Episode 169: Wonder Walking Heals

Interview with Artist Amy Won

Sponsored by IKON Pass, Danner, and Betterhelp

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Artist Amy Won is a big believer in making time in your life for wonder, even magic. And you can access it by walking out your front door.

Wherever you are out there listening, today might just be a particularly tender day in an especially tender year. Around the world, we’re all still grappling with the rippling impacts of the pandemic, keeping up with a contentious U.S. election,  and navigating a historic social uprising. Most everyone we’ve been in contact with is having some kind of hard time between the isolation, the uncertainty, and the collective trauma of this time. This is why we wanted to talk with Amy Won about the power of making time for wonder in our lives.

In this episode, we’ll talk bout how a sense of enchantment got away from Amy, how she harnesses it today, and how you can access it in your daily life through nature big and small.

Full transcript available after the photos and resources.

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Featured in this episode: Amy T. Won

Hosted by Gale Straub

Music is by James Childs, Wil Pearce, Nick Box, Human Pyramids, CHPTRS, Monako Davis, One Hundred Years, licensed via MusicBed.

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Featured in this Episode

Amy T. Won

Amy Won on a Wonder Walk
Amy on a hike

 

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TRANSCRIPT

Note: This transcript was lightly edited and created using a transcription service. As such it may contain spelling errors.

Gale Straub – Narration:

I’m Gale Straub and you’re listening to She Explores.

Amy T. Won:

It’s really healing and really comforting to know that we don’t have to venture very far to find a magic in our every day. It’s it’s right here under our noses. We just have to be more attuned to it.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Wherever you are out there listening, today might just be a particularly tender day in an especially tender year. Around the world, we’re all still grappling with the rippling impacts of the pandemic and I’m recording this a few days before voting closes in the United States. Most everyone I’ve been in contact with is having some kind of hard time between the isolation, the uncertainty, and the collective trauma of this time. I wanted today’s episode to be different, to be a salve for this week or whenever you choose to listen. See, today’s guest Amy Won is a big believer in making time in your life for wonder, even magic. And you can access it by walking out your front door.

Amy T. Won:

Nature is sort of the easiest way, the most natural way to be in touch with that sense of aliveness. And that’s where I wonder comes in for me, whether it’s looking at the sunset or going into the forest, a new forest for the first time, I always want to be connected with that feeling. That sense of wonder and Marvel, I don’t ever want to lose it because often we lose that when we get older, it’s something that’s easy and natural forest when we are children, but as we get older, so much other things come into play and we forget to just stop and be in awe of nature and off life. And I don’t ever want to lose that sense of aliveness.

Gale Straub – Narration:

One reason Amy holds onto her sense of wonder so tightly is because she knows what it feels like to lose it. On this episode, we’ll talk bout how a sense of enchantment got away from her, how she harnesses it today, and how you can access it in your daily life through nature big and small. Amy’s an artist, who started her professional career in architecture.

Amy T. Won:

Architecture school was wonderful. I enjoyed it because it was his humanities, right? You learn about life. You learn about how to shape human lives to buildings and spaces. And that was a part I really enjoyed about school, but when I graduated and entered the workforce, there was a lot of just sitting around on a computer, working on CAD drawings. Day after day, eight, 10 hours a day, and that really kind of sucked the soul out of me. And I felt like I showed up at work just as a cardboard cutout. And I wasn’t really fully being myself. And then the kind of real estate crash happened in 2008 and we were all laid off and I was in a car wreck because I was so upset the whole thing. And it really sort of woke me up. Like, I don’t want to go about feeling like I’m just showing up like 50% for my life. Right. Um, I realized that I wasn’t excited about work and because I wasn’t excited about work. The world is sort of like gray and I wanted to change that.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Amy shared with me that as awful as the market crash was, and as awful as the car crash was, it gave her an opening to create the kind of career that she wanted. She and her now husband were also making a big move from Atlanta to California.

Amy T. Won:

So moving out to you as an opportunity for me to examine how I want it to be excited in my creative life, but also in my everyday, because you were just kind of converging, you know, exploring a new world, exploring a new possible career. So the world opened up and I started painting. Um, I was also getting married. So like a lot of brides, I made all my wedding favors. I made my own invitations. It was like for the first time I got to do what I want creatively. And I was just kind of obsessed with it, sort of painting and screen printing and all that kind of stuff.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Of all of her beautiful wedding favors, it was Amy’s invitations that stood out: a vintage 1960s, tropical theme.

Amy T. Won:

One of my best friends. She was so enthralled with it. She asked me to make her wedding invitations. And so her wedding and patients were actually watercolor ones and I hadn’t picked up watercolors in forever. So they were also really outdoorsy, like, uh, so it was the whole idea was a travelog. So it’s like they’ve been on, uh, an adventure and it was a travel log of their wedding journey. And so it was all watercolor, as I said, if you took a peek into someone’s sketchbook, and then once I started painting, I couldn’t stop and I have not stopped.

Gale Straub:

And when you said you hadn’t picked up watercolors and forever, what, what age were you when you last watercolored a lot before that time period?

Amy T. Won:

10.

Gale Straub:

I love it. That’s really tapping into the child.

Amy T. Won:

It was definitely finding the inner child in me. Again, it was absolutely that

Gale Straub – Narration:

Amy built a business out of creating wedding invitations that weren’t meant to be thrown away, but were meant to be heirloom keepsakes. They were maybe even infused with a touch of magic, but she found that all of her magic was pouring out into her work. There was so little left for her.

Amy T. Won:

It was all about creating enchanting experiences in a form of stationary. And then I hit a wall and that’s when the second crash happened.

Gale Straub:

You were just taking on too much. And again, not really able to look out or look in, in the way that you wanted to?

Amy T. Won:

What I did was I got so excited about this brand new creative opportunity that it never had, like in, in a long time that I was working all the time. So much, so many ideas reporting out of me and trying to keep up with a studio and printing, uh, had to hire someone and I got of overwhelmed. And then three years in, I burned out really badly. I had set up this whole studio around the idea of creating and chanting experiences and being enchanted. And I was painting these invitations about people’s amazing outdoor destination weddings, but I wasn’t feeding myself creatively soulfully. I didn’t have time to do anything. I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was when we were on holiday. I think we were all camping or something. And I was worried that my studio assistant couldn’t get in because I forgot to give her the key.

Amy T. Won:

My husband looked at me and he said, this is not right. This is taking up your life and you have, you don’t have room for anything. And then I realized I couldn’t go on. I was so burnt out that I just couldn’t stand to look at another piece of paper. It was horrible. And that’s what, what happened after that was I, I had to close up shop because I couldn’t continue. I just, that wasn’t in me. Like I wanted, I love what I was doing, not necessarily the industry, but what I was able to create for people. And I just could not continue. And so I closed up everything and I just did graphic design on the side. And then I started walking and that’s when things changed

Gale Straub:

Now, you know, having gone through those two kinds of crashes as he described them, you know, a thing or two about like how to carve out time that you need for yourself to be able to continue to tap into that sense of wonder in the world?

Amy T. Won:

Yes, it was important. It was so important first because initially, because I wasn’t feeling it as an architect in my day to day life and coming face to face with mortality, made me see that I needed to feel alive every day. That life is precious. If you’re just showing out 50% of you, you know, of every day. And then the second part was because I realized that we’re, we’re not an infinite, well of wonder we have to replenish, and I didn’t spend any time replenishing. And for spheres of this creative journey that I was so excited to be in, and it was devastating. It was so heartbreaking having to close down my studio because I just could not continue. I didn’t spend any time nourishing myself. I didn’t go on any walks. I didn’t fill out that well. And when I started walking, I realized that it’s so important. It seems like a frivolous thing, taking time to be with yourself and be with nature and be with that feeling of Marvel. But it is everything because he can mean not being able to continue with your life’s calling because you don’t have it in you to give or to make or to pain. So I think wonder, may seem like a luxury to some people, but it is so important because it’s that, it’s where our source of a license comes from.

Gale Straub:

Hmm. And what would one of those walks like, can you describe like what one of those walks would be like?

Amy T. Won:

Yeah. So if you would imagine where I was at that time, I was just depleted creatively. I couldn’t paint. I couldn’t look at paper, but I knew that something was stirring in me. I knew I had to go back to that source of enchantment that I had built that studio on. So I started walking in, fortunately we had moved to a part of California. That was, it was like living in the woods in the middle of a suburb. We, I had a lot of access to nature just with like almost in my backyard, whether there’s nobody, because there’s really no places to park. Uh, we could just walk there and was surrounded by these old Oak trees. It was the perfect playground for my soul. And I would go on these walks and sometimes I would want to run back to pink because I was so enchanted and that hadn’t happened in a long time.

Amy T. Won:

I felt like I was reconnecting to my inner child, which I had no one by that time, that was a part I was neglecting was I had forgotten about my inner child. So many reasons like walking was one of them going on, like a life-changing trip was another. And, and so, yeah, I would want to come back. I would like, you know, I’ll see a rose bush and then I’ll take the time to stop and literally smell the roses and look at it and then realize that, wow, this would make a wonderful painting. And I didn’t have any pains at me because at that time I didn’t carry anything. And then I wouldn’t want to run back and pink. Yeah. So that was what those days were like for me every day felt like something wonderful. And I started bringing my camera and capturing it. And I had a little toy rabbit I would bring around and we put, I called him curiosity and generosity. A rabbit would get himself in all sorts of strange situations. And like, you know, in the bushes and the trees and I would take pictures of him. He was like me. He was my alter ego.

Gale Straub – Narration:

These wonder walks changed Amy’s outlook. They reinvigorated her sense of magic. After the break, Amy shares how she built a creative business out of finding a champion in the everyday. And how walk might just help you move through this, especially tender time.

AD BREAK

Gale Straub – Narration:

We’re back.

Amy T. Won:

And I realized that I needed to make something to help others also as a reminder for myself, because it’s not always easy. Inertia holds me back a lot. There are days when I don’t want to go out walking and I want it to remind myself that I have to be in touch with this because I was on the other side and not being able to create anymore was like important. I don’t want to ever go back there. And that was how the one that was born. I looked at all these paintings and I looked at all these words and keywords. I had come, I come up to remind myself how important it is to say inspired, say creatively replenished. And I sort of combined the two. And then that’s how the deck came about.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Amy’s talking about the wonder walk deck, which is a deck of cards that she designed to help guide your walks. They’re reminiscent of terror cards. But before I pull one from the deck, I’ll do that later this episode, I wanted to ask Amy about this sense of inertia that she feels…

Gale Straub:

What you just said about inertia really resonates with me. I feel that all the time, it’s so easy to get stuck into like one state of being and not to, not to just like, all it takes is to have a little movement, you know, like to, to have the opposite of that, to, to kind of get into that other group. And it can just be, it can feel like the hardest thing in the world.

Amy T. Won:

So, so hard you are absolutely right. And I’m so glad it resonated. And it, because it is, I think the number one reason why I made the deck was because inertia is a huge problem for me. And I realized from talking to my fellow kindred spirits, it’s like, it’s also a problem for them. And it is exactly like you said, moving from one state to another, if you’re comfortable at home, especially these days, it’s so easy to be sucked into vicarious, living through our devices that we need never to step outside. You can journey and explore that ventures through your phone, through someone else’s pictures. And I want to create that little spark, right. And especially in a time of COVID where we’re finding ourselves doing the same walks over and over again, because you’re confined to that small one and a half miles outside of your house, right? If you live in a city or if you live where you can’t really go far, and you’re forced to do the same route, having that little tiny spark of inspiration to step outside and overcome inertia to me right now, at least is very important, more so than ever. Hm.

Gale Straub:

Yeah. Cause especially right now, there’s this layering of, you know, there’s the pandemic, there’s the election, which, you know, this episode is going to come out the day after the election results are maybe announced. We actually don’t know what’s really going to happen on November. I think it’s November 3rd, you know? And then there’s been this incredible social uprising. Um, and you’ve you dedicated within your business, you have like a monthly club that folks become a part of and October is devoted to listening because there’s so much, so much noise right now. So like why, why do you think it’s important to carve out that time for listening?

Amy T. Won:

Oh gosh. Oh gosh, this is important. And I think one of the reasons, initially when I first made the deck, it was my own journey of trying to listen to what my soul really needs. Right. And that’s, and that’s where wonder comes from understanding, knowing where you come alive. So I was, when I made the deck, I was really trying to find ways to listen to my inner self, to my inner child. But right now it all of a sudden, a mess of everything that you just said this year, that’s happening. It’s, it’s sort of amplified because when you’re surrounded by constant noise every day, it drowns out ourselves. And for some people that literally mean, I don’t know who to vote for, or it could just mean what is my stance on Black Lives Matter? What is my stance on, is this really happening?

Amy T. Won:

Is this real or not real? And we live in echo chambers online. And a lot of times we’re not listening because we don’t even have time to kind of get into ourselves. We’re reading news, we’re trying to juggle family and work because all our children are at home and no one’s taking care of them. So we’re, we’re trying to, juggling, you know, our worlds. And I think one of the best ways to really listen is to just step outside and just be with nature and yourself. And one of the reasons, that’s reasons that works is because when our bodies relax, when our minds relax, we are able to hear things that come up from within that. We can’t, we can’t because we’re just distracted, constantly distracted. So if you can’t find time to listen and how will you ever know what’s the right thing to do. And isn’t that where we’re at right now in this country is knowing what’s right, knowing what’s truthful, knowing what is, how we want to become as a nation, as a community.

Amy T. Won:

And the other thing that’s important is when you step outside and you’re seeing the world around you, you’re walking on the beach, you’re seeing people you’re being in community. And we forget that that’s so important because we’re all isolated. We tend to think communities are things that are entirely online, but community is real. It’s your neighborhood is the people that live around you. It’s the fact that we live around nature and how we keep, we keep it safe for future generations. And when we’re outside walking, that’s when we notice these things, they become real to us. It’s not just a concept. It’s not just something at the back of our mind. We forget that we live in nature with other people. And I think that the more we walk and listen, the more we’re able to see and recognize what’s important for humanity. And I hope that that is what allows people to do things and make decisions that are good for us as a human civilization. And that’s what I hope the deck helps in that way. And also my monthly club at ventures is just gives people or, or creates a structure so that people are able to get back to that place.

Gale Straub:

So I have one of the wonder walking decks, um, thanks to you. So if I wanted to go out and use it, could, could you walk me through how you recommend that? Like beginners and then people who get to be a little more advanced with the deck, use the deck?

Amy T. Won:

The first thing, if you’re new to the deck, I would just shuffle the deck and then draw a card.

Computer:

*Musical sound*

Amy T. Won:

Sorry, my computer.

Gale Straub:

It was almost like perfect timing. The way that the music was like, Ooh, shuffle the deck, pick a card.

Amy T. Won:

Yeah. Shuffle the deck, pick a card. And then, um, and just go with a cart, leads you, for example, if you, one of my favorite cards and it’s the first card on top of the deck, when you open the box, it’s called a portal. And if you do the cart portal, you would just go on a walk and then look for portals all around you. And you could be in trees, hole in trees. It could be gateways or arch res. Um, it could be windows and on a building. It could be like a door on a hedge that reminds you of a secret garden. You’d be surprised how many magical worlds open up in front of you when you are tuned in to a single idea like that. And you know how, when you, when people say don’t think of a red car and you think of a red car and you see it everywhere, it’s sort of the same and the same thing that’s happening.

Amy T. Won:

So when you think of the cart portal, you think of the ideal portals in nature or in your environment, you will start to see everywhere. And, and that’s really true because portal was the first card in our club. When I first started it. And people would just finding portals everywhere, going down rabbit holes that they’ve never noticed before sharing pictures of the corals, they found on their walks. And it was wonderful. It was absolutely wonderful. And yeah, so if you knew, just pick a card and go, it takes, you just be really intuitive with it. If you’re more advanced, you can do things like pair cards, because the cards are in are actually divided into different realms. And the four rounds in the labyrinth that are important to our creative soul. The first realm is the physical realm. So we want, we want to make sure we are in touch with the physical realm.

Amy T. Won:

The second realm is the creative realm. So to always be expressing yourself creatively, as much as you can, the third realm is the inner realm or truth finding. So you want to make sure you’re always checking in with your inner world, checking in with yourself. So, you know, what matters to you? You know, what’s important to you and you are in touch with your inner wisdom. And the fourth realm is to influence realm or the intellectual realm, the realm of the mind, allowing other people or the books and art and music and history to influence you to shape the way you see the world. And so these four realms are what the car they’re like suits, right? That the cards belong to. Um, initially you don’t really have to pay attention to it, but if you want to dive deeper, you can draw a card from each realm and pair them and maybe go on an adventure this way.

Amy T. Won:

So maybe you pair a card from the physical realm, like discomfort, and then you pick a card from the creative realm, maybe that’s color. So you pair these two cards, discomfort and color. You could ask yourself, I want to do something. Outdoors is a little uncomfortable to me today. Maybe that means climbing a hill. So climbing a hill, like if you hate walking up hill, you might want to go for a hike that takes you. You know, that you’re forced to do that. And then because it’s paired with the card color from the creative realm, you could think, okay, I’ll bring my watercolor paints. So you bring your water color paints. And as you climb, you, you, you kind of get into with the color palette around you. If it’s fall, like it is right now, maybe you’re seeing the hills around you are turning orange.

Amy T. Won:

And so you kind of made a mental note of the color orange, and maybe some of the leaves like here at a eucalypt, you can lift this leaves, turn burgundy, and there are spots of pink and Brown on it. So you could start a file that away. And when you get on top on a hill, you, you could paint your walk of discomfort, what you seen along the way. And so that’s pairing two cards and you could make you compare four cards and make, make it like a road trip, or you can, that’s what I call an adventure spread. So there are different ways of going deeper, actually have a journal guide book that talks about that, but I don’t want people to get overwhelmed. The most important thing is just to go out and let it be sort of like a guide for your walk for that day, a spark of inspiration, but there is an option to dive a lot deeper. If they want to, like in our club, we focus on one card a whole month. So that card would inspire all your walks for the month. Like the car listen is for this month and you’ll create a project for the month and sort of your, your journey of self discovery for the month. And so that’s on another level where you can dive in and just kind of embrace a theme for wonder,

Gale Straub:

I love how pretty much any level you take it. It is mostly guided by yourself. Like you are not forced, but like you’re encouraged to, to listen to what, you know, what you need without even maybe explicitly acknowledging it, like, cause you you’re going to take that card and we know one person’s going to interpret it a different way than you might. You know, it’s kind of, kind of cool that it guides you in that way.

Amy T. Won:

Yeah. And that’s what I love about it because we’ll always discovered we discovering ourselves over and over again. And I love that the card, like I love Tarot and Oracle card decks because it’s a journey of self discovery. You’re finding out things about yourself. You might not know it’s there, but the thing I like about that and why created the one to walking deck it’s because that journey of discovery takes you outside. So it is an interaction between your inner and outer world. As you find, as, as you find yourself in the outdoors, as you explore the outdoors, the outdoors explores you, right? You might notice the Hills a green one day, but on another day, because you are in a different mood and you’re thinking about something else, you might not notice the Hills, you might notice the trees instead. And so I feel that it’s so important to realize that what we are noticing around us reflects how we feel on the inside. It reflects where we want to go and how we want our lifestyle travel. And so there is so much fodder for, for discovery in intertwining, these two worlds as like you can go on a walk and not just experience it walk itself, but find out a little bit about yourself along the way.

Gale Straub:

Okay. Pulling a card from the wonder deck, shuffling skills, come in handy and cribbage. Okay. Just pulled a card. I don’t know how I feel about it. Actually. It’s naive day. There’s a picture of a baby animal. It could be. I think it’s a porcupine. It’s pretty cute. It’s beautiful. Amy’s a beautiful artist. And I think I have reservations about naivete because I am someone who, who wants the best for everyone and hopes for change and hopes for some kind of collective action. So tape whole card, like naivete makes it seem like maybe that’s not possible, but I’m hoping that once I step out for a walk, I’ll feel differently about that. Ok, let’s go

Gale Straub:

Grab my keys. Here’s some, some really clear spring water. I feel like that actually reminds me of purity, which with naivete can be, you know, someone who was very young was this baby and more on the card and the sense of purity, isn’t a bad thing necessarily so long as like you’re okay with things not being perfect.

Gale Straub:

I just passed a porcupine path. That card might’ve been meant to be. Ooh. And speaking of porcupines actually was with a friend a couple of weeks ago and her dog got kind of snarled up with a porcupine, went right for it, didn’t think. Um, and then ended up getting pickers all over it, snows and paws. So maybe a piece of this is also just being measured in a response, you know, but you can still be excited, but it’s good to be deliberate. And to temper temper, your curiosity at times.

Gale Straub:

Been walking around for a bit. And it’s, it’s actually interesting because it’s November, there’s not a lot of new growth. Everything’s kind of settling in for winter. Uh, even all the leaves are, most of the leaves are off the trees. So that sense of like freshness or naivete feels like it’s being almost sloughed off. And I’ve actually started to think about why I thought this card was negative. Like why I immediately saw naivete as a bad thing. So this wonder walk is definitely pulling me in word, but for now, I guess I’ll choose to embrace the ways in which I hope and want for change and for people to care for the environment and for people to care for each other.

Gale Straub:

Yeah. For now I’ll embrace that and not see it as naive. See it as, see it as true potential or even where we’re at, who knows.

Gale Straub:

A lot of us this year are feeling a need for healing, you know, or the year’s coming to a close we’re. Like I said, the election will have, have just kind of come to a close. But why, what advice do you have for, for people who are looking to incorporate some, some healing practices in their lives? Like how do you do that for yourself? And what would you recommend for others?

Amy T. Won:

I think this month in particular, what I’m really feeling is just to create stillness in your every day. And, um, as I was just telling you, I just came back from a camping trip. We do go on camping trips quite often, but this year it’s been hard because the camp grounds have been closed and COVID and all that. And coincidentally, this year in our club, we are focusing on the card, “listen.” So I’m a lot more in tune to what, what this means and going away and being forced to unplug because I didn’t couldn’t get any phone reception, no wifi. I couldn’t read the news and worry I had for the first time in a long, long time create a sort of forced environment of stillness and quiet. And I was able to really relax into the land, into painting into myself, you know, the world’s shrunk.

Amy T. Won:

And now I started to realize what matters and I became more anchored and stronger and, and less, when I came back, I feel like things are able to shake me up a lot less because I have this inner strength within me that I, that I was able to create doing that week of being away and being still. And I think that’s what the practice of meditation does for you. Right? If you, if you do meditate is create that sense of stillness. And I think that what we can do right now, whether you using the one to walking deck or not is to carve out time for, um, and that could look like a walk every day that could look like not bringing your phone with you. When you go out for a walk resisting that urge to take pictures with your camera, just allowing there to be silence, to be space between you and everything else, because we’re going to need a lot of that, no matter what happens after the election, we’re going to need that sort of space to process. What happened to process, where we want to go, how we want to be. What’s important to us as a human being, as a society, as a country. And we can’t do that. If we allow ourselves to be in unrelenting noise, it just will not happen. So my advice for us this month and the month going forward is to find a way to create that stillness, to allow ourselves, to listen in a lot ways to other people, to ourselves, to what the world needs to, what the environment needs.

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