The inklings of Explore a Slice of Earth began February 2017. At this time, my family and I were finally settled nicely in our NH home after a cross country move. I was really starting to enjoy the simplified life I was consciously cultivating for myself. The days were simple and easy and the nights were full of deep sleep. Life was good. Most normal people would probably just leave it at that and kick back with their feet up until their funeral. I almost wish I could have been contented with the simple life. But something was clawing at me from the inside, needing to get out into the world. I didn't know quite what it was, and frankly, it was scary.
So I turned inward and did lots of journaling which led to my typical doodling which led to zentangles which led to people wanting to buy my zentangles and wanting tattoos of my zentangles .... woah. That stopped me in my tracks. This silly doodling I've been doing all these years in margins and on napkins .... people actually wanted to pay money for them?! Taking money for my own personal self felt like highway robbery because this gift comes so naturally, so I didn't. Everyone got free art! And while I could have merrily continued that route for the rest of my life, I still needed to dig deeper and find a purpose for my art that really set my heart on fire.
I started to go on more hikes and nature walks to think about what I wanted my art to do in this world. I let my mind wander whilst getting lost in pattern designs by Mother Nature herself. By April 2017, I found myself stopping often on hikes to examine bark patterns, flower patterns, rock patterns (yes, even rocks have very precise patterns if you stop to look close enough!) I finally brought a little doodle book with me on a hike one day and set up shop near wildflowers and started to draw nature specimens. I felt so silly at first, stopping to draw the flowers. Like I was a 1st grader on a nature walk field trip.
But as a freehand flower mandala was born in that moment, the silliness was quickly replaced with an inner peace that I haven't ever felt before. It was as if the world stopped turning, and the nature buzzed around me clearer than ever before. And in that very moment, as I was making art in the great outdoors, it hit me.
I need to use my art to somehow benefit the great outdoors. Duh. It was right in front of me this whole time! Literally! And after that day, many, many nature-inspired mandalas and zentangles were been born. They couldn't stop flowing from my soul to my fingertips and out onto the paper. They still haven't stopped flowing!
After I had that moment of awakening in which I knew I had to connect my art with nature, I spent weeks and weeks finetuning my ideas and plans. Initially, I thought it would be so simple: sell art, collect the proceeds, and donate the monies to a nature-related charity. So cute and easy, right? Nope.
My first obstacle was which platform to use to sell my art for a good cause. I explored the typical platforms - Etsy, Facebook shops, eBay, etc - but none of those were suitable for selling my art for a benefit purpose. Aka: who was really going to believe that I'm donating the proceeds to XYZ Cause if I'm selling products through an unreated platform? No one, that's who.
Randomly, I ended up talking to my sister about this dilemma. Leave it to Smarty Pants Sister to come up with the solution: "Oh, you just need to start your own charity with its own shop then. Be your own platform." WHO, ME?! Start something OFFICIAL like that from the ground up? Don't, like, *important* people do that? I don't know the first thing about registering my own vehicle, let alone starting my own charity from scratch. I tried to dismiss the suggestion. But the idea clung to me enough for me to do some surface research. I learned that with some time, patience, the willingness to learn, and boatloads of passion, anyone with a brain and $100 can start up one of these babies!
So I had the art. I had a general plan to sell the art and other methods of fundraising. But the exact purpose the charity was still a mysterty to me. As much as I wanted to say "Mission: Nature" and start throwing money at the trees, this was too general. The legal forms for a benefit corporation need a leeeeeetle more info than that. For about 2 months, I was totally stumped on what the perfect cause should be. Until I took my June 2017 week-long backpacking trip through the Blue Ridge Moutains......
On my backpacking trip, I met a family of 5 who I shared a campsite with one night. I don't remember their names or even where they came from, nor do they even know how much they inspired me, but I remember that the mom and dad were taking their 3 kids out on a 2-week backcountry backpacking trip. I shared an evening at the picnic table with the family, swapping stories and cooking food. They were good, wholesome people. The following morning we said our goodbyes, as I continued North on the AT and they headed South.
During my miles on that day, I couldn't stop thinking HOW COOL it was that this was their family *vacation.* I suddenly wished that more families were out on the trail, and in the same thought, I wondered what it would cost for a family of 5 to take a 2-week backpacking trip. Well, I knew my that own gear as a solo hiker had cost me a total of $2k, and that was being extremely frugal and taking hand-me-downs when possible. You can do the math from there.
I had a heavy heart after that math. I was feeling really discouraged that it is expensive and therefore unaccessible for some families to fully explore and be immersed in the great outdoors. I carried that heavy heart for a couple of miles, until it hit me like a sack of rocks. My mission popped into my head:
The proceeds from my art and fundraisers will go toward funding and planning various outdoor family adventures, complete with all the necessary gear, while promoting stewardship and respect of nature.
The instant that my mind made this epiphany, the floodgates opened as I hiked. And they didn't stop for at least another 2 miles. It was a true cry of joy. That was it. That was my mission. I knew it in my gut in that very instant, and the same feeling still resides in my gut, even stronger, to this day.
This is just the beginning. This is my newborn right now. I have so many dreams, plans, and aspirations for the organization. My heart feels so full, so wonderfully complete, knowing that my art is creating a path to aid families and communities to explore new slices of this beautiful earth.
Life purpose: found.