Monthly Archives: August 2021

I hold him

I didn’t decide to be an artist. That’s like trying to remember when I decided to be a boy. I just was. I remember drawing before I started kindergarten. I remember standing before an easel in Mrs. Barnes’ kindergarten class, wearing a smock, painting. I wish I had that painting now. I wish I could hold that child, and assure him that everything was ok. I know where he is. What lay ahead of him is behind me now. I hold him and reassure him as best I can.

The thing you do

In order to get my creative juices flowing, I just open my eyes and ears. I explore the world around me with my physical senses. If I touch, smell or taste something, that information gets stored, along with the sights and sounds. It’s automatic. Everything just goes into the file, and I end up with an idea of my surroundings. My universe. Everyone does this. The creative part comes when I pull the files and interpret the information. Everyone does this differently, even if we experience the same part of the world at the same time. That’s the creativity. It’s who I am. Creating art comes when I pick up a pencil or paintbrush, or anything that can leave a visible line or pigment behind. Sometimes I document something I’ve seen in the physical world. More often lately I let a line be a line, let a color be a color. After my hand paints or draws a few layers, I look at it.  While creating it, I’m sure I’m making choices that are appealing to me, but usually not a story.  With these mixed media compositions, I recognize the story later. Or not. But I still enjoy the way the colors and shapes interact. Often, the story is clear. Either way, I am not disappointed, because I have no expectation. Just discovery and surprise. I didn’t spell it all out without leaving something for the viewer to discover, even when the viewer was me. Those expectations were always the main obstacle. It’s like trying to cram God into a theology book. Creativity is so much bigger than my expectation. It just doesn’t fit. I create for myself. I love to share what I create, and I feel a thrill when someone else relates to or understands what I’ve done. Their reaction won’t make or break me.  It’s just my creativity breathing out. The act of painting calms me. Brushstrokes that I love get covered up, and that’s ok. I breathe out, and that’s ok. I’ll just breathe in again. Until I don’t. Then I guess I’ll be done painting.  The advice I would give you is to find the thing you love. The thing you are passionate about, and do that. We’re not all painters. Do the thing you do.

Kokko ystävien kanssa: Bonfire with friends



When I was really little, I’d see the squirrels running around our yard in Michigan.  I wanted to catch one so bad!  I propped up a box, and baited it with peanut butter on a tongue depressor.  A string ran from the prop stick to where I watched from just inside the door.  No squirrel ever fell for my plan, and I don’t know what I would have done if I’d ever actually caught one.  It could have easily escaped from the box on the grass, I know that now.

We have a lot of squirrels and chipmunks around our house in Minnesota.  They feast on the pine nuts in our front yard, and make piles of pinecones all over the place.  The chipmunks made a home under our front stoop.  We watched them going in and out.  Then I noticed squirrels going into the garage.  Later, I found that they had been nesting in a box which contained, among other things, my daughter’s sweatshirt.  That’s was going too far, so I set a have-a-heart trap near the chipmunk hole.

With each squirrel or chipmunk we trapped, we took pictures, and then drove them about six miles from the house, to an area with no homes, and lots of nice pine trees.  We caught each release on video.  You can see them on my Facebook page or my instagram.

My son loves being able to see them up close.  The rodents don’t seem too concerned.  They have always been used to us.  It’s fun to see them exit the trap.  Most of them pause as they step out onto the ground, before scampering away with cheek pouches full of peanut butter.

I think we’re up to 17 catch-and-releases now, and it fulfills that dream I had as a 6 or 7 year old.

It’s not too late

I think outside of the box. As an artist, this can be a valuable skill, but it is just as important when it comes to parenting. 

My son happens to have a developmental disability, and it’s been his dream to work for an organization like the DNR or the Forest Service. 

He worked in at least three restaurants as a dishwasher/busser, and no one could figure out how to get him into the field that he really wanted to pursue. 

In our free time, we often take our fishing boat out. We started seeing inspectors at boat landings, checking equipment for invasive hitchhikers. We agreed that that would be a good job for Raymond. Not long after that conversation, I saw a local job posting for that position, and applied. I didn’t think I would get the job. When they called me back, I told them I couldn’t take the job because my son needed me. I told them that I actually applied for him. He doesn’t have a driver’s license, which is a requirement for the job. They said they would hire him too! 

Now Raymond and I work together monitoring our lakes and rivers for invasive species. We have both learned a lot, and now are able to help educate other people about our important and delicate ecosystem. At the same time, we get to do what we love, spending time together outdoors with a purpose.

Checking and cleaning equipment, draining lake water from boats and tanks is crucial to protecting the delicate balance in our waterways.

It’s not too late.

Over 90% of our lakes in Cook County are not infested!  We can not eradicate invasive species, but we can all work together to slow their spread. 

Lakes with spiny water fleas show fewer numbers of native game fish like walleyes, and those are of smaller size.

We can’t just throw our hands into the air and give up.

Learn how to check your boat, canoe, kayak and other equipment, and then take a few minutes to check it every time you enter or exit a lake. 

Raymond Young, Aquatic Invasive Species Technician