STORIES FROM THE WOODS XV ~ HOW the QUEST is Done !

FITZ in N. Cascades N.Park 2015
QUEST 2016 –  begins my fourth year painting “live” in each of the 59 National Parks.
 There is no place like home for the holidays. Just a few weeks ago – the Solo Show of my newest National Park Paintings opened at the Design Studio International Gallery in the Laguna Design Center and when I asked the audience how many were reading my STORIES FROM THE WOODS  – I was thrilled when almost every hand went up ! It makes it all worth it – to know that so many of you readers are getting a kick out of my wildlife discoveries and vicariously living through my adventures in our National Parks !

Thank you for your enthusiasm, and now to answer some of your frequent questions –

 Yes, I am loving the Freedom I feel when immersed in monumental beauty –  untouched by man –  as mighty as only God can create !
No, it is not easy to live with few comforts and be so vulnerable to the elements. You must discipline yourself to own and travel with less, including the limitation on water usage.
 Yes, I am loving all of the daily inspiration I am absorbing while surrounded by fresh greens and vibrant fragrances permeating from the lush vegetation. Abundant life is continuously growing and changing while peace fills my ears and penetrates my heart ! I do not miss shopping or things. The longer I live in nature the more I let go of things. There is true Freedom in not being ruled by the constant wanting of more things. Man-land bombards you with its distractions  from morning till night ! In fact, as you become more deeply connected with nature and your daily life is more involved with the colors of the seasons – you simply let go of wanting more man-land things – because the most beautiful real things are already all around you ! Your spirit will slowly open up and feel so full of what is pure beauty and truth that you will feel good – you will feel the peace of being apart of the perfect Oneness of all creation. All is One – You can be One with Nature – start tuning in now. Start by listening to the birds that live right around you – start seeking beauty with your eyes and focus on it – rather than
man-land’s concrete, billboards, and commercials.
I feel happier, healthier, calmer and more in tune with the rhythms and rhymes of nature. Nature is nurturing my Spirit – I feel its potent healing influence and the stress from man-land is rinsed away.  My greatest comfort is the growing Peace that is deeply rooting in my Spirit. The more I live from my higher self – my Spirit – the better the quality of my daily life.  I focus on using my God-given gifts of painting and writing and am inspired to create because I feel the Oneness with all of creation and it’s pulsating passion for life.
Your next Question: How do I start out on my QUEST – once I have landed in a new National Park ?
Before ever reaching the Park – I will have read as much as I can from a variety of sources – so I have a broad overall vision of that particular park on arrival.
It is wonderful for all of us to now have the advantage of the Ken Burns brilliant video series – The National Parks !
 
Upon arrival, the first place I head for is that Park’s Visitor Center. I’ve learned that it is wise to be aware of all of the Highlights of the park and decide what you want most to experience in the time frame you have. Then prioritize and go for it when the weather is right ! A Secret I will share with you – give up YOUR planned list – Go With Nature – that’s the secret ! What that means is – if it is sunny the first day you get there –  do not kid yourself – get out in it with your camera – too often the first day is your best bet ! Also, if the day is sunny and hot – seek the shady hike along the river. If the day is very cold – hike in the warmest part of the day and be back before sunset ! These are examples of what I mean when I share with you how I have learned some things the hard way. It is best to flow with nature – Guaranteed – she will not conform to your plans !
After carefully researching my new National Park – reviewing weather reports and realizing the time limitations ( if up in mountains –  it is dark at 5pm – You must be back or it is so black you can’t see your hand in front of you and it gets colder every 10 min. after the sun sets ! )
Then I wake up – feel the day out – check the weather again for the whole day – THEN – I decide what direction to take !
Dressing for the entire day of weather – very often requires layering your underclothes, shirts, sweatshirts – so you are able to start in the cool morning air – hike through the full-sun middle of the day and return in cooling afternoon shadows !
Must pack enough water – always ! I pack a whole picnic and some favorite snacks to make it enjoyable through all the different moods of the day. Yes, I often pack a special treat for those miraculous sunset moments! I wear the appropriate hat for that day – considering wind possibilities.  I also pack a Red Cross Pocket Knife, handkerchief, sunblock, chapstick and a whistle.
Setting Out – on a fresh trail to a new place I have never been before is thrilling to me !  I am already breathing hard with excitement, my eyes darting every where – taking in the particular light of the Park – its smells – its mysterious character unfolding step by step. All along the way, I am writing little notes and drawing quick sketches as reminders of the different intriguing scenes. Quick with the finger on the trigger of my camera – I’ve learned to be always ready to capture that second when a wild animal makes its sudden appearance !
I will hike, ride a horse, kayak, go up in a gondola, – whatever it takes to get to that Ultimate Scene that beckons my Spirit to paint ! Planning ahead, I will spend as many days as the park merits on the search – all the while learning about the birds and wildlife that are indigenous. I am hear to learn and grow – that makes my life as lovely as being a child again !  Fascinating to witness the geology and formation of the landscape – volcanoes to caves – there is so much to explore. Not to mention the magical world of the startling night sky !
Usually what happens is the Ultimate Scene finds me – I’ll be moving along and it will suddenly hit me as I turn the corner or reach the summit –  there it is all laid out before me ! Then I embrace this scene by returning to it at different times of the day – studying its nuances – realizing its personal light.
Finally, I pack up my portable easel, tubes of oil paint, and carry them off to the Ultimate Scene –  day after day until the painting takes on the iconic profile and essence that is unique to that National Park.
Once I brought a friend with me when I was on the QUEST and actively searching for the Ultimate Scene – after miles and miles of hiking –  he said “I would like to eat now are we there ? “ I replied no  – I’m not feeling it yet – further and then a little further – then suddenly the view opened up on the pristine ocean cove that inspired me to paint  “ Utopia, Santa Cruz, Channel Islands National Park, Ca.”
Yes, I am more excited than ever to be saddling up for the QUEST – 2016 !
Heading out to Sequoia National Park, Ca. –  to catch some snow. Then down to Joshua Tree National Park for some – fun in the desert sun ! What National Parks are you going to this year ?
2016 Begins the Fourth Year on the QUEST –  to paint ‘live’ in every National Park in America ! Now having totally committed my life and talents to help promote and protect the Parks, I am traveling by truck and trailer to each Park. Then hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in search of the ultimate scene. Finally setting up with portable easel and oil paints, I set out to capture in paint, the wonders that make each National Park a treasure to Americans and all the people of the world !