WOODLAND KEEP

WORDS & IMAGES: KATE WEINER

I recently returned from a short and sweet Artist-in-Residency at Woodland Keep, a creative space on the luscious Lopez Island that's run by the rad Demetria Provatas. I spent several days working on my book, Hope Embodied, and hiking my way through the wildflower fields, dense woods, and moon bright beaches that map the island. 

For most of us, space to just be is rare. It wasn't easy for me. I thought I was good at being alone but every night, I'd find myself gravitating toward my phone to check in with friends. I loved the space to truly dig into my book but I also worried if it was selfish for me to do so. I wouldn't be doing what I do if I didn't believe deep in my bones that Loam is growing some good in this world. And yet, having this magical space to think in, dream in, and write in was such a luxury I wrestled with a sense of guilt. My favorite thing about Loam is the opportunities it brings to collaborate with world-building artists and activists. Was it okay for me to be taking the space to work on something that was just for me in this moment?

The answer is yes—it's important to always remember that any experience that nourishes us has the capacity to nourish others as well. I'm sharing this struggle only because I think that these are the kinds of questions that many of us are grappling with as movers and makers. With the world plunged into sociopolitical and climate crisis, we know that our art is especially vital. But giving ourselves permission to fully explore our music or writing or painting—whatever it is that moves us—can feel like an indulgence. Even though I write about arts as activism every week on Loam, It's hard for me to accept that my art can be activism. I have many friends who are feeling this same way. 

Reflecting on my residency makes me thankful for the daily graces that Woodland Keep gifted me. Herewith, a few treasures I am taking home from my time at Woodland Keep. I hope one of these small steps will inspire you to cultivate heart-healing practices in your every day too.

MAKE A MANDALA

One of my favorite hikes on the island took me through a dense cluster of woods toward a beautiful beach. I loved walking through a pathway latticed in shadows and into a beautiful stretch of driftwood and sand and shells. Everywhere I went, I kept finding these gorgeous purple shells that reminded me of moons. 

Later, when I was curled up at Woodland Keep writing, I would take a break and make a mandala. There was a little altar at the Residency, mapped by offerings from past Residents, and I would gather these offerings, my shells, and a few sticks and make a beautiful mandala. Then I'd put everything back where it belonged and return to work. Making daily mandalas reminds me that the process is beautiful and nothing is permanent and that's a mantra I truly need as an activist. 

WAKE UP IN NATURE

During the weekend I took a news detox. Instead of waking up and scrolling through the NY Times as I do most mornings, I went for a walk outside. The joy those morning strolls brought me deepened my resilience throughout the day. I've realized that even on those days when I do delve into the news, my very first step should be waking up and walking through the natural world. I so often hike at the end of the day, as if it's something earned. But a hike is a gift I want to bookend my day with. 

SIT WITH DISCOMFORT

Working on a project you are passionate about can be uncomfortable. There's so much risk! And realizing your reliance on technology can be unsettling. I can go days without a phone but not if I'm on my own. 

As uncomfortable as encountering these truths about myself were, this instability is essential to my growth. My mission is to learn how to sit with discomfort—and not to run from her—to find out what I can learn from my own shortcomings. 

EMBRACE YOUR ART

As I mapped out the first few chapters of Hope Embodied, I felt myself coming closer to a deeper understanding of where I want to take Loam this year and how I can work with our incredible community to continue to inspire tangible climate action. I felt true pride in my work. And that's something we all should seek! Embrace your art, give yourself permission to pursue your passions. And know that you will always have the Loam community to support you.