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Dismal Days with Kath Parker

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This past weekend, Kath Parker and I made a trip down to the Great Dismal Swamp for a day of canoeing and catching up. We paddled a few miles deep into a remote section of the swamp and pitched camp on a small island. Night fell quickly and with it came a chorus of animal calls, some recognizable, some not. We scrambled up a delicious egg and (vegetarian) sausage dinner, told stories around the campfire then nestled into our hammocks.

It dropped down to the low 40’s that night which was apparently the lower limit of comfortable hammock camping. We managed some sleep though despite the constant splashing noises from the river otters hunting and playing in and around our camp.

We woke early and spent the rest of the day exploring old dirt roads and abandoned places.

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Redesign

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This past year has been a year of big changes for me during which I’ve had very little time for creative projects, illustration or otherwise. As i’m writing this, I’m aware that I’m still living through huge changes and that there’s little chance of settling soon. That said, I am again feeling the need to create work and i’m again finding the time to do it. So, with renewed energy and inspiration I’ve chosen to redesign stuntkid.com to serve as a focal point for my future creative endeavors.

Thanks for sticking around <3

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Chalk drawing for Grow

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2014-09-23 14.18.52Just finished this Chalkboard canvas for Grow interactive with some help from Rachel Swanson.

When i was asked to do the chalkboard canvas, i went through several sketches trying to find a good image that would translate well to being drawn white on black. When i came across the older ink drawing of the astronaut i ditched my efforts and got really excited about the idea of translating this piece to the larger format.

The entire effort took the better of two days even with help. At the end I was very happy with the results. It now hangs prominently at Grow Interactive in Norfolk, VA.

 

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Nightmare Island

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You’ll never come back from Nightmare Island.

Screenshot 2014-09-11 16.25.01Saturday afternoon I headed out to a secluded Island in the chesapeake bay with a few friends. The 5 of us had an amazing afternoon, set up camp, got a fire going. Cooked potatoes, hotdogs, marshmallows and drank spiked hot chocolate. We sat in a couple feet of water under a full moon watching distant lightning. It was supposed to rain at midnight but by 2 we still had mostly clear skies.

4am, BOOM! The storm hit, first came the crashing waves, then a light sprinkle, then in an instant WIND, howling wind, wind that flattens tents. Next came the driving rain, my apartment DREAMS of such water pressure. Christine and Ping grabbed their belongings and “need to keep dry” items from the 2 man tent they were sleeping in and made it out just as it was folding up around them. The rain beat the little yellow tent into the ground. I made the rounds outside securing what i could and tightening down the rain fly on the barely standing 4 man tent we would be sleeping in. Inside half soaked sleeping bags and sandy feet made for uncomfortable sleeping. The tent howled and rattled. Lighting flashed, thunder roared and the waves crashed.

The rain eventually stopped, but the wind never slowed. Rachel and I sat pressed against the wind facing side of the tent keeping it upright. With so much cloud cover there was no sunrise, just a grayness that slowly imperceptibly crept over everything. Our camp outside the tent was flattened and wind strewn.

What had been flat glassy water when we arrived was an explosive gray boiling sea. Wind driven currents pushed at the beach making our return appear impossible. We had 5 people, a canoe and a kayak. Even in flat water, we’d have needed two trips to get us AND our kit back to the main land. It took some coffee and a few hours to finally hatch a feasible plan.

Brittney and I would make the first trip back to the car and load as much as we could into the canoe. Waves crashed over the nose of the boat and we struggled to keep our body mass low to minimize the rocking. Once beyond the breaking waves we made very good time reaching the car. Just as we approached the launch i realized we were basically surfing a strong current that i would have to paddle into in order to get back to the island and the rest of our friends.

Brittney stayed with the car and i started my return. The canoe hardly moved. The wind and waves pushed the small boat back to land with every pause in paddling. I changed tactic and headed for a sandbar a few hundred feet out. At least from there i could pull the boat through the shallow water half way to the island before having to paddle again. It took nearly 45 minutes to make it that 500 feet. By the time i reached the sandbar i was exhausted. I beached the boat and elected to walk the sandbar and swim the quarter mile of open water that stood between me and camp.

10620814_10100996000064993_7793552990344958917_nSwimming proved difficult but luckily the water was warm. I took turns swimming on my back, and swimming broad stroke. Several times while watching clouds on my back i found myself turned and swimming away from the island. I’d curse, turn and swim more vigorously. It took another 45 minutes to cross the open water and arrive on the island. I swallowed up all the fresh water i could, once there and waited to catch my breath and for the nausea to pass.

The currents meant that the car was a one way trip from where we were. We loaded all our remaining kit into the kayak with Rachel to paddle it. The rest of us ( Christine Wu and Ping Zhu ) bobbed in the water holding onto the kayak. It was slow going but with the current with us we made it back to the sandbar with the canoe. Ping and Christine, took the canoe, Rachel continued to paddle. At this point i was basically useless and a charlie horse in my calf muscle turned me into dead weight.

All told, it took us roughly 6 hours to get off the island from planning to packed and on the road. I’d promised our traveling friends adventure and over-delivered. Last night we all slept like the dead.

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On art and antidepressants.

When I share with people that I’m on antidepressants I’m usually greeted with either surprise or quiet confession “I’m on them too. What do you take.”

I forget what stigma seems to persist against medical treatment for depression. In my experience people seem to operate under the assumption that everyone’s mind operates generally the same. The highs and lows that an individual experiences set their parameters for how all minds experience shifts in hope and hopelessness. So when you tell someone that you’re medicating your imbalance, you find yourself judged by someone who has no experience with the depths of depression you deal with. “Why don’t you try x and y?” , “I don’t believe in medication”, “I used to be depressed but then I found God”

We really are all different and assuming what worked for you will work for someone else is not only ignorant but hurtful as well.

Around the age of 8 I developed a fear of death that would send me into a panic nearly every night. My heart would race. I imagined the horrors of eternal life and the terror of nothingness. I worried for my parents and their inevitable deaths. I was raised in a Christian church and feared the rapture. Would God take me or would I be left behind? Would God really destroy the earth with fire? Would all the animals burn to death when he did so? Certainly the animals are innocent!

As I got older other fears worked their way in, insecurities, the horrible things I knew my friends were living through. Every night as I laid down to sleep my head would seek out new fears. I’d conjure images graphic and visceral in order to torment myself with worst cases and the inevitable. Sleeping was hell. I dreaded my bed, I dreaded sleep.

Coping with this fear, I’d seek distraction. I’d sleep with the radio playing loudly and i’d leave my lights on. I tried sleeping on the floor, the closet, the couch anywhere but that bed that had become associated with anxiety.

This followed me into adulthood. As I shed myself of religion my fears shifted focus but never went away. It was crippling. I could become overwhelmed in the middle of the day with a wave of dread and i would collapse. The noise in my head was so intense I could not function. I mean, what was the point, it was pure and complete hopelessness. Life was nothing but a series of pointless suffering.

Finally, at about age 25, i reluctantly went to a therapist. I’m not sure what kind of hope i was looking for but i told her that i REALLY did not want to be on medication. I told her i had a creative job that required me to be able to think. I had associated my creativity with my over productive mind. More than anything else, i just needed someone to listen to me talk about the things i couldn’t say to anyone else. Through conversation i was able to tease out the things in my life i could change and the things i could not. I came to understand that while the experience i was having was common, it was due to very unfortunate chemistry.

My lows were so low that they fully drained me and i could NOT pull out it on my own. I learned that when other people experience lows they can go for a run, or focus on a hobby or talk to a friend and pull themselves out of it. For me, if i went below a certain point my brain chemistry changed and I’d stay there for months.

In time i agreed to try medication. For me, it was a surrender. I’d rather be numb and continue to support my family that shrivel into uselessness.

Three weeks into taking my medication ( Celexa ) I realized i was sleeping through the night. I was still depressed, I still had a fair share of worries, but i WAS sleeping and i was laughing at jokes. I realized that i was gradually able to find myself distracted enough to enjoy things again. I wasn’t sure if it was the medication, it seemed to have no effect on me, but things WERE looking better. Coincidence? Who knew.

Creatively, I found myself far more focused without the constant chatter of anxiety raging in the background of my mind. I was MORE creative and i learned that i actually work better when i’m happy. Over the course of 2 months, I was functioning in a way I’d never functioned before.

Given this experience, i understand the depths and hopelessness of depression. I know for a fact that there are lows i’ve never experienced and i know that when i talk to someone who’s suffering that while i can relate on some level, my experience will be different.

So, I felt compelled to write this for several reasons. If you’re reading this and suffering from depression, you’re NOT alone and that hopelessness that you’re suffering from is a head trap. Find people that are good at listening and if needed, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. If you know someone who is depressed know they need an ear more than they need advice. These people feel isolated and need to be able to talk about what they’re suffering through. Understand that works for you is unlikely to work for them. The internet is full of good advice on this subject, take it seriously.

I also wrote this to dispel a bit of the stigma. You do what you need to do to function and enjoy your life. My struggle isn’t something i’m going to be ashamed of. Depression and bad chemistry is part of who I am. I consider myself lucky to live in a time where there is help, i’m lucky to have a good job with good health insurance and i’m extremely lucky to have loving supportive people in my life.

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Moormans River, Shenandoah, VA

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Exploring the Moormans River near Crozet, VA with Rachel. The previous night there had been a flash flood making the water run heavy. Most of the trails along the river bank had transformed into small streams. [ google map ]

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A day in Pungo

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A day with Brittney on the Inter-coastal Waterway in Pungo, Virginia Beach, VA. Also known as backwater, also known as where all the snakes live.

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Authentic Adventure

We like to think that adventures used to be more real, more raw, more authentic. We see old photos of our parents on road trips across the desert and pour over the rich orange colors of the time ravaged film. Super 8 films flicker silent grainy memories of grandparents with oddly young faces exploring national parks. We experience nostalgia for things we’ve never experienced and wonder what amazing adventures they must have experienced.

Todays cameras give us high resolution images just as we experience them. Full color, sterile and honest. For us, this represents the sterile detached digital age we live in. We feel a tinge of guilt for our lack of authenticity and apologetically apply color treatments and faux film damage to our images in hopes to lend them credibility. We borrow legitimacy from the past and mimic best we can the grand memories of generations past in hopes that some day someone will look back at our lives and marvel at the amazing lives we must have lived.

In all these affectations we often forget that creating real memories and living a real life is still possible. The world is still wild, there are still adventures to be had and amazing new friends to make. We’re not condemned to wander the same bars and apartments snapping selfies and documenting our foods. Get out and make yourselves real memories and take meaningful pictures.

Then apply cool filters to them, because filters are awesome and pretty and we DO love them.

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Weldon NC and Back

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A day trip with Rachel to see the bridges of Weldon, also known as the day Rachel scared the life out of me with her fearless bridge climbing skills.

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Dumpling Island

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On a rainy day in March I took off with my good friend Allison for a trek up the Nansmond River headed for Dumpling Island.