It all started with gratitude. It started when I became completely aware that everything in this life is a gift…yes the bad too. I became aware that every experience is just that, an opportunity, a “happening”, and an adventure. The only question then became what to do with this life? Having awakened to the possibilities, only one thing seemed right; love. This is how my credo was born.“This is the way of The Peace Artist– It all begins with Gratitude: Love, Help, Make Art & Peace.
Why the certain direction?
I had to begin somewhere, and the corner of the nation seemed the best place. Similarly, there are four women that are very important to me that all live in Seattle, one of whom originally came up with this idea for this run with me back in 1996. I’m following the seasons, so I’ll be running down the West Coast during the fall, the South during the winter, the East Coast during the spring, and the North during the summer.
How far is it?
That will really depend upon the route that I end up taking in actuality, but in all likelihood, it will be between 8,000-10,000 miles.
Why so far?
The distance really isn’t important; it is merely the epic nature of circumnavigating the Continental US. I have toyed with the idea that if I complete this (universe willing), I would also like to run the perimeter of all the continents (except Antarctica).
Is anyone coming with you?
Not at this time. I will be doing it solo. I am not opposed to people joining me, but I also don’t think that this trek is for everyone. It is what I can do for peace. Others have their path to follow.
How much each day?
The ideal would be to run 6 days a week at 25 miles a day. If the run ends up being 8,500 miles at 150 miles a week, then it should take me about 57 weeks, or just over a year. However…I’m running between 18 and 27 a day with an average of about 20 miles a day. More than that, and my body isn’t very happy and things begin to break down. I walk a lot more too than I ever envisioned. I had a hard time with this at first, but now I enjoy it. I run then I walk. When I walk I notice more, see more, and can love more. When I am running I am concentrating on pushing the cart, my foot strikes, the bank of the road. Perhaps one day if I don’t have the cart, I’ll run more.
Why not? But, less flippantly, it is because it is my way to express the beauty of all that I encounter, the people, the landscapes, and the experience. I am an artist, this is what I do; I can run and I can paint. The goal is to give away all my art to provide people with the feelings of love and compassion, a sense of worth and value, to tell them that they matter, and that this run is for them. Usually, only the rich, the famous, and the powerful have impressions of themselves to convince themselves of their importance. By portraying the common man/woman, I empower them to see themselves as I see them…beautiful…divine. I love drawing portraits of people they get to see how I see them, and I get to remember them just as I did see them. I see them with love.
What are you taking with you?
This seems to change moment to moment. I am not “attached” to any of the objects, and I am completely ready to be relieved of them all. Truly, “all we need is love.” But, I am going to start out with (I think) This is what I have reduced to:
1. The Chariot “Cougar 2” stroller
2. Tent A Gore-Tex Bivy. The tent weighed 14 pounds, the Bivy 2lbs.
3. Sleeping bag and Pillow
4. Bed roll Inflatable Thermarest.
5. 400 Pastels Left on the side of the road in the Olympic Forest.
6. 100 Tubes of Gouache paint Left.
7. Watercolor pan Left.
8. Gouache pan
9. 20 Watercolor brushes 10
10. Water bucket
11. Pencil and Eraser
12. 4 Watercolor blocks of paper
13. 1 Box of loose drawing paper
14. 1 Drawing board Left.
15. 1 Camera Lucida Left.
16. 1 Collapsible stool Left.
17. 1 Winsor Newton Dart collapsing easel Left in the Olympics.
18. 1 Nikon D50 Camera Nikon 9100 PNS.
19. 1 iPhone
20. 1 MacBook Laptop
21. 3 pairs of socks
22. 3 pairs of shorts 2.
23. 3 running shirts 2.
24. 1 Sweater Synthetic Hoodie.
25. 1 Jacket
26. 1 Pair of North Face Stretch Pants
27. 1 Pair of Gloves and Beanie
28. 1 Pair of Sunglasses
29. 2 Water Bottles 4 water bottles
30. 1 Bag of Toiletries (toothbrush, nail clippers, etc.)
31. 1 “Peace Artist” Smock
Why specifically those things?
The Original Peace Pilgrim took only a comb and a toothbrush. I feel like I am taking way too much (Editors note: I did take way too much. I tried to go down to just nothing like her…and froze. I don’t know how she did it, but it took her a number of years to complete her first pilgrimage, so I think she stayed with peoplea lot more than she led on in her book…but maybe she was just that tough. I’m not.) I feel like I have failed to really do one of the tests of the experiment, namely “Sell all that you own to feed the poor.” I don’t feel that way anymore. I am willing and prepared to give away it all, but at this time it doesn’t seem right. All the art supplies and the technology are to serve others. The change of clothes, and the toiletries are so that my smell doesn’t impede the message of peace. The tent, sleeping bag, pillow, and bedroll…are for my comfort, but if I don’t sleep well it is very likely I will not run well. (That has become very very true. The day after I went with nothing, and froze all night, was the least constructive day of the whole pilgrimage.)
Why so little?
This is all I own in the world. I’ve given everything else away. (BTW, that is much harder to do than one would think) This is nothing if you have a normal existence, but for being on the road, and pushing it all in a cart…it is a lot.
Why did you give up everything?
I gave up everything as one of the tests. I made a list of all the things that Jesus, Buddha, and other avatars said where things to do. Feed the poor, it is better to give than receive, when asked to walk a mile—walk two, turn the other cheek, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, etc. Sell all that you own to feed the poor was one (major) test on the list.
What if you loose everything you are taking with you?
As I mentioned earlier, I am prepared to have it all stolen, or to give it all away. I can draw with anything, and I can paint with anything. It would be easier to do it with good materials and supplies. Just as it would be easier if I could sleep in a tent, but this trip isn’t about easy. It is about love. I am (I think) prepared to give it all…even my life in the cause of peace and love. Besides, you can’t take it with you if you are dead, and we all will be one day. So, my mindset is to love now, and not sweat the small stuff.
Do you feel afraid?
Of course, but that only makes the value of the experience that much greater. (This has become powerfully true. There have been moments when I became terrified. But then I stopped, breathed, and remembered that I want to love everyone, even an attacker, a bear, or a rattlesnake with all of my being till my last breath. That motivation brings more peace than any other I have ever known.) If I had nothing to loose, then I would stand nothing to gain. I must be prepared to loose my life, in order to find it. Besides, it has been my experience that true love casts out all fear. (Yes)
Why not travel with others?
Again, I’m not opposed to it, but at this stage in the journey, it seems that this ismy path. Perhaps later others will feel similarly and want to join.
Where do you sleep?
Where I can. Where it seems right. Having not begun the trip in earnest yet, I do not know exactly. I’m sure I will have a more definitive answer when the journey is half completed. But, where would I like to sleep is anywhere under the stars, or in the home of a new or old friend. (This I can answer more authoritatively now. I do love to sleep under the stars…mmm. But my favorite place is still in the woods on pine needles. Beaches are nice, but then the sand gets into your bag for weeks. Next to rivers is another favorite. When in cities I look for parks with picnic tables, but my favorite is to sleep on the benches in dugouts at schools or in parks. It is sheltered, but still outside. But, without a doubt spending the night with a gracious host is the most fun. I can truly be loved by their compassion, and I can love them back with everything I’ve got.)
How do you take care of the basics?
Well that is the tricky part isn’t it? I carry toilet paper and matches with me. If it is appropriate to the area I’m in and no facilities are around. I go in the woods. I burn the toilet paper, and attempt to bury the rest. During the day, I often have to pull over and just go as discretely as possible on the side of the road. Once I even had a cop pull slowly behind me…and then he just drove on. As for showers, that is a more tricky matter. I’ve bathed in lakes, rivers, streams, and creeks. I’ve also showered at people’s houses, RV parks, campgrounds, and most recently, under a hose behind a gas station. It is always colder than you wish, but afterwards you feel so much better because it was cold. I often giggle. I shave and wash my clothes in public bathrooms sinks. I have only used a laundry once. I’ve asked people that I know would tell me the truth if I stink, and they said no. The longest I’ve gone without a shower/bath is 4 days. I dry all my clothes by hanging them from the cart. Cold and wet days can take awhile, but sunny days it can only take an hour. Besides it is another way to be green. No electricity to run the dryer/washer, and the wind is free. Lastly, I use sunblock everyday, and believe it or not my half a bottle has lasted 3 months, but toothpaste goes quickly.
How do you eat?
Similar to the previous question, I will be able to answer better later. However, the universe and people are good. The berries are on the vine, the apples and plums are in the trees, cattails, dandelions, clover, thistle, miner’s lettuce, and Queen Anne’s lace, etc. are all about us. The universe provides either by means of nature or the goodness and kindness of strangers. However, I don’t ask for food, but allow people to feel the bliss of giving of their own volition. Update: All the above has proven to be true. I’ve been on the road now for 3 months, and I have yet to miss a meal. People have giving me TONS of food, and the universe has provided abundantly. I’ve eaten: Dandelions, 4 types of seaweed, cattails, Queen Anne’s Lace, Apples, Figs, Bracken, Milk week, Agoseris, Chicory, 3 types of clover, fireweed, sunflower, thistle, wild rose and rose hips, and 13 different berries.
How is your day structured?
Right now it is: Run, rest, paint, run, rest, paint, run, sleep. Hopefully, I eat somewhere in there. I wake with the sunrise, brush my teeth; if there is a coffee shop close I go there. Then, I run or walk as far as necessary to get to the next campground, site, destination, coffee shop, etc. I find that I have the best chance to meet people and give my artwork away and make contacts by just sitting and doing artwork in a coffee shop. People doing art fascinate people. It is by far my preferred way to meet people. Plus, working on the piece in front of them, involves them in its creation; they saw it happen. That makes it more special for them as well. Then I go find a place to sleep. Hopefully it isn’t dark already, but if it is, I do my best…but that is also how I got poison oak.
When will you rest?
Besides resting during the day, especially when it is hottest, my intention is to take one day off a week. Hopefully on these days I can take in a museum or just relax with some friends. I didn’t listen to my own plan at the beginning, and I over-trained and got injured. I lost two weeks to injuries. I’ve learned my lesson, and take my time now.
What can others do to help?
I am doing what I can for peace. Hopefully, others will be inspired and encouraged to do what they can for peace. Everyone has a different purpose or calling. Some travel, and some stay put. Some work with the old, some the young. For some just being the best parent possible is the greatest act of kindness the world could ever know. However, a good rule of thumb is to be present. No matter where you are, as often as you think of it, stop, breathe, and be present. Somewhere about you there is an act of kindness or a good deed that you can do. It may be as simple as being nice to the barista at Starbucks when everyone else is cranky. Perhaps pay the toll for the person behind you in line. Send flowers to someone you know doesn’t like you. Love the unlovable. The harder the task the greater peace.
How can others support you?
The greatest thing you can do for me is to do the greatest good for yourself and others. Be the peace you wish to see in the world. You can also give me a big hug. Addition: I really like staying with people. You don’t get to know people really unless you spend a lot of time with them. Staying with people provides me a way to really love them, and be loved by them. So, if you would like to and I’m in your area…invite me in. (I cook and clean well too. LOL)
How will you replace things, and shoes specifically?
I don’t know, but I have faith that the universe will provide me with everything I need, when I truly need it. As far as shoes go, I’ve been contemplating, and have begun training to eventually do away with shoes. More than likely they came from a factory whose labor practices I might not agree are serving the greatest good, and since most of the plastics and polymers are from oil derivatives, I want to minimize my footprint (pun intended) as much as possible. This may change however, and I am open to that. The universe has provided. I have been training in barefoot running shoes, but just can’t make the transition yet. I do too many miles a week to go completely barefoot. I have a pair of “invisible shoes” that I bring, but I don’t use them much for running.
What art materials will you take?
I mentioned earlier what I am taking exactly, but the nature of these materials is that they are all dry immediately, and therefore I am able to give them away. I would love, and still may bring oil paint. However, it weighs a lot, is very bulky, and it does not dry for several days making it difficult to transport and give away.
What do you plan to paint?
Everything. I’m sure I will be doing a TON of landscapes, seascapes, and still life. However, I have started and wish to continue to do portraits of people that I meet.
What is the 10,000 Portrait Project?
I came up with the 10,000-portrait project as an idea that for every mile run, I would do a portrait. However, this in no way practical, but the intention is still there. I sign all my works that I give to people with Peace ###. Obviously there was a number one, and hopefully someday there will be a number 10,000.
Why do you number all your pieces?
The intention is that it helps mark how many I have done, and to whom they belong. Perhaps someday, the “Peace(s)” will be brought back together so that they maybe seen in their entirety.
What if you loose all your art supplies?
I can get a pencil anywhere, and paper bags and cardboard are plentiful. (I actually really like to work on cardboard and craft paper)
Why art? What is the purpose of doing art, especially when people need so much more?
Why not work in a soup kitchen? Why not continue to teach school, or coach gymnastics where I make a real difference in kid’s lives? These are valid questions, but there are many people who can do those things, let them, they are good to do. Not many people can do what I intend, and by the shear nature of the act, I believe that I can parlay that into the greatest good. If it doesn’t work out, or I hate it, I can always go back and serve in a different function. Stepping back is easy, stepping forward is hard.
What do you do with the pieces after you have completed them, and the people don’t want them?
I’ve been very fortunate to watch most of the “peace(s)” I’ve made go to good homes. More specifically, I have heard stories from the recipients about how the peace consistently reminds them to be thankful and to do what they are able for peace. I’ve been told that the peace has brightened their days and given them peace and contentment. What more could I ask for? But, more true to the question, I will save them to give to another person. Perhaps one day, I will just beautify a city by putting up random “peace(s)” all over as I did once in San Francisco. Note: So far all the pieces I’ve done have gone to those who wanted them.
Your Smock states, “Running 10,000 miles for Love, Art, & Peace”, why these ideals rather than poverty, no nukes, homelessness etc.?
I have found that when you are against something, the thing only gains more power. So instead of being against poverty, I am for love. Instead of protesting war, I parade for peace. Rather than lamenting the ugliness, I attempt to create beauty.
Secondly, I think more importantly, the only real change we have ever seen in humans has been that of genuine reconciliation. When you are forced to “accept” a speed limit that you don’t agree with, you usually resent it, and speed anyway. When caught you resent the ticket. Similarly, people who were forced to accept civil rights because it was the common law, or because it was more business savvy to do, never fully embraced it as an idea. Therefore their resentment grows, as does their resistance. This is why racism flourishes and continues. Without the Treaty of Versailles, the Third Reich may have never risen to power. The heart of man must change not the laws.
When love is the guiding principle for all our actions, the world will enter an era of peace as it has never known. War, famine, and all that ails the world currently will nearly cease overnight.
Will you accept assistance in any form?
Any form is a big concept. I will accept anything that I believe will aid the mission and intent of the trip. I will accept anything that either I can use to serve others with, or anything I believe I can give to another to aid or serve them. Money is the easiest thing to give. It is the most wide-open gift, and the most readily available for most people. I don’t want to, and I decline to accept money. However, some people will not take no for an answer, so at that point, I feel that the most compassionate thing to do is to accept their generosity. I tell them however that I do have one condition, that being if I see another person who has a greater need than I, are they “Cool if I give their gift away?” So far, everyone has been OK with that. And, so far, I haven’t had to use any of the money given to me, but that may change as needs arise. Update: People have been very generous in many many ways to me during this pilgrimage. People have provided money, shoes, hotels, food, coffee/tea, groceries, homestays, laundry, art supplies, and most of all love. I went out to give, and I have been honored to receive far more than I have been honored to give. People are so kind and loving when given the chance.
Do you have a religion?
I have no religion, and yet I embrace every religion, except those based upon serving oneself. In my experience, and in my studies, every people, every religion, and every culture has love in the center. Every religious text states, “Love your Enemies”. In my experience, the Buddhist traditions as well as the Way of Jesus are of the greatest use to me. However, I am neither Buddhist nor Christian. But, I would say that I am a follower of the Way of the Buddha and the Way of Jesus. At this point I think it important to emphasize that I am not a follower of the way of Paul, which I believe in some ways diametrically opposes the Way of Jesus.
Do you pray about this?
I try to pray without ceasing, and have become an ardent believer and practitioner of the concept of Tonglen and Hamsao. These two ideas and practices are for me very intertwined. Tonglen is the practice of taking in the worlds pain, and replacing it with your own joy; meditation on compassion at its greatest. Hamsao is literally saying, “I am that.” It is recognition that we are inextricably linked to everything else. We are essentially nothing and everything at the same time. We are one. As such, it makes it simple to put one’s self in the shoes of those about us who are in pain or joy for we are those as well. As I run, I breathe in through my nose Ham, and out through my nose Sao. I breathe in the world’s pain, and exhale my joy to the world. Everywhere I go, I am attempting to bring peace and compassion.
What kind of Peace do you refer to internal, interpersonal, political, or relations between nations, peoples, or self?
Peace is all of that. To truly know peace is to consider any act that hurts another, or is harmful to the environment, a government, the world, or an ant to be unthinkable. If a man wishes to have peace in the universe, he must first begin with his world, to have peace in the world. He must begin with his own nation, for his nation his community must first be brought to peace. The community’s peace is directly tied to his family’s peace. One cannot have peace in the family without having first made peace with ones self. Finding inner peace is the most difficult task of our lives. Every act after that seems obvious and necessary.
Do you feel you have a soul, spirit, entity, or is this your way to find it?
Not sure, and I don’t think that it really matters. It is out of my control anyway. Buddhists believe that the only way to break the cycle of rebirth is through reaching enlightenment or awakening. I believe that I have done this, and continue to do it every time I choose to love despite the many reasons not to. Christians believe that one’s soul must be saved by accepting Jesus. Jesus however stated it differently, he said we are to do as he has done, so give, heal, help, and love.
Is there an afterlife that you are working for?
Absolutely not, I am working for the life I have here and now. “The Kingdom of Heaven is all about you.” This is it; this is your life. Are you who you want to be? Live beautifully. Live your life compassionately, that way at the moment of your death, when your life flashes before your eyes, and your relive all that you have done, you can enjoy it a second time. I think that the true nature of hell is being unable to make a change or make a difference. Hell is regretting that we didn’t love when we still have the chance.