Adios Canada!

After 4 weeks of being immersed into the Canadian culture and living the art life at the Caetani Cultural Centre, we made our way to the border. While it took a full search to get into Canada, it took a wave of the hand to get back into the states. It felt strange. I’m going to miss the incredible customer service and the kindness I found in the Canadian people. Funny how a little line on a map can mark a territory of culture and behaviors.

Now that we are back in the States, I’d like to reminisce about the last two weeks and how regardless of borders, beauty can be found anywhere.

Balancing the Synthetic and Organic Life

Last week in a group call for visual practitioners hosted by Christina Merkley ( she used the term, “synthetic.” Intuitively I got it, but intellectually, I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. It wasn’t until my personal coaching call with her that I realized and truly understood.

While I won’t go into the details of synthetic, I do want to share in this week’s blog post how two weeks ago I lived in the synthetic while building my new website and how in this last week, I lived entirely organic. The only time I touched my phone this past week was when I took a picture, mapped a hike, or found internet access for 10 minutes of a 2-hour trip from our campground to the HOH Rainforest trail. During the 3 days we were camping at Sol Duc in Olympic National Park, I was synthetic less than 5% of the time.

Technology and Flow

Many of you who have been following along in our adventure may recall when I was studying Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and making art. While I am no longer collecting the data in the same way, I am still doing the work. I have found that technology immediately pulls me out of my artistic creative state. But when I was building my new website ( I found that I’m capable of being creative in a fully synthetic environment. I can go for hours and hours. But at the end of the day—while I may feel as if I accomplished something—I feel sick, my ears ring and my eyes hurt.

Screen and still shots of the 4 exemplars I cover in “Unlock Your Neuland Markers,” a free video series for visual practitioners who use Neuland markers in their work.

It was a steep learning curve from setting up a camera to film my hands as I work and instruct to post-production and developing content for a new theme on a website I was building. And it was all happening at once.

On Mother’s Day Sunday, after giving my mom a ‘garden tour’ of the Caetani grounds were I was doing my art residency, I had an interview with Christina Merkley. Many of my visual colleagues know her because they have taken one of her classes. She was interviewing me on how I use lettering in my practice and how that relates directly to graphic recording and graphic facilitation. Your can watch the video interview here.

At the time of our interview, I hadn’t even started creating the website. In fact, I hadn’t even come up with the URL: But by that afternoon I was setting up the camera to record and figuring out how I can make it available online so people can watch it for free.

While I was creating it, I realized that I had a lot more classes to offer online: Lettering Hierarchy and Composition, Chart Titles, Lettering for Sketchnoters, Level Up Your Lettering, 1:1 lettering coaching sessions and thoughts of Mastery of Letterers where I bring in artists to give demos on lettering styles. I’m working on a master plan now which I look forward to launching after we find a place to land after this remarkable journey we are on.

I had no idea…

My dad and my sister often tell me, “You have no idea” when it comes to having kids or how hard their lives are. I just smile and think, “they have no idea what I do for a living or how I do it.” Regardless, it makes me feel clueless. Like I’m walking around not knowing anything. Which is funny because I seem to get along okay.

During our hike on the HOH Rainforest trail. I saw something for the fist time and realized that I had no idea there were so many different hues and shades of green. Everything was green. And the only thing that kept this from being a solid scene of green was the shape of a green fern, next to a moss covered conifer tree, hovering over a small field of bright green clover, then scattered throughout are a variety of deciduous trees all varying at different heights, with different shaped leaves. The shadows created by the light streaming through the canopy offer another layer of distinction. As do the highlights themselves.

Green throughout the HOH Rainforest Trail. Photo by Ray.

During our walk 3 miles up to the waterfall I counted over 35 different colors of green. Then we came across a green slug. While I have a special place in my heart for snails, slugs are an entirely different story. And this one too was green! I was so upset over seeing a slug that I stopped counting. And it was such a strange color green I figured I had seen every version of green anyway.

Pictured left: from bridge to top of the forest, our backdrop for lunch. Upper right: that damned slug. Midle right: National Park postcards are a thing of beauty. Lower right: light peaks through the canopy onto the forest floor.

Disgusted, and full of knew knowledge of all things green, I moved onto other thought topics.

Logging Lessons

Wind Fall, a.k.a Blow-Down, is common in the forest. Huge trees everywhere fall like giants and lay still as they accumulate moss, become habitats for flora and fauna as it decays. You can’t fully appreciate a tall tree and what it’s like until one frames you as you walk along the trail. Many are like walls, some as tall as you, covered in moss and oftentimes hotbeds for new spruce that grow straight up from the base of a fir tree.

Interpretive signs can be helpful. But if you really want to have a good time in teh woods, take a logger with you.

Having a retired logger walk behind you during hikes is like having a personal guide in the forest. I am always curious about how a maintenance crew on a trail cuts through 100+ year old fallen tree and rolls it to the side so we can pass through. Some of the logs we found took several cuts either because they were too long to roll or too wide and heavy.


Oftentimes I can hear Ray say, look how that tree fell and knocked down that other tree. But what’s fun is when he will stop dead in his tracks and say, “now why did they cut that tree like that?” I’ll ask what happened and together between my questions and his knowledge, I will get a play by play on his synopsis of a logger falling a tree. From the length of his saw, where he was standing, conditions of the environment, why a tree would be cut and how, how long it would take, how many people it would take, etc.

Some of the stories are familiar because I think I have heard them before. But I always like hearing them because I learn something. And I’m always surprised at learning of all the many ways one can get hurt logging.

Ray explains to me how this tree was fallen and the dangers of falling trees.

With the knowledge of a veteran logger and a seriousness I’ve never seen before, Ray shares the dangers of falling trees with me. His voice changes when he talks about these things. I had to stop him and start over so I could capture a 1-minute sound bite. You can watch a short video and listen to him here. Sorry, to redirect you from this article, but this version of WordPress doesn’t offer audio or video (thanks free WordPress). So I put this portion near the end of this week’s report.

Lucky for me, no matter how long or short a hike is, I always learn something. Logging: another topic I had no idea about. Also new to us: lawn bowling and taking Flo on the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry.

Pictured from left to right, top to bottom: Thanks Trent for sending Ray a customized birthday card. Ray takes up lawn bowling in Vernon where we were coached by the 2016 champs. Flo takes a ride with us on the Walla Walla Ferry.

In related news…


In case you don’t follow me on social media, you can check out the following updates on my recent work with Christina Merkley here:

  • Review by Christina about her experience taking the lettering workshop I offered in Vancouver.
  • Video interview with Christina about how I incorporate my lettering in my graphic recording/graphic facilitation practice.

If you want to learn about her offerings, visit

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