The experience I had at the park, if you couldn't tell by now, has changed me sooooo much. It represents a haven of growth. So when I left, I found it so difficult to be present. I resented being in Bangkok, which in my opinion is no where close to how amazing Chiang Mai is. Then I went to Ho Chi Minh which is absolutely chaotic and gross. I found myself at a loss, struggling so hard to enjoy where I was. I wrote on my hand everyday until I knew it, "be present." And I found that as I slowly opened up, so did the universe. I buried my missing into my sketchbook & pencil and wandering the city. I knew how much I loved being on a boat so that's what I did! Booked a trip where a majority of it would be spent on the river... and it worked. It healed me so much to be in a place with such strange sights like floating markets and villages. It was almost as if I was going through a mini break up: had grown so much in the relationship, then had to part ways. I became so attached to the park because I thought I still needed it to feel alive and creative, and got over it by filling my plate with other things I love. Elephant Nature Park, you almost broke my heart.
I've been meaning to write about this for some time, and perhaps I can now that I've returned from my solo backpacking trip. While in India, Sandeep picked up The Pilgrimage which I feel changed both of our lives significantly. So many wonderful passages but the one that continues to resonate more deeply with every day and adventure is the one regarding the good fight:
The Good fight is the one that’s fought in the name of our dreams. When we’re young our dreams first explode inside us with all of their force, we are very courageous, but we haven’t yet learned how to fight. With great effort, we learn how to fight, but by then we no longer have the courage to go into combat. So we turn against ourselves and do battle within. We become our own worst enemy. We say that our dreams were childish, or too difficult to realize, or the result or our not having known enough about life. We kill our dreams because we are afraid to fight the good fight.
The first symptom of the process of killing our dreams is lack of time… The Busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The Truth is, they are afraid to fight the good fight…
The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the good fight.
And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams-we have refused to fight the good fight.
When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we go through a period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being. We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves…What we sought to avoid in combat-disappointment and defeat-came upon us because of our cowardice. And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breath, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from out certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of Sunday afternoons.I have met so many travelers and find that there is one similarity flowing deeply within: we all fight the good fight. So many have quit their jobs, left their lives for months at a time against the advice of their friends and family, spending what little money they've saved to pursue living. It feels wonderful to have found a community of fighters.
My time at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand introduced me to a whole new approach to fighting the good fight. Seeing the project and devoting my entire being to it for one solid week... I just see how love and passion can fuel a project, and be all you ever need in life. Most of the workers at the park don't have families or kids... they don't need any. The park, each other, the incoming volunteers and the elephants are. And that's all they need! Living their lives for a week allowed me to see what it means to truly love and devote yourself to what you do.
So that's what I'm going to do. And since I've made that pact with myself, I can feel a change in my art and how it flows from my fingers. I've learn to trust my art without thought or expectation. Just presence, openness and love. The drawing above is the first drawing I did after leaving the park, and by far the piece I am most proud of. Enjoy :)
Sketches galore! Never have I drawn so much! Everywhere I turned there was an elephant so naturally, I had my sketchbooks within reach always. They're such beautiful creatures... so wrinkly & surprisingly fuzzy (especially the babies!). I felt like a Disney animator for the Lion King practicing for the opening sequence.
For 6 weeks I'm staying put in the Philippines until I hop on a jetplane for Japan & Singapore in April. Tough life, right? The month solo backpacking trip was amazing and I finally have pictures to prove it! What better way to kick off the sharing than with food & art ;)