Thoughts on the power of our stories

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If you’ve followed me on Instagram (@drlisachu), you’ve seen pages from my daily illustrated journal practice called “Before 10am”, which I’ve kept since July 2016…that’s over 150 consecutive days so far! I have kept a written journal for many years of my life, but only recently, in 2013, did I start playing with blank pages of a sketchbook, permitting not only words and sentences to appear on the page, but also colors, lines, shapes, scribbles, collage, and other experimental images. This liberating practice has led me and followed me through the daily routine of home life, to wilderness adventures in several national parks, and everything in between. This one new habit has changed my life by deepening my observations of the world around me, and slowing me down each day to reflect on what I have experienced. It has also given me an object to share with others, and a way of connecting with people around the world via social media.

I just returned from a road trip to Death Valley National Park, where I celebrated my birthday. While there, I learned that “Timbisha” is the Shoshone name for their home (which we call “Death Valley”). The word “Timbisha” refers to the sacred red color of the rocks in the area, and symbolizes the future, or the way forward. As Park Ranger Alexandra, a geographer who led a brief program in one of the colorful canyons in Death Valley, shared various theories on the formation of the canyons, she also said that many of the Shoshone stories of this place are stories she is not allowed to tell.

I realized in that moment that our stories hold power, and I imagined why the Shoshone people have protected their stories from being told by just anyone. When we claim the power to tell our own stories, we also claim the power of connection to who we are, not who we are told to be. Our stories are our voice. We must walk the balance between giving our voices away and using our voices skillfully to remember ourselves and remind others what is most important.

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In my experience, sketchbooks and illustrated journaling can serve as small daily steps in the journey of claiming our own stories and building mutual understanding by making our own experiences visible to others.

On Monday, December 12, 2016, 3:30pm to 4:30pm, in partnership with Half Moon Bay Library, I am presenting a *free* Illustrated Journaling Workshop at Ted Adcock Community Center, 535 Kelly Ave, in Half Moon Bay. The first twenty-five participants will receive a gift of a Canson XL Mix Media blank sketchbook to start your own practice, and each student will complete their own illustrated journal page. The workshop is open to school-aged students through adults.

This workshop is presented in conjunction with the exhibition, “Gettysburg in 2016”, which features illustrated journal pages from my month-long residency at Gettysburg National Military Park, a textile map, an interactive community quilt inspired by Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and an artist talk presented on November 13. The exhibit at Half Moon Bay Library continues through December 21, 2016.

I am looking forward to a lively, intergenerational session on Monday, and I hope this serves as a model for bringing future similar events to other communities!

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