anna brones

writer + artist + producer

Sandy Hernandez

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“Mother Nature binds us all. Nature belongs to everyone.”

-Sandy Hernandez

Who gets to enjoy the outdoors? Who gets to participate in outdoor activities? Everyone. But unfortunately, the outdoor industry suffers from the same systemic racism and inequities that underpin much of our society, people of color often told that they don’t belong. There are many people working hard to change this and make the outdoors more inclusive, from encouraging companies to reconsider hiring policies with the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, to groups like African American Nature & Parks Experience.

There are many voices to highlight and profile in this movement, and Sandy Hernandez is one of them. She works as a park ranger in Yosemite National Park, on the traditional lands of the Ahwahneechee People. Active as both a ranger and activist, she advocates for inclusion and equity within her industry, and is part of the Relevancy, Diversity, and Inclusion Council in Yosemite, as well as a People of Color Employee Resource Group. She welcomes volunteer groups to the park, and in a traditionally white, male dominated industry, her visibility as a Latina ranger shows other people of color that they have a place in the outdoors. As she says, “nature belongs to everyone.”

In this Women’s Wisdom Project Q&A we learn a little bit more about her work and the importance of diversity and equity in the outdoors.

What does wisdom mean to you?

Wisdom to me means empathy—the ability to share the feelings of another. You gain the ability to listen, understand, accept, connect with others, and live wholeheartedly.

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

I will always answer my mom to this question. She is my sheroe. She reminds me to appreciate where I come from and where I can go. She reminds me to stay connected to my Guatemalan roots and never forget those who came before me. She reminds me of just how beautiful immigration is and how hard work pays off. All that I have accomplished is because this amazing woman has always rooted for me.

Another sheroe of mine is Teresa Baker and her can-do attitude. Teresa is the founder of African American National Parks Event and the Outdoor Industry CEO Diversity Pledge. She reminds me that my voice should be valued at any table I sit in, but to live my life empathetically so others can also join me.

What has your relationship to nature been like throughout your life and how has that evolved?

My ancestors have always been connected to nature. As Teresa Baker says, it’s about reconnecting to outdoor spaces. Growing up in the United States I have always been exposed to the outdoors, but not in the “traditional” way that you see in outdoor magazines. THAT’S OKAY! My love for nature has grown from experiences like visits to local city parks, swimming in lakes and beaches, having outdoor carne asadas con la familia, and seeing a Sequoia for the first time at a national park. Now, Yosemite is my playground and my home. I’ve hiked the longest I have ever hiked, backpacked with strangers who became family, and found beauty in the people who welcome me into their space. I am in love with Yosemite and enjoy sharing with others. It comes with an understanding that everyone experiences the outdoors differently. Mother Nature binds us all. Nature belongs to everyone.

The outdoor industry has struggled, and continues to struggle, with questions of diversity. As a woman of color in the National Park Service, what do you see as important steps in bringing more visibility and inclusivity to marginalized communities? What do we miss out on culturally when we see the outdoors as only available and accessible to one group of people?

We miss out on the feeling of belonging and stewardship over these outdoor spaces. The future of these lands relies on inclusion. Since California is one of five states in the country where “minority” populations are now numerically the majority, these conversations are critical. To keep these public spaces important and sustain them, we need to connect people from all walks of life with National Parks. We need to ask ourselves, how are we working toward having national parks be more accessible to an ever changing and ever-growing constituency? Welcoming ethnic and racial diversity, and accommodating other cultural backgrounds, opens up the opportunity for more people of color to gain experiences to cherish. In nature, there is not a “them” and “us.” It’s just “us.”

Can you tell me a little bit more about Workshop for Ethnic and Racial Minorities in Outdoor Recreation and Education and other initiatives that you and your colleagues at Yosemite are working on to engage in some of these difficult conversations?

In November of 2018, through support from our partners at Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite National Park (YNP) hosted We.R.More: Workshop for Ethnic and Racial Minorities in Outdoor Recreation and Education, an innovative process that aimed to bring together California community members interested in working on improving relevancy, diversity, and inclusion (RDI) in the outdoor community. Two notable outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists, Jose Gonzalez, founder of Latino Outdoor and Teresa Baker facilitated a two-day workshop where participants camped together and shared with each other the barriers they have experienced in the outdoors as people of color. In creating a safe space where participants could empower each other, these members were shaped into We.R.More Stewards of Yosemite.

The We.R.More Stewards then met with various park leaders and hosted a symposium for Yosemite staff that served as a cultural sensitivity training, but also suggested practical solutions to YNP in moving forward with its RDI efforts. During the symposium, Jose challenged Yosemite to think about what the sense of belonging and connection looks like, and what gap between a cultural space and outdoor conservation needs to be bridged? By tackling these two things, a lot of the tangible challenges can be overcome. Stewards presented on the idea that the future of Yosemite not only relies on biological diversity, but also cultural values.

Since then, Yosemite National Park is working on moving forward on the following: hosting implicit bias training for its employees, doing research in order to uncover untold stories in Yosemite’s history and create new interpretive displays, establishing a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Employee Resource Group, hosting bilingual educational programs (Adventura Yosemite), and more!

More on page 18 in this document.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

The best leaders are those who lead with empathy and vulnerability. These traits do not make you any less stronger than anyone else.

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.

 

Written by Anna Brones

January 30, 2020 at 08:40

Teresa Baker

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“Hope is infinite, without it there would be no reason for any of us to move forward.”

-Teresa Baker

Teresa Baker is the founder of African American Nature & Parks Experience, and as an advocate for diversity, works tirelessly to ensure that not only the country’s national parks are more diverse in their staff and visitors, but also the outdoor industry as a whole. She also created the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, focused on improving representation across the industry, from marketing teams to ambassadors and athletes (learn more about it in this She Explores episode).

She is a powerful voice for diversity, equity, and inclusion, in an industry that—like many others—has long been white and male dominated. I think that Teresa’s work highlights the essential intersection of environmentalism and social justice. But as Teresa reminded me in this interview, it’s not an intersection but a coexistence. For us to make social and environmental progress, we have to stop thinking about them as separate. Nature is for everyone, and we all deserve an equal place on this planet, and we all have to fight to protect it.

What does wisdom mean to you?

For me wisdom is the means to think for myself and not allow outside influences to determine my moral standing.

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

Maya Angelou was and still is someone I look to for intentional grounding of self. Her words are a constant reminder to me of who I am and why I am. It is because of her words that I understand I am a vessel in this life, this life is not about me in the physical sense. I am here to carry a message forward, as are we all, we just need to learn to walk in that understanding. And we can only do this by being courageous. “Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” My favorite quote from her.

You are a diversity advocate, and work on a number of initiatives to promote and encourage diversity in the outdoors. Diversity and equity are obviously something we need to focus on within all areas of society, what about the outdoors made you want to focus on that industry specifically?

What most people overlook about the work I do is that it is all tied to environmental protection. Now more than ever we need more people involved in the protection of our outdoor spaces. And right now the voices that are not involved in this work, as much as they can be, are from underrepresented communities. This is why I fight for equal representation across the board, so that we can have more people on the front lines fighting for the spaces we hike, climb, ski and walk through.

I see a lot of your work at the intersection of environmentalism and social justice. Can you talk about why this intersection is important?

I don’t think there is an intersection between environmentalism and social justice, the two must co-exist. When we separate the two it’s like saying we can have one without the other, we can’t. I don’t think of myself as an environmentalist, nor a torch carrier for justice. I think of myself as someone this society has overlooked for far too long. Someone who gives a damn about the spaces that surround us all. I understand that for myself and many others, these outdoor spaces are sanctuaries where we can go to escape the insanity of our day to day lives. They are roofless cathedrals and we need to protect them as such. And within that obligation, if we are able to put our physical differences aside, we exist under the umbrella of… Justice for all.

What is your personal relationship to nature, and how does that shape the work that you do?

Nature has always been a place of serenity for me, it is my think tank. I escape for self healing and self reflection. It truly is my cathedral, my religion, my shelter. I feel a “different me” when I’m out hiking among the redwoods, hearing nothing but the whispers of the birds, the swaying of branches and the wrestling of my feet as I walk along the leaves that have fallen to the ground. There is nothing that compares to the connection I feel to nature, she is what grounds me. A physical reminder of why the work I do around DEI is so important.

Through the work that you have done, what gives you hope?

Hope is infinite, without it there would be no reason for any of us to move forward. Life is hard no matter our path, hope is what I awake to, hope is what speaks to me when frustrations kick in, hope is what I cling to when doubt tries to creep in. I am nothing without hope and the belief of divine driven purpose that I am doing the work prescribed to me.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

A talk with my younger self would go like this….Your self doubts today are preparing you for a life of service that will inspire change beyond your time here. Hold on to your anger, it is part of the journey. Know that you are with purpose. Do not take education so lightly, for it will be of great use moving forward. Surround yourself with the smart ones, the ones whom you will gather with in the future. Do not be afraid that you think and feel differently than the ones you surround yourself with today. Fall in love cautiously and not just because you find him cute. And most importantly, spend more time talking to your parents, those days will past faster than you know.

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.

Written by Anna Brones

January 22, 2020 at 11:36

Give Your Creative Self Time to Breathe

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Are you ever so slightly overwhelmed by the month of January? The expectations and anticipation that come with the blank slate of a new year?

In writing my monthly newsletter Creative Fuel, I was considering what this year means politically and culturally (an election year after all), and the intensity of the news in the last couple of weeks. Wildfires. War. Crisis.

There’s no one antidote to any of that, but I do know that if we are to work our way through big problems as a society, if we are to take ownership over our everyday lives, if we are to build better communities, if we are to challenge the status quo, then creativity isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

If creativity is a necessity, then investing in our creative selves—no matter who we are or what we do—is a matter of ensuring that we show up in the world. That we are awake. That we stand up for what we believe in. That we help to spark change, in big ways and in small ways.

interviewed author and journalist Alice Feiring this month for my Women’s Wisdom Project series, and she said this: “Writers and other artists give voice to what others cannot or will not articulate.”

That got me thinking: as an artist, as a writer, as a creatively inclined person, what are you going to articulate?

At this beginning of a new decade, I have been thinking a lot about the intentions behind creativity. Yet I look at that question, know its importance, and know that it’s one I need to ask myself.

Not quite yet. The creative self needs time.

You might think that I would kick off this year with some grandiose essay about the importance of setting up a creative resolution for the year. Or strategizing about a new project. Quite the opposite.

I want you to allow yourself to take the time you need.

January is a month of goals and resolutions. Of new projects, of new commitments. We take a tiny moment for our winter hibernation, two weeks if we’re lucky to have a vacation around the holidays, only a few days for some. We try to slow down, but we’re exhausted after the madness of the holiday season. We’re burnt out. We need time off. We need time to rejuvenate. And so we try to slow down, and then January 1st rolls around with the intense expectation that we have rejuvenated, that we have healed, and that we are ready to commit to a newer, better version of ourselves.

It’s an unrealistic expectation. It’s an expectation that’s driven by outcome, leaving the process quickly behind.

There’s a reason we do this: the first month of the year is a prime time to assess and make sure we are moving forward in what feels like a good direction.

In order to do that, I think January should be an in between month. A month where we ease into the new year, where we extend our hibernation, where we let ideas marinate. Where we allow our bodies and minds to catch up, where we take a collective breath that allows us to refocus on our forward movement in a way that isn’t frantic and reactive.

Toss out the expectations. Avoid the goals. Instead, breathe. Refocus. Rejuvenate.

In this in between space, before we launch into something new, before we ask ourselves what we want to accomplish in the year, I would like to offer up the practice of intentions.

Intentions are not goals, they are not resolutions, they are a commitment to ourselves about how we show up in the world, how we participate in relationships, how we do our work, how we take part in humanity.

Intentions guide our creativity, helping us to navigate when the water gets murky. Intentions carry us, challenge us, invite us to open up as humans.

I would ask this: as an artist, as a writer, as a creatively inclined person, as a human being, what is your intention?

Asking this question means asking not what you will do, but who you will be.

Our intention is our “why” behind whatever it is that we end up choosing to articulate.

Our intention is our commitment to our process.

The good news is, you have the entire month, the entire year, your entire life to keep thinking about it, evolving it, adapting it.

A version of this was originally featured in my monthly newsletter Creative Fuel. Sign up to get more creative inspiration directly in your email.

Written by Anna Brones

January 13, 2020 at 14:47

Alice Feiring

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“Writers and other artists give voice to what others cannot or will not articulate.”

-Alice Feiring

Writer and journalist Alice Feiring stands for what she believes in.

Her focus is wine, interested in the stories of the art and craft that goes into making the drink that we have been consuming for centuries, and in turn, advocating for a better wine world, not just for the consumer, but producers and the land. She runs the natural wine newsletter The Feiring Line and is the author of several books. Her latest is Natural Wine for the People: What It Is, Where to Find It, How to Love It, an excellent resource for anyone diving into the natural wine world.

An early supporter of the natural wine movement, she’s not afraid to criticize it either. “But any successful movement, whether in politics or viniculture, is vulnerable to corruption. Just as it is reaching peak fame, the previously innocent world of natural wine is coming under threat by opportunists and big business. Natural wine isn’t dead, but something has been lost,” she recently wrote in The New York Times.

Whether you drink wine or not, Feiring stands an excellent example of what it means to take a stand for something as a woman, and the consequences that can ensue. In challenging conventional wine norms, she has faced criticism and scrutiny. In reading opposition to her work, it’s clear to see that satire can quickly turn into misogyny. As she points out in this Q&A, “Men speaking out against the mainstream are often heroes, women are seen as troublemakers or voices to silence. No matter what I say, it seems it’s controversial doesn’t it?”

Thank you to Alice for taking a little time to answer a few Women’s Wisdom Project Q&A questions.

What does wisdom mean to you?
A perfect balance of good judgement, proper boundaries, compassion and a sense of humor.

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

I’ve always been such a loner and longed for a mentor. I came close to it once, Beverly Russell. Beverly hired me to work at Interiors Magazine a million years ago but she was unceremoniously stabbed in the back and was let go, subsequently I was as well. On our last breakfast together she gave me two pieces of advice, “It’s not how good you are but who you know, and then how good you are helps you stay. The other warning was that if you’re good, someone will always want to knock you off and take your place.

What drew you to the world of wine? What has kept you in it?
At first the taste. Then its connection to place. Then the people. Then the issue of natural wine and its place in the world. Then the land, the vines and nature. Finally, it is the way it all complexly comes together in a perfect symbol of humanity.

What is the Alice Feiring definition of natural wine?
Start with organic viticulture and then nothing added or taken away, except maybe a bit of So2.

You are considered a controversial figure by some. Why do you think that your writing and work draws such controversy? Do you think that you would draw such controversy if you were not a woman?

Now, that’s a great question. Men speaking out against the mainstream are often heroes, women are seen as troublemakers or voices to silence. No matter what I say, it seems it’s controversial doesn’t it? So why? I have often said things that the industry didn’t want to hear. Without a doubt, women are held to different standards.

You’re known as a wine writer, but from reading other interviews with you, it’s clearly the written word and the craft of writing that you’re drawn to. What about writing feels so powerful to you?

Writers and other artists give voice to what others cannot or will not articulate. When I disparage what I do as self-indulgent, I try to remember that there is a greater purpose other than I just love disappearing into a piece and losing myself. It’s the best drug.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

I’d get tutoring for my dyslexia—but I’m not sure that would have been wisdom, though it would have been life changing. Okay, here’s one; I’d have made sure to become fluent in French.

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.

Written by Anna Brones

January 7, 2020 at 08:21

Glad Lucia

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Glad Lucia!

Written by Anna Brones

December 13, 2019 at 10:45

DIY Scandinavian Woven Hearts

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Making things is good for us. Crafting can be similar to meditation and making things with our hands improves our mental health and makes us happier. Making things is intuitive – after all, it is in our human nature to create – and it allows us to connect to others, to come up with new ideas. Usually, investing in creativity results in more creativity.

You don’t have to come up with an involved handmade gift to get the benefit of making something. This is why I like simple creative holiday projects. Even small handmade objects to decorate the house give us the opportunity to use our hands and exert our creativity. That is time well spent.

I always make a batch of woven paper hearts this time of year (featured in my digital Advent calendar last year). These are quite common in Scandinavia. Bigger ones made with stronger paper can even be hung on the tree and used to hold holiday treats, like nuts or chocolates. The perfect way to put your hands to work and get the creative juices flowing.

DIY Scandinavian Woven Hearts

Find two pieces of paper of contrasting color. Usually these are done in red and white, but we’re here to be creative, so feel free to use your imagination.

Fold them both and cut a rectangular shape, with one end rounded. The straight edge should be where the paper is folded.

Cut two lines, so that the piece of paper is separated into thirds. Cut these lines about 3/4 of the way up, towards the rounded edge.

The cut lines create “loops” in the paper. Weave the two pieces of paper together by placing the first loop of Color A into the first loop of Color B, then inside of the next loop, and outside of the third loop. With the next loop, do the opposite, so start by placing the loop of Color A outside of the first loop of Color B, etc.

This all sounds more convoluted than it is, and will make sense when you do it. FYI: the two pieces don’t always weave together super smoothly, but with some maneuvering, you will get there in the end! Here is another visual that I didn’t make myself but that is also helpful.

Cut a straight strip of paper for a handle and glue or tape it to the inside of the heart.

Hang on an available branch or share the creative act and give away to a friend.

Written by Anna Brones

December 3, 2019 at 11:24

Send a Little Love in the Mail

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I made a few sets of holiday cards, all featuring my papercut illustrations.

Who doesn’t love receiving snail mail? Make sure someone you know gets a little love in the post this holiday season.

Some ideas:

-Write a note to a friend.

-Give a card as a gift.

-Send a thank you note to someone.

-Write a recipe on the inside and send it to someone you wish you could eat a meal with.

-Pencil in your favorite quote or poem and send to someone who could use the words.

-Draw a picture inside, or add a touch of color on the outside.

There are three cards in each set so you can even keep one for yourself and frame it on the wall.

You can buy a set (or two) in my shop.

 

Written by Anna Brones

December 2, 2019 at 07:02