This is a proud mama post combined with some there-are-no-coincidences post.
My son Andrew is an artist whose work celebrates nature. He creates pieces that honor mountains, skies, capstone, insects and animals, plus pieces celebrating various states. He even throws in a flower every once in awhile. www.naturaltribute.com
Now for the story: During the pandemic, Andrew ended up in Colorado completely by chance. His wife, Holly, was on a family girls’ trip at a camp they had reserved for a week. In the middle of their trip, Andrew found himself unexpectedly asked to join them. He did not balk at the invitation.
Meanwhile, Alex Bailey, the executive director of Black Outside, Inc. www.blackoutside.org happened upon the camp and asked if he could spend the night. He was scouting trails for future hikes with his group.
And that is how Andrew and Alex met—happenstance. They lived a short drive from each other in Texas, but Colorado connected them.
They ended up talking for hours during that first meeting, especially about their mutual belief in the power of the outdoors. Alex shared with Andrew the abysmally low number of Black Americans who take advantage of our national and state parks. Alex said his purpose in life was to reconnect Black/African-American youth to the joys of exploring the outdoors, to appreciating the beauty of nature, and to “move the needle on diversity in the outdoors and ensure our youth have safe and equitable spaces outside.” That is a big mission. (I haven’t met this man yet but I can’t wait until our paths cross someday.)
Fired up by their discussion, Andrew offered to donate a design for the group. Andrew also believes in giving back and had been looking for a great cause to support. He and Alex started talking about the design and came up with the Owl. The Owl is an important symbol because Harriet Tubman, when she was running the underground railroad, used owl calls to signal her presence and ask if it was safe.
Andrew’s Owl design is one of my favorites. Plus, 25% of every sale from the stickers, hats, and shirts with this design are donated to Black Outside.
Recently, Yeti held an advertising campaign to highlight Black Outside. Andrew’s Owl made an appearance in some of the pictures. Patagonia is also doing a promotion with Black Outside and I proudly see the Owl.
I guess the point of this post is that we never know when lightning will strike. Or where just having a passion will take us. How do we discover what our passions are in our lives? Through trying new experiences like Alex offers kids with his organization or just following our curiosity like Andrew did. He didn’t take art in school, unless one counts doodling on his math homework. However, over time, listening to the creative whisperings in his mind, coupled with that feeling in his gut that he needed to explore these thoughts, he discovered a passion that he could express through art.
By the way, this isn’t a post just about Black Outside or Natural Tribute. It is about listening to those whispers of ideas and imagining what we would like to do. It is about finally taking the time to explore and, yes, play with these ideas. To turn them over in your mind and eventually, one step at a time, take action.
For those of you who dream of writing books, please read that last paragraph again, especially the last two words-take action. Please, connect with other writers. Go the library and read books on writing. Give those story ideas you mentally play with some air. That’s what I did. Along the way, I made connections, most by chance, with other writers who helped guide me on this path I’ve been following.
The Universe always has opportunities waiting for us. But first, we have to take a step in the direction of our dreams.
Let me close with Black Outside’s mission statement–“We firmly believe that each young person has immense talents, abilities, and skills to contribute to their community and the greater world.” I believe this statement is true of people of all ages. Please, never stop trying new experiences. Don’t be afraid to explore.
P. S. And, for those interested—
Black Outside, Inc. is a 501 (3)C Nonprofit. You can donate here https://www.blackoutside.org/donate
Natural Tribute’s store is www.naturaltribute.com Or you can follow Andrew on FaceBook and Instagram at NaturalTribute
Then, for fun, check out the first black owned outfitter in the NATION—Slim Pickings Outfitters in Stephenville, TX. You can check them out at www.slimpickinsoutfitters.com
P.P.S. I do have other children. My daughter Chelsea is a Hospice Nurse. Yes, she is a Hero. But so is my other child, Samantha. She is a LCDR in the Coast Guard. Max and I raised rock stars.