Thursday, November 4, 2010

Up, Up, & Away

Fall 2010 has been rather busy as I picked up and moved across the country!

Now living in Seattle, I am enrolled in a Natural Science Illustration program at the University of Washington that lasts from October through June. And I'll have a shiny new certificate at the end to show for it! I will also have a portfolio of art work, consisting mostly of ... natural science illustrations. These pieces are attempts at accurate depictions of plants and animals that can be used in textbooks or scientific papers - or even National Geographic! (NatGeo does awesome stuff like this)

In an effort to document my work, I'll be keeping another page dedicated to Science Illustration, consisting mostly of the pieces I create for my classes these next 9 months :D Here is the link to that if you feel so inclined to check it out:
(UPDATE: new site name for my blog -

In addition to taking awesome art classes, I am also searching for a job, and getting ready to move into my first ever studio apartment so that I can fully grasp how it feels to be an artiste.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Getting to Know US ... and IT

For purposes of symmetry, after a cross-country trip along latitudinal lines and a jaunt down the West Coast Amtrak-style, I needed to balance out my movements with some north-south train travel on the East Coast as well. I ventured down to Baltimore and Washington D.C. to kick off August in capital fashion, visiting with friends and family (and the free Smithsonian museums filled with awesome knowledge), and quadrupling my collection of silly bands! And then for good measure, I flew across the Atlantic to the Italian countryside with my family -- throwing my symmetrical plans all asunder. But the pasta was good.

Trips to such historic places as Pompeii, Roma, and the ever-dramatic isle of Capri left me feeling inspired by great figures of literature, and I decided to embark on an odyssey to Ithaca, in homage to Homer. But I chose the city in New York, not in the Mediterranean to drop in on once I returned to the States. And so, with trips to several states & multiple continents under my belt by the last day of the eighth month, I considered my summer travels to be a success.

This summer, I traveled. And I learned. These two great ways to love often transpire for me into appreciation of my two greatest loves, Science and Art. As I continue in my ever-elusive quest to unite my disparate passions, I certainly have traveled and learned a lot on the way. But most of all, I have loved every minute.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Flux Aeterna

Flannery, the miniature horse (Indiana)

I recently learned that most people fit into one of two groups: Settlers and Travelers. Settlers like staying put, getting to know a location, becoming a ‘regular’ at the coffee shop downtown; Travelers enjoy constant motion, new sights and new experiences, and they are always checking maps. I undoubtedly fall into the Traveler group.

Nick working on the farm (Pennsylvania)

I first became aware of this dichotomy during my final weeks of college, while discussing the dreaded question of post-graduation plans with my friends. I was perplexed when some would tell me, “I just can’t wait to settle down and be in one place for a while.” I realized that others’ zeal for moving about was not as strong as mine, but I didn’t register that stillness was preferred to movement until it was fully explained to me. There’s this desire to keep one’s house neat and tidy, to develop a daily routine, and to really get to know an area so that you recognize when something changes. There is certainly a lot of merit in being a Settler, in part because it all seems so comfortable. But what I’ve been discovering is that being comfortable makes me rather uncomfortable! I like living with a dash of the unknown, or a hint of danger, or even a sprig of chaos.

Rainbows in the Plains (Iowa)

I find it an interesting coincidence that one phrase that’s been popping into my mind as of late has been, “Never settle.” I intend it to mean, “Don’t get complacent” or “Always seek excellence,” but I suppose it can also apply to my case of wanderlust: “Don’t stop moving” or just simply “Always seek.” Whatever the cause of my need for endless change, the side effects include a post-grad summer filled with new environments, fascinating people, and lots of all-American adventure.

James, Lola, & Amy in Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

Speaking of that whole non-elation post-graduation situation, I’ve been asked by pretty much anyone I come in contact with, “What are your plans for next year?” As anybody who has tried to set up social engagements with me knows, I don’t perceive time as rigidly as most (that’s not to say I don’t try to be on time, I just miscalculate a lot). Based on my travels thus far, you could blame my lack of punctuality on Tico Time or the Kenyan Clock or even on the Belize Syndrome. But if you think I am going to tie my plans to anything resembling a standard amount of time as measurable as a year, you are very mistaken. Contrary to the belief of many, I DO have a plan – it just does not adhere to a strict timetable. Rather it exists in a place where time does not. (For a mind-bending hoot, discuss the existence of time, or lack thereof, with your neighborhood theoretical physicist!)

The Mighty Yellowstone River (Wyoming)

And now, without further ado, my "plan":

(Just to add, I do not know if I have been accepted to the art program yet... that would change some things, or at least my location)

Climbing through Beartooth Pass (Montana)

The funny thing is, it seems like my plan is more solid than those of many other college graduates I know. Perhaps I just need to adjust my thinking, and start saying that I have built flexibility into my plan, on purpose, to ensure that it runs smoothly and stays on track. Just like shock absorbers are built into mountain bikes!

A Sound View in Seattle (Washington)

Next up, more photos and an update on my summer adventures thus far!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Waking Up from Hibernation

Well, it has certainly been a long time since I wrote anything here! Around 11 months to be exact.

I had had plans to write of my adventures after I left Costa Rica, but quite frankly, nothing seemed exciting enough to be able to compare. At least, not exciting enough to get me to sit down and focus long enough to reflect on it and write about it. (To put it in the terms & context I was looking at: going from snake & spider infested jungle to sedate college campus seemed a little boring) There was also that whole 'withdrawal from leaving an amazing experience' going on. But I'm past all that nonsense! Plus, now I'm considered an "adult" -- complete with a college degree and everything! To me, being an adult means making decisions for yourself, and my decision is to take up writing this blog once more!

I write this post as a recap, to help fill in the gaps between July of 2009 and July of 2010:
  • I returned from my semester abroad in Costa Rica with a greater awareness of the world around me and a renewed passion for what I was studying at Cornell. It was hard to be back in the States, after coming off the high from such a powerful life experience as studying abroad (I recommend living in another culture for an extended period to anyone who is fortunate enough to be able to find the time). Within a week of re-entering the United States, I celebrated my 21st birthday, thus beginning my transformation into an adult!
  • Summer 2009 was spent working at the Arnot Forest just outside of Ithaca, NY. I lived in cabins with four other interns, and spent most of my time out in the woods pounding wooden stakes into the ground, looking for salamanders, and sorting through leaf litter. All for a project on biofuels (summary of data = if you take away all the sticks and logs from the forest floor, you remove the habitat for many organisms and change some ecosystem dynamics). For the two and a half months that I lived at the Arnot, I collected a lot of data, played a lot of frisbee, and did a lot of hanging out in the nature-y places around Ithaca.
  • Fall 2009 brought another intense semester at Cornell, with me throwing some art in among my science classes, and spending a lot of time playing Ultimate (frisbee) with the Cornell team. Previously, I had played a little frisbee on the side when I wasn't climbing , but this semester found me trying to balance between weekends spent in on lead in the Gunks and on the field at frisbee tournaments. While it was great to be back in the familiar surroundings of Cornell's beautiful campus, I had a difficult time readjusting to life in the northeast. I started bringing into question a lot of the aspects of my lifestyle that were out of line with my post-Abroad views of the world. This effect was compounded by the fact that I was taking Ethics as one of my classes this semester. I spent the fall of my senior year questioning the type of person I was, who I should be, and who I could be.
  • Once the temperatures dropped and the snow started falling in Ithaca, I thought, "Screw that!" & made a plan to go back to Costa Rica over winter break. When I had left the country the previous spring, I had left feeling unfulfilled in some ways, and knew of just a few more things I wanted to do and see in the entrancingly beautiful little Central American republica. This adventure was challenging, exhausting, and exhilarating. I visited beaches and jungles in the southern reaches of the country, seeing Manuel Antionio and Corcovado National Parks with my Cornell friends Jeff, Joe, and Alex. Corcovado was very high on my list of places to see in the world, and it was a most fulfilling adventure to hike in along the beach, spend a couple days in the jungle, then trek back out - seeing breathtaking views and awesome wildlife the whole way, and I got to see two of my favorite Ticos, David and Andres (fellow students during my semester in Costa Rica). We also visited a pretty cool volcano called Poas just outside of the capital city of San Jose, and played lots and lots of card games ... I like Rummy! We tried to spend as little money as possible, which proved to be quite tiring when you are moving from place to place via public transportation (in a foreign language) with only a backpack and a pair of ratty old sneakers. But when I left Costa Rica this time, I felt entirely fulfilled - no more loose ends to tie up, no more what-ifs. My mind had found time to settle down and accept that now was the time to move on. I'll probably visit Costa Rica again some day, but without the desperate desire to see everything and be everywhere all at once.
  • As Spring semester 2010 dawned on me, I began to accept my fate of 'graduating senior.' Aside from the occasional panic attack, I was looking forward to a post-grad life unlike the one I had known for the previous 20 years. As a perpetual student, all I have ever known is school - nine months on, three months off, furthering your education every step of the way and always doing something to be better prepared for that next step. I decided that I needed to stop. Just for a brief time, to contemplate what I actually wanted to be doing with my life instead of continuing to ride the current of my education. I had been following the path of least resistance, but I decided that it was time to add a little resistance and see which way that pushed me. Amidst the continuing cycles of endless questioning of "What do I want to do with my life?", I was determined to enjoy my time right out of college. I've had plenty of stress for the past four years and my final semester at Cornell was certainly no exception. I've done my time in school, worked hard, and now I get to decided what I am going to do with my life. Now that I am all done growing up, my life is my responsibility and my choice. Time to start living!
When I first began to write this log of my adventures back in 2008, it was fueled by a large contingent of friends and family asking, "So, where exactly are you going?" Since no one is ever really certain of what I am up to, I figured I would put it all in one place, so people could figure out where I was, even if they couldn't find me in person. As I leave college behind, I find the same question is being posed once more. And I plan to provide an answer once again ... in my next post!