip.

So, what about you? Are you cemetery traipsers too? I know it's not for everyone, but I'm curious to know. If not cemetery-goers, are you South Dakota-goers? Because you totally should be.