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Finding Inspiration in the PNW: My Lodged Out experience

Photo by Maren Nelson.

Its crazy how these things happen.

I was laying in bed just doing that mindless scroll we all do before we call it a day when a new friend of mine, Andrea, sent me a screenshot. The image was of a call to makers, specifically for creative women of color, to submit some words about themselves and what they do in order to win a scholarship to the next winter Lodged Out event at Tall Timbers Ranch in Leavenworth, WA. I do not consider myself a lucky person because I have never won anything in my 25 years of life, but that never stops me from trying. I rolled over and sat up straight in my bed to more clearly wrap my head around this possible opportunity. After doing some research on their website, everything about it screamed "out of my league". Despite the doubts, I thought I would give it my best attempt since I never win anything anyway. So I found the the contact, Ash Huang, on Instagram (because I dont use twitter) and I began to send her a message. I spoke a bit about myself as a maker, a creative, and a woman out of her element. I wanted to go on this trip because nothing about it was familiar to me, yet it marked things off of my goals list that i really wanted to do (but didnt think would come true). To my surprise, a few days later, I was contacted by Lodged Out congratulating me for being one of the chosen women to get a scholarship! So thank you Ash Huang for seeing something in my story and allowing me this awesome opportunity to attend Lodged Out.

Photo by Maren Nelson.

Bobbilee Hartman is the sole creator and coordinator of Lodged Out, a outdoor creative conference/retreat. She is an amazing woman who had a vision to bring together people from all walks of life, with a common passion for being outside, and provides an environment where they can learn from each other and create new relationships hopefully leaving with more than they came with. During the days of the retreat we attend workshops lead by professionals in their fields but also made time for plenty of playtime outside. There is an electric energy that is created when good people share a space and Bobbilee provides this awesome opportunity for people to flourish in that energy and it is so valuable. The best part of this experience is that there was no cell phone service. Yes you read that correctly, no digital screen time! That may scare some people especially in this technology driven society we have grown into. But I need you to know that it is so important to break that chain that has latched us onto our devices. We have become too accustomed to living our lives with our heads down in a screen. Making mindful decisions to be more present in your life and giving your mind and eyes a rest from the digital noise is a detox fad more people should try. I know that myself and everyone in attendance returned home feeling more clearheaded after being unplugged for a bit.

Photo by Maren Nelson.

When we gathered it was good.

Over the course of three days I would listen to some beautifully heartbreaking and uplifting stories, sit in the snow enveloped in silence and paint my surroundings, clip sticks onto my feet and slide through a snowy forest at speeds I didn't know I was comfortable going, and eat some amazing healthy and locally sourced meals! We attended talks and workshops that ranged from creative writing to astrophotography. I learn so much with in those three days I am still sorting through all the information and following up on the initiatives that I have set for myself. But here are some highlights from a couple workshops and talks that really stuck to me.

Sustainable Fashion Workshop with Kathryn Sieve

Wowzers! Kathlyn really brought it home during her talk. I have recently, over the last couple years, started to become more mindful in my sustainable living and this workshop really help push me more forward in that realm. Kathryn is the designer and maker behind the stunning clothing collection, Winsome Goods! She spoke to us passionately about using our purchasing habits and wardrobe maintenance to practice more sustainable fashion. I cant lie, I was a little overwhelmed by some of the facts that she shared with us pertaining fabric waste and working conditions. I had no idea that when we donate our clothes to Goodwill only a small percentage makes it to a new home, some of the items made from natural fibers will be recycled but a lot of it still ends up in the trash and sadly in a landfill. The world of fast fashion is very overlooked and something I agree should be discussed more often. Kathryn spoke about being mindful of who made your garment and where the materials came from, which is something I never thought of before. A lot of the affordable, popular stores use sweat shops and put their workers in horrible conditions with little pay so that you can look cute for a year or two then move on to the next item, sending that old tattered garment to the trash. After loading all of this reality on us she then countered that with ways that we can better sustain our clothing and reasons why we should start to invest in higher quality, long lasting garments. And then she dropped this gem, "You work hard for your money and you should care about who's hand you are putting that hard earned dollar in. Is it going to be into the hand of a billionaire that is disconnected from his brand and doesn't care about his employees? Or, will you give it to the hard working local maker trying to feed her family and pay for college?" To me that made it a no-brainer. She also spoke about repairing your clothes instead of just replacing them which is an easy way to extend its life. I want to be more invested in the items I own and be more mindful about where I spend my money on fashion from now on. At the end of the workshop we learn various sewing stitches and was able to construct a wallet out of recycled denim! It was so fun!


Outdoor Stewardship with Katie Boué

I cant say enough about Katie's awesome talk on outdoor advocacy! It really put a fire under my butt to educate myself more about public lands and attempt to take more steps to help these important issues. She covered different topics in the outdoor industry like politics, global warming, supporting natives and conservation. She made me feel like we all had small ways to help these causes and could all make a difference which is very true! I was especially interested in her thoughts on diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. She is a proud latina woman and had a lot to say about her experiences so far in the outdoor industry and what she felt was still lacking. As a black woman, diversity in the outdoors was not something that I often thought about but once brought to my attention, it was very obvious that diverse voices are not heard in this realm and I want to help change that. After Katie gave us some education she presented us with a call to action. Using our unique and individual skills sets, brainstorm how we can help public lands and spread the word about outdoor advocacy. So I left that workshop with some really strong inspiration to use my art to tell a story and spread a message about inclusion in the outdoors and I am really excited to get started with my project! Even after the workshop a group of us (artists, designers, writers, photographers, and business owners) sat and continued the conversation. The deep connections we made with each other over the love we have for the outdoors, even within the different levels of experience we have, was very eye opening and gave me a more broad view on how we are all connected to this important topic. [ If you want more information on outdoor industry topics and ways you can help with important issues in your own backyard, Katie spoke highly of Patagonia Action Works as a very informative resource.]


Motivation and Self Care Talk with Tatiana Oliveira Simonian

Tatiana is a woman with a lot to say and that night ,as we sat around the wood fire stove in the lodge, she had everyone on the edge of their seat ready to absorb it all. Listening to her was like talking to a big sister who has "been there and done that" and came back to tell you what she has learned so that you don't make the same mistakes. I resonated a lot with Tatiana, not just because she is also a woman of color but because she was so transparent which was very comforting to me. She seemed very happy with where she is in her life currently but made it clear that you should always be striving for more and for greater. But besides all the sparkly positivity, she let us know that there are going to be low points and hard times that you have to move through in order to reach your goals. Damn, isn't that what we all needed to hear! It is so easy to think that everyone with that dream job and with that awesome car has such a great life and everything is rainbows and sunshine all the time. Social media just amplifies that image of perfection. But listening to Tatiana speaks truths on life's realist moments and giving us advice on ways to move through that, like mediation, healthy food, and social interaction I felt so inspired to keep moving and keep striving for my dreams. I was also in awe of her boss lady mentality. It is something I am severely lacking but I want to starting being that woman that carves her own career paths and doesn't take anything less than my worth. She truly spoke to everyone that night and it was quite moving and the calm energy in the room from the mediation we started with is a vibe that I will always feel within me.

"Nothing to do, No where to go, No one to be." -Tatiana

Photo by Maren Nelson.

Reflecting on an unforgettable time!

Overall this trip was extremely heartwarming for me. I met some amazing new friends and learned some really interesting facts and new skills, like cross country skiing (I'm obsessed!). When I won the scholarship to Lodged Out I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Nothing about this experience, from what I could tell online, was going to be comfortable or familiar to me. I had never been to Washington, let alone on the west coast before. I had never traveled alone to a destination where I knew no one. And I certainly had yet to find myself on a snowy mountain on skis! So needless to say I totally dove in head first and was eager to cross off all these first and have a really fresh experience. The lack of cell reception only made this trip even more special because I was able to really focus on myself and be present with the awesome people around me. I left with a new love for snowy paths, a-frame cabins, and the ability to be alone in my thoughts. Waking up and going to bed without my phone in my hand is a practice I will continue to instill just for the peace that it brings me; I had nothing to compare my life to and no one to judge me. It was really the best three days ever!

Artwork inspired by this experience.

Going into this trip I had a goal in mind to do as much plein air painting as i can. It is a genre of painting where you sit in the scene and paint what you see. It is challenge because you are surrounded by the elements which are constantly changing and sometimes even working against you( in the case of rain or snow). I was determined to create as much artwork as possible so it was the only leisure activity i brought with me. I didn't even have a book or video game because I wanted to use all my free time creating art. It was such a fun experiment and I loved it! I was able to really take in the scenery and I noticed so much more about the landscape than I would have by just snapping a photo for reference. The layers of texture in the trees leading into the forest is so pleasing to me. The way the trees sway in the wind but hold on tight to their blankets of snow just makes me smile. The time would fly by once i got started. I found myself sitting in the snow for up to over an hour not realizing my legs had gone completely numb! It was so worth it and I will absolutely be painting in plein air more often.

I am so in love with the way that these watercolor paintings turned out. I used some new materials and techniques while creating these and I am so excited to share them with you. I will be making prints of these painting and they will be for sale on my website soon so keep and eye out for that if you want to bring a little bit of winter retreat magic into your home!

I highly recommend attending a Lodged Out retreat in the future if you want to have an awesome unplugged outdoor adventure. It was so valuable and therapeutic and Bobbilee did a fantastic job with everything! My heart is full and I am so grateful for the memories and all the awesome makers I met on this trip! Looking forward to my next adventure!

Thanks for reading


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