Month in Review
Updated: Sep 17, 2018
One month ago, I was serving pizzas at The Post, living with my mom, and working on the Earthworm Project whenever I could.
My latest product concept, the Daily Spork was in its first iteration, and I was carrying it around on my keychain, regularly being asked, "Is that a spork on your hip??"
"Hell yeah it is," I'd reply.
After work at the Post one day, I hung out on the patio to have a beer and enjoy the sun before heading home.
Realizing I hadn't documented much of my use of the spork over the weeks prior, I decided to take a picture of it while I was hanging out.
I liked the way the picture turned out, so I thought maybe it was time to share the idea with people. Sure, there were plenty of things I wanted to improve about the spork's design, but I had been using it for almost a month at that point. Let's see what others have to say I thought.
The next day I posted the Daily Spork on my instagram account and got a response that was more positive than I ever could've hoped for. People I had never met were sharing the spork on their Instagram stories.
The response was energizing. Since people were so enthusiastic, I started exploring ways to source larger amounts of post-consumer plastic waste so that I could begin producing Daily Sporks for everyone who wanted one.
I started out by offering free plastic collection bins to fellow Earthworms who wanted to contribute plastic waste that they found or used. The response was pretty overwhelming... I ran out of bins quickly.
Partnering with local businesses + organizations was another consideration, but I had plans to visit my uncle in Illinois later that week so I decided to hold off on that path until returning a week later.
The days leading up to my trip to visit my uncle in Rockford were spent scrambling to deliver repurposed bins to fellow Earthworms.
In the middle of delivering collection bins, I saw a call for submissions for the 'Sustainable by Design' awards from Range. Winning products would be showcased at their booth at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market a week and a half later in Denver.
The Daily Spork seemed like a perfect fit for the award, and I had day-dreamt of attending Outdoor Retailer for a couple of years at this point, but it was always too expensive to justify. And the spork's not even ready to show. And who the heck am I?
After some internal back-and-forth, I brushed the idea of submitting an application to the side and drove to Rockford.
In Rockford, I worked on the next iteration of the Daily Spork while my uncle worked, and spent a little time at one of my favorite places, Anderson Japanese Gardens.
About a year ago, my uncle introduced me to vipassana meditation, which I've practiced since. On the Sunday that I was visiting, we participated in a group sit that my uncle organized with fellow meditators, including the assistant teacher from my 10 day retreat last year, Ginger Lightheart.
During the meditation, a thought crossed my mind. Why wouldn't you apply for that award? So I decided that I'd put together an application that night after everyone went to bed.
I stayed up until 2 am putting together the application - The deadline was the next day [Monday]. After completing the application, I slept for a few hours, got up, looked it over for mistakes, submitted it to Range, then forgot about it.
After that, my uncle and I kept hanging out as planned. Tuesday was normal, had a nice dinner, tried Morel mushrooms for the first time (even though hunting them has been a family tradition forever). That night I got in bed and (breaking the phone-use habits I've been trying to form) checked my email.
Congrats... was written in a subject line from Range. I was kinda shocked that I heard back.
"The Outdoor Retailer Summer Show is less than a week away and we can't wait to celebrate with you..."
Shit, I thought, I have to be in Denver by Sunday. And I'm in Rockford. And all of my stuff's in Louisville. And I need a new spork mold. And I have no idea if my van can make it that far.
I promptly got out of bed and went down to the dining room to finish the improved version of the Daily Spork. I finished the mold at 4 am, then sent the mold design to my friends in Cincinnati to have it 3D-printed on a Form 2 printer using Hi-Temp Resin.
Then my uncle and I went to a minor league baseball game that evening [Wednesday] in Beloit, Wisconsin.
On Thursday [July 19] I packed up the car and drove from Rockford to Louisville.
On Friday I made final tweaks to the Precious Plastic machines, picked up my Spork mold in Cincinnati, made spork samples for the showcase, packed my belongings, built this website [thank you Danny for generously tag-teaming] and then left for Denver. It got a little whacko for a minute.
And my pal Seth Fischer very kindly took some nice photos for this website on very short notice.
After a long Friday night of machine modifications, spork production, and packing, I awoke Saturday to head west. With over 240,000 miles on him, Clifford (the Big Red Van) made the long haul out to Denver in one shot without a hiccup ~thank you, universe~
It turns out the Sustainable by Design awards were intended to be only for exhibitors at the show (which I wasn't - too expensive) but luckily Range was willing to let me slip through the cracks and showcase the Spork anyway. THANK YOU AGAIN, Range :)
It turned out, due to some confusion about entry credentials, that it was going to cost over 3X as much as I thought it would to enter the show... I wasn't sure if I could manage.
I decided to do it, trusting that it'd be worth it.
Within the first hour of the first morning it proved to be worthwhile. ~thank you again, universe~
The number of companies at the show was overwhelming. By the end of the first morning I knew one thing...
The world doesn't need another outdoor company.
At least not one that operates conventionally.
With that realization, I spent the rest of my time meeting cool people, sitting in on some thought-provoking discussion panels that covered topics like regenerative agriculture, biomimicry, plastic pollution and AI. Also found some goofy belay glasses.
After an awesome, inspiring week at the show, I spent a little time taking in the awesome nature that Colorado has to offer, doing my best to process what was a week of nearly constant stimulation.
And then remembered how big of a mess Clif was.
I started thinking about how I might be able to build some sort of platform/frame that would keep things organized and also serve as a bed for nights when I get caught without a place to sleep. Ideally out of repurposed materials.
Without a way to build anything, I tossed those thoughts to the back of my mind and began figuring out my next move. I had to leave my cousin's home in Denver so I looked for a place nearby to camp for a few days. With zero luck finding a campsite online, I decided to hop in the car and see where the road would take me.
Somehow I was lucky enough to pass this place, the Woodbine Ecology Center.
After driving past it, I decided to turn around and see what it was all about. As I pulled in, I saw Rick, the property operator, who asked how he could help.
"I'm on a road trip and saw the sign and was hoping to learn more." He welcomed me, saying to park and come see him on the porch of the lodge.
When I got there, he was finishing up this birdhouse with his summer intern, Bea.
We chatted while they worked on the birdhouse, then he showed me their permaculture garden, the aquaponics system, and the workshop. I was in love.
The Center is meant to serve as a safe place for various groups and communities to visit, connect with nature, create art, and learn how to live more sustainably.
Their mission is to promote and educate others about indigenous values and sustainable communities.
We discussed a lot of the values that distinguish indigenous cultures from western.
How 'land ownership' was a foreign concept before westerners arrived. "We belong to the land, not the other way around," Rick told me.
How time is circular/cyclical, rather than linear. "There's no beginning or end, only phases in a larger cycle."
How lots of the 'New Age' health + wellness practices that are beginning to spread throughout modern culture have been practiced for millennia by indigenous people.
I'm convinced that we can learn a lot from them if we take the time to listen.
After hanging out for a while, I was about to leave when Rick told me they (he and three friends) were about to do a sweat lodge.
"My uncle used to do those when he lived with the Lakotas," I told him, "And my dad did them, too."
"Do you want to join?"
"Hell yes I do."
So we headed to a meadow further back into the nearly 60 acre property where Rick's friends were preparing for the ceremony.
The sweat lodge was an awesome experience. No pictures. No words. Just really, really grateful that I was invited to participate. It was a special way to begin this weird + wonderful journey that I'm embarking on.
Afterwards, Rick invited me into his home where we hung out and shot the wind for a while longer. He made the dankest elk tacos I've ever had. His friend hunted the elk. What a guy.
I spent the next few days camping around the area [Pike Nat'l Forest]. I kept a garbage bag in my passenger's seat to collect litter whenever I stumbled across it.
Ended up being too easy to fill it up.
I also volunteered at the ecology center - got to meet some cool people, deepen my understanding of natural systems, permaculture, land management, indigenous cultures. All in all just super thankful for the experience.
While in the area, I also hung out with my friend, Carmen, who I met at Outdoor Retailer earlier that week. She's awesome, so I was glad to get to spend more time with her.
We hung out at Washington Park in Denver and cooked the Patagonia Provisions Green Lentil Soup sample that they gave us at the trade show - it was a meal to remember.
After hanging around Denver, I headed south to visit my cousin, Andy in Colorado Springs.
When I arrived, he gave me a tour of his home and to my surprise, his backyard was full of discarded shipping pallets that he transforms into storage sheds and furniture, among other things.
He offered to spend the next day helping me build a bed for the van using some of his pallets. Once again thank you, ~universe~ and thank you, Andy.
We built the bed in two halves so that they can easily be removed from the van by one person.
What's great about the 2-part design is that the platforms will also function as display tables when I'm putting on recycling demonstrations and dinner tables when I'm car-camping with friends.
We also included some features that will allow me to add shelves/drawers/other storage features along the way if I find that they'd be useful.
It turns out that used milk crates fit perfectly as storage containers underneath.
On top of keeping things organized, the milk crates also function as great stools when you're using the platform as a dinner table.
It's cool to see how versatile something so simple can be.
One night after installing the bed, I got caught in a hail storm while sleeping under the stars. Rather than frantically setting up my tent, I was able to quickly hop into the van and get a dry, warm night's sleep on my new bed. It was even comfier than expected.
Not only was this a fun, educational project. It also turned out to be a great way to spend quality time with a cousin who I don't get to see very often.
While visiting, I also got to enjoy a delicious meal and learn more about Malaysian culture/cuisine from Andy's wife, Doreen. I only have Andy's pics because I was too busy eating to take pics of my own.
Thanks one more time to you and your awesome family for the hospitality, Andy.
With the bed squared away, I hit the road again to meet up with Carmen in Ridgway, CO where we camped in the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness area for two nights. And brought the sporks along of course. It was glorious. Nuff said.
After Sneffels, I began to make my way southward to Cimarron, NM - a place where I got to spend two weeks backpacking when I was younger. It's a pretty special place for me so I wanted to revisit it while I was somewhat nearby.
Ridgway to Cimarron is a seven-ish hour drive that I planned to split up over two-ish days.
After many long days of driving in the past couple weeks I was feeling fatigued, though.
Halfway there, I passed through a town called Pagosa Springs, CO. It seemed to have some nice coffee shops. And Carmen told me if I swung through on my way to Cimarron I could check out the Growing Domes in town.
I almost stopped to take a break and get some work done on my laptop. But decided to keep driving. Then, 20 miles past Pagosa, I realized there wouldn't be many more towns for most of the four hour drive ahead of me to Cimarron, so I decided to turn around and work in Pagosa for the afternoon.
I found a random coffee shop, parked, brushed my teeth in front of someone's home, then headed in. And who was there? Carmen. I knew she was in town but figured she'd be working in her office. Pretty funny. ~universe~
She's working for a growing dome company in town, Growing Spaces. I've been a fan of domes (and Bucky) for a while, so I was stoked to check them out. It was way way cool to experience them in person. Even got some tasty cherry tomatoes [domatoes] for lunch one day. Candy.
I've been in Pagosa Springs for four days now. It's nice to be stationary for a bit - building a little momentum with Earthworm work, giving Clifford some rest, making dank meals with Carmen, and spending some time reflecting on the things I've been fortunate to experience both recently and throughout life.
For the first time in a long time, I made art for art's sake. I was hanging out at my campsite alone on Tuesday evening and wanted to see how I could make use of the charcoal lying in the fire pit.
I used a Pike Nat'l Forest trail map that I still had from the week before as my canvas. And for my subject matter, I drew a neat place that we found while camping in the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness.
It's just above the tree line at the mouth of a spring that flowed down towards what we believed to be Dallas Peak. With a nice flat rock for planting your bum while you gaze off into the distance. Lots of marmots and pikas running around. Plenty of fresh air, too.
I drew it mostly from memory, so it's not entirely accurate, but it was fun playing around for the evening. Used half of the platform Andy and I built as a drawing surface which was pretty satisfying - and also resulted in some cool relief textures that you won't get from drawing on a smooth surface.
After working Thursday morning, I went on a nice, long, solo hike through the Weminuche Wilderness. Picked a bunch of wildflowers, sticks, berries, bark, moss, leaves, and grass along the way. Which reminded me of my Grandma. She always loved doing that - collecting pieces of nature around her to display in her home. And now I can see why. It turned out to be a really relaxing, meditative way to engage with the natural environment. And a nice souvenir to help me remember the afternoon.
Boulder Cafe's coffee is pretty cheap [$1.60], the wi-fi's quick enough and there are lots of good camp spots nearby so I'll probably hang here for another few days until I'm ready to make my next move.
Thanks to all you kind folks out there who continue to keep in touch and show support. [Some] solitude is healthy, but friendship is priceless. Looking forward to seeing you sometime soon.
Love you guys.