anna brones

writer + artist + producer

Archive for the ‘Outdoor + Environment’ Category

Florence Williams

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“Wisdom means having the experience and deep confidence to stay the course,

to know that you can come out of just about anything alive and whole. “

– Florence Williams

Last summer during a 3-week creative residency at Bloedel Reserve, I read The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative by Florence Williams. I had seen the book mentioned in a few places, and when I spotted it at the local bookstore near Bloedel, I knew that it was the perfect text to have with me during a residency that was intended for slowing down and bringing more awareness to my natural surroundings. There are books that we read that change how we think about things, and there are books that we read that encourage us to continue down a path of questioning that we are already on. The Nature Fix was a little of both, and it felt like it came into my hands at the right place and time.

Why do we need nature? That’s a question that underlies much of Williams’ book. Of course intuitively, we make know that we need nature—after all, we are born from the natural world—but in our modern society where technology and advancement rule, it’s easy to forget just how much we need the natural world. And not just on a once-in-awhile basis.

What stuck with me after reading The Nature Fix was how important any dose of nature was. A multi-day detox where we are entirely disconnected and immersed in the natural world is wonderful, but if we dodge all other opportunities for smaller doses of the outdoors, from a short walk or even peering out the window at a tree and letting our minds wander, we miss out on an array of benefits. As the subtitle for the book would lead us to believe, time in and with nature is essential to our emotional and physical wellbeing. In other words, as Williams says, “being in nature actually makes us more human.” Having come to understand that through many years of researching and writing, I think that Williams offers so much wisdom that we all can benefit from.

As I worked on this papercut (which I had to cut two times in order to get right) I thought a lot about the sentiment that Williams shared and that I chose to use in her portrait. “Stay the course,” is probably advice that we all could take. I know that 55/100 profiles into this long project, I needed to hear it myself. And perhaps it’s wisdom that the natural world would share with us as well; we need only look to the trees and the oceans to be reminded that nature is cyclical, that everything is in a constant flow, always shifting and evolving, but moving forward nonetheless. No matter what happens, the sun manages to rise and set every day. If nature stays the course, so can we.

I hope that after reading this profile, you take even the smallest moment to enjoy some time outside.

What does wisdom mean to you?

Wisdom means having the experience and deep confidence to stay the course, to know that you can come out of just about anything alive and whole. Wisdom is what you know at 50 that you wish you knew at 25. Wisdom is about knowing who you are, and who you are in relation to other people. I tend to think that wisdom is largely self-wisdom, but I also believe that sometimes wisdom can be shared.

Is there an influential woman in your life who passed along a piece of wisdom to you? Who and what?

My beautiful sister-in-law Lisa Jones, a gifted writer and teacher. She just kept telling me I was okay, and I eventually, I started to believe her.

Before you wrote The Nature Fix, what was your relationship with nature? Were you conscious about how it made you feel physically and mentally? How did (or didn’t) writing the book change that?

I’ve always had a strong connection to nature, and I’ve long known that it sustained me emotionally and creatively. Writing the book taught me to have a more generous view of nature, to accept, for example, the little patches of city nature could also be powerful and affecting, that I didn’t have to be in a dramatic mountainscape or desertscape to have a meaningful experience. It taught me some shortcuts to being more mindful in nature, to cue myself to look and listen and smell.

Something that was very apparent to me while reading the book was how essential it is to create a balanced relationship with nature. How do you create that balance in your everyday life?

I try really hard to have a daily dose of nature, whether it’s morning and evening walks with my dog or sometimes just sitting outside for a few moments where I can hear some birds and catch some sunlight. I make it more of a priority now, and I pay better attention to how I feel in different  environments. If it’s windy, I might seek a more sheltered walk. If it’s winter, I’ll think more about going midday when I can get more natural sunlight. If I’m in need of an emotional re-set, I’ll take out the earbuds and spend more time looking at my neighborhood river. There are a bunch of little hacks like that to optimize the benefits. Also, I know i love snow, so if any falls, I try that much harder to catch it.

Part of the subtitle of The Nature Fix is how nature makes us more creative. Why do you think creativity is important in our society?

I think we live in an age where attention is a scarce resource. It’s the ultimate luxury good. When we are scattered and distracted, our thoughts suffer, meaning suffers, our human connections suffer. Creativity demands this interesting combination of deep focus and open focus, neither of which can happen when we’re multi-surfing. Being outside serves a bunch of functions. It helps us be mindful, it helps our sensory brains come online, and it gives our thinking brains a little bit of a breather. It facilitates open focus, mind-wandering and free play.

As a writer, what stories are you drawn to telling and why?

I’m drawn to telling stories that bring to light the hidden or neglected connections between humans and our environment, whether they be harmful connections like the effects of pollutants on our cells (as in my first book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History) or beneficial, like why we are drawn to the colors green and blue.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

Have more confidence in your ability to withstand hardship; believe that your needs matter. Relax and play a little more.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

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Nature’s Pace

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“Bark looks like islands. Nature’s map.”

I had written those few words next to a line drawing of bark in my sketchbook. I had stood close to a fir tree, so close I could inhale its smell, closely inspecting and drawing with my black pen the lines that I saw. Now that I look at the drawing it doesn’t really resemble bark anymore. But it certainly looks like islands.

How often do we take the time to see? The time to listen? The time to be?

I thought about this a lot last month during a three-week creative residency at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. A creative residency is one of those wonderful things that allows you the time and space to let your creative mind wander, and I am so grateful for getting that time. I spent those three weeks with as much physical as mental wandering. After all, the two do go hand in hand.

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Written by Anna Brones

September 7, 2018 at 08:36

Wild Woman

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The wild woman who wants to feel her feet in the grass, dewy blades poking up between her toes.

The wild woman who stands outside on a winter morning, just to feel the cold wind on her cheek, telling her that she is alive.

The wild woman who seeks solace in the night sky, the stars a reminder of her tiny presence on earth, but its vast potential.

The wild woman who finds beauty in the smallest moments; the surprise of a wild strawberry on the forest floor, the change of color in a leaf, the unfurling of a fern.

The wild woman who finds adventure in her backyard, who explores new lands and cultures on the ground and in her imagination.

The wild woman who has the courage to say yes, but the wisdom to say no.

The wild woman who is open to the universe, hears the wind in the trees, feels the stillness of the forest.

The wild woman who wants the freedom of an afternoon for exploration, whether it’s afar and at home.

The wild woman who sits still, and the wild woman who runs.

The wild woman who embraces her being, and releases the confines of expectation.

The wild woman who forges her own path.

The wild woman who knows that she is the only one who gets to define her happiness.

The wild woman who is thankful for her time on this planet, and empathetic to all the beings around her.

The wild woman who searches the forest for fresh nettles on a spring day.

The wild woman who catches the glint of sun shining through an icicle on a winter morning.

The wild woman who rides her bicycle to feel the surge of freedom.

The wild woman whose face is crusted in the salt of the sea.

The wild woman who gives everything to her community, and the wild woman who prefers to be alone.

The wild woman who takes time to breath, time to feel, time to create.

The wild woman who feels pain and joy.

The wild woman whose wildness is hers and hers alone.

 

Written by Anna Brones

May 16, 2018 at 10:48

The Winding Path of a Creative Life

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In February, I worked on a project with Subaru and She Explores. This post is brought to you in partnership with Subaru, all opinions are my own.

“I don’t really think that I’m creative.”

I was road tripping from Taos, New Mexico to Marfa, Texas in a 2018 Crosstrek with my good friend and filmmaker Sarah Menzies. We were headed to a storytelling experience hosted by She Explores and sponsored by Subaru. I was driving and she was sitting next to me, and I had just asked her if she had some kind of a daily creative practice.

Sarah makes a variety of films, all focused on interesting characters and important issues, like my recent favorite, “The Mirnavator.” For the last couple of years, I have been working with her on “Afghan Cycles,” a film about women cyclists in Afghanistan and challenging gender stereotypes from the seat of a bicycle. I would certainly consider her a creative and passionate individual, and she’s one of my friends that continually keeps me creatively inspired.

“You don’t think you’re creative?” I responded back to her, not hiding my shock at her statement. This is a woman who always has interesting ideas for how to tell a story, is always drumming up new ideas.

This launched us into a conversation about creativity, what it is and whether or not we “have it” or not. The idea that some of us are creative and that some us aren’t, based on the idea that creativity is some kind of talent, simply isn’t true. Creative thinking is a skill, one that takes work and practice. You don’t get off the couch and run a marathon in record time, and you don’t go from zero creative practice to coming up with a masterpiece. We have to work at creativity, work at doing the things that make our brains better able to think creatively, better able to make connections between ideas, and come up with new ones.

Our conversation about creativity continued, and we began talking about some of the difficulties that come with working in a creative profession. Creative work can be exhausting. There’s a privilege to being able to say that. I am well aware that I don’t have to go work in a mine every day, and I am thankful that I have a profession where I get to do things that I love. But one of the big fears that I often have is that eventually, the creative ideas will cease to come. When your income is tied to your creativity, there is a real fear in wondering whether or not one day you’ll run out of ideas. What happens if you don’t have another idea for a new project? Then what?

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Written by Anna Brones

March 1, 2018 at 10:47

Adventure Journals

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What inspires you to get out and adventure?

That was the driving question behind this collection of three Adventure Journals, a special, limited edition collaboration with my friends over at Wylder Goods. Inspired by the pursuit of adventure – whether it’s a bike ride, a cup of coffee brewed outside, or a night under the stars – these journals are there to accompany you and provide a home for your thoughts, musings and ponderings.

They each feature one of my papercuts, and are printed by Scout Books in Portland, Oregon.

What makes these special:

  • 100% recycled Kraft cover!
  • 100% recycle white interior paper!
  • 100% awesome!

You can snag them in my shop or over on Wylder Goods.

Written by Anna Brones

June 30, 2017 at 14:31

Outdoor Cooking: Cilantro and Tomato Bruschetta

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ab_bruschetta_001

This summer, I embarked on a bicycle tour – a pedal-powered book tour, in fact! – from my house, west of Seattle, all the way down to San Francisco. As was to be expected, I cooked a lot of food along the way, and now that I am back in front of the computer (far less interesting than being on a bicycle, I assure you) I’ve been busy compiling all the recipes.

The first one went up this week on Adventure Journal and I wanted to share it here because it’s perfect for using up late summer tomatoes. And even if you’re not on a bike trip, this works well as an at-home appetizer too. But soak up those final rays of summer and go enjoy it outdoors!

Cilantro and Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta

  • 2 to 3 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic
  • A small handful of cilantro leaves, chopped (about 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped leaves)
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 8 to 10 slices of bread
  • Olive oil

Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and place them in in a bowl or pot. Finely chop two of the garlic cloves and add them to the tomatoes, along with the cilantro and a pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle a little olive oil over it and mix together. Taste. Add more salt and pepper as needed.

Place a frying pan or pot over medium heat on your stove and pour in a little olive oil. Grill a slide of bread on both sides, until both sides are a golden brown. Remove the bread slice from the pan and place on a plate. Take a clove of garlic and lightly rub the grilled bread with it. Top with a generous scoop of the tomato and cilantro mixture.

Repeat until you’ve grilled all the bread and used up the tomato and cilantro mixture.

Read the full post here.

Written by Anna Brones

September 9, 2016 at 17:19

Bikepacking the Olympic Adventure Route with Komorebi Cycling Team

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Bikepacking on the Olympic Adventure Route with Komorebi Cycling Team

This is an essay I wrote over on Adventure Journal, which also includes a list of tips for meal planning and cooking for a bikepacking trip, along with a few links for recipes. 

This is all the email said:

Riding bikes in the backcountry, camping, making food on the trail…June 17-19. Interested in details?

Like any sane person, I responded with an “um…okay!”

It was a proposal to join a bikepacking trip with Komorebi, the Portland-based women’s bikepacking team. The fact that I had never been bikepacking didn’t deter me, and after all, that was the whole point of Komorebi: to get more women adventuring on two wheels. Okay, actually it did freak me out a little bit, and as soon as I said yes the thoughts started swarming in my head:

Will I be able to keep up with women who bikepack all the time?

Will they judge me if I am not fast enough?

I don’t really ride mountain bikes, what if I fail?

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Written by Anna Brones

July 24, 2016 at 09:13