First Steps toward the Upward Spiral of Downward Mobility

One of the three goals both co-worker paul martin and I had in mind for my internship is to meet people who can help further our ideas for the developing heavily-illustrated little book on applied ecology and to get feedback. The second goal is to learn more from others who share our desire to further sustainability, i.e., social justice, humaneness, and ecological sanity in the world. A third goal is to create first run of drawings to convey the message of sustainable community for the little book of mostly illustrations.


On the way back from the Ogallala Commons Orientation Retreat, paul and I swung by Texas Tech in Lubbock.  paul wanted me to meet with a good friend of his, Andy Wilkinson whose poem called, “Mining the Motherlode” he’d shared with students, including me, years ago. Andy was very positive and helped us see the book as a graphic novel/science book, a series of images packed with information. At this time, the booklet is more like many worksheets with sketches and rough drawings.  Andy suggested that I read a book about quantifying information via visuals. It is written by Edward Tuft and called, “Beautiful Evidence”.  I was thrilled by the information and advice as well as finally meeting the poet and song writer. I have him listed on my listening queue on “Spotify”.


                      On a whim, we stopped by to visit with Andy’s colleague, Julie Hodges, who works as the education and outreach person with the National Ranching Heritage Center, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas. She happened to be coordinating a conference dealing with sustainability of grassland systems. We were able to get a super discount to attend and sit in the presentation of the first keynote speaker, Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan, an agrarian activist, agroecologist,  and prolific writer. He spoke about his book, “Food From the Radical Center” which was a great median for finding that there is more commonality between farmers, indigenous people and environmentalists than I previously imagined.

In the middle of June, paul and I attended along with OC’s director, Dr. Darryl Birkenfield and his wife Joanne, a conference on “Downward Mobility” at the Oblate School of Theology in my stomping grounds of San Antonio, TX. The first keynote speaker welcomed was Robert Ellsberg.  Robert’s talk on Downward Mobility was not about taking on a lower social status on a material lifestyle but an enlightening, unburdened way of seeing what is around you without the “airs” one puts on when in competition with one another in a society that is constantly being marketed to.  Mr. Ellsberg gave several examples of why living a simpler life to emulate the biblical Jesus makes sense in moving us toward sustainable community. Though I am a devout atheist, the sentiment is the same: Be a nice, aware and sharing person! (I might emphasize that being a constant consumer robs us of our humanity because it creates a want that will not be satiated. It creates a greedy predator.) Robert asked us to look around ourselves.  And a person I admire, Buckminster Fuller, said it best: “If you see a need–fill it.” Action can take place on any level. I have seen activist types try to change things by only protesting.  In my experience, it is better to start by being an activist for something tangible FOR community. Activism is a powerful form of protest.

While at the same conference, I also had the honor of having breakfast with sister Sue Mosteller who was such a sparkling and vibrant human. When sharing how hard it is to go through airport security (she flew in from Canada) she admitted to playing the salty senior citizen to shame security guards for harassing the public with their authority. I love her! Resist!

TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS of using a digital tablet to illustrate our book:

In anticipation of drawing for the book/booklet, I purchased a Wacom Intuos Pro Paper Edition illustration tablet. After downloading the drivers and software, it functioned great! I was able to doodle at coffee shops, or in places that has no internet connectivity like in the car waiting for a client to call back, or in my semi off-grid tent abode. When I get to my laptop, it was easy to transfer the images from paper to an app called Inkspace to export to any illustration software (in my case, either Adobe Illustration or Photoshop). Unfortunately, in late June, a software issue has rendered my tablet useless for digitalizing my drawings. I cannot even access my previous drawings that I never exported from the Inkspace library. It has been very frustrating as a beginner at using this technology. After uninstalling and re-downloading the drivers and apps, I emailed for help from Wacom, Apple and even tried the geeks at Best Buy’s Geek Squad counter. They all made suggestions down the same line as what I was doing, or basically did the same thing I did, … and confirmed that my laptop is functioning properly and bug free (i.e. they did not solve our problem)! I was feeling pretty bummed out, and was a bit nervous in telling paul that my hot new tech tablet had left me flummoxed to the point that I was hung up on trying to fix the problem. It’s funny in that paul got me to see the bigger picture, and I am now backing to drawing the old school way, ink to paper- which is more fun anyway.


For more about the people I’ve met and learned from on my internship journey so far:

To access the room block by phone use “Ogallala Commons Room Block” at:  (806) 803-5514

To reserve online use this link to book your group rate for Ogallala Commons

If you need help with your reservation call (806) 803-5500 for assistance.