CAIP Postcard Project

scattered postcards, image or written side showing

Central to the Community Artist in the Parks program are the conversations artists have with visitors they meet in the parks. But what happens when the parks close to visitation? Some people chose not to travel as much in 2020 because of the pandemic. Sam Zim, Community Artist in the Parks that year, decided the program wouldn't stop—just change. Instead, of visitors seeing her in the parks, she reached out to talk with them social media.

In exhange for a postcard to her responding to one of the themes below, she send a return postcard back—sometimes with original art. Over the summer she exchanged over 200 postcards with people across the U.S. and around the world.

illustration of two ravens battling above slickrock

Monday, November 2, 2020

Have you had any memorable encounters with wild animals outdoors?

Meeting creatures of different species outdoors can be profound, inspiring, startling, funny, and sometimes terrifying. Whatever impression they leave, meeting a wild animal is almost always memorable. Whether it's baby ducks or a polar bear, odds are you've had some unique close encounters with the full-time residents of the natural world, and I want to hear about them!

watercolor illustration of two men enjoying a campfire

Thursday, September 10, 2020

How has being outdoors affected your friendships and conversations?

Time spent outdoors with friends has to be one of the greatest joys of life. The outdoors creates opportunities to get to know people in a unique way. Moving through the natural world changes our behaviors and relationships: we adapt, improvise, collaborate, trust, problem-solve, and shoulder responsibility in ways that deepen our connections with others.

I'm fortunate that nearly all my closest relationships have been formed, or strengthened, by shared experiences outdoors, and many of the best conversations I've had happened under an open sky.

I'd love to hear about one of your favorite buddy trips, a great conversation, or a time you worked as a team outdoors and the effect it's had on your relationships.

two watercolor illustrations of a sandstone butte

Monday, August 10, 2020

What's a silver lining you've found when the natural world foiled your plans?

Bad weather, flat tires in the middle of nowhere, wrong directions, bees... If you've spent any time outdoors you know to expect the unexpected. Though frustrating, these experiences create opportunities as they force us to scramble our plans. Maybe you wouldn't have found that viewpoint, met that person, seen that bird's nest -- if things had gone smoothly.

Tumultuous, intense, polarizing, good, bad, ugly... 2020 is unique. The unexpected gifts received outdoors remind me to look for windows of opportunity this year has opened, instead of just staring at all the closed doors.

Tell me about a few of your silver linings from the outdoors or from this year.

watercolor illustration of two ravens on a branch

Monday, June 22, 2020:

How has the natural world put you in the role of teacher? What are you passing on about the outdoors?

Recently, we've been talking a lot about making a better world for those who follow us. Between parents and children, friends, mentors and greenhorns, teachers and students—knowledge changes hands across a variety of relationships. Teaching someone to skip stones, climb a tree, follow a trail, or listen for bird song can have a profound effect on both teacher and learner. With Father's Day this past weekend, and the changing world we find ourselves in today, I'm curious: Do you think about what you're leaving to the next pair of boots to travel your road?

in a painting, a single yellow flower grows over layers or red rock

Wednesday, June 10, 2020:

What has the natural world taught you about how to keep going when things get tough?

Perseverance: to persist in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

The natural world is full of examples of perseverance—most natural processes unfold with persistence, but not speed. Additionally, the outdoors often demands perseverance from those who spend time in it.

watercolor illustrations of prickly pear pads and flowers

Monday, May 26, 2020:

Sam's First Desert Forage
In the summer of 2015, I set my sights on my first true desert forage: prickly pears. Although I'd gleaned mulberries, apricots, cherries, and pears, all overflowing from yards and the remnants of Mormon orchards, the harvest of a truly native desert plant had eluded me.

Prickly pear fruits, or "tunas," can range in color from bright magenta to golden peach or a deep wine color. Their flavor is said to be like a musty mix between watermelon and strawberries, and they have to be harvested with tongs and thick gloves—they're covered in fine, nearly invisible and extremely irritating hairs.

Come September, I geared up and headed out to a spiky piece of ranched land...

Stay tuned for Part Two of Sam's foraging story next week...

watercolor illustration of prickly pear cactus pads and fruit

Monday, May 18, 2020:

What food grows wild where you live?

Before the domestication of plants and animals, foraging was the primary source of food for humans. In the era of grocery stores, foraging seems to have gotten a bad rap—seen as grubby, opportunistic, or even dangerous. I didn't start foraging until I became an adult, but now I love stumbling across wild food. It always amazes me to think: the Earth just made this! Without any human intervention.
Foraging is also a regional experience, connecting humans to the unique ecology and traditions of the land they live on. I'm excited to hear if any of you make a habit of looking for and learning about the food that grows wild where you live!

watercolor illustration of jackrabbit in four poses

Monday, May 11, 2020:

How and when have you needed to adapt in the outdoors?
Adapt: to make something suitable for a new use or purpose; modify.
Many desert species are uniquely adapted to deal with heat and lack of water (including the black-tailed jackrabbit). In many cases humans adapt to nature without realizing it: our circadian rhythm, or internal sleep/wake cycle, naturally tries to adjust to seasonally changing light levels. However, other times the natural world presents us with circumstances that demand conscious change to suit the situation. Whether it's a surprise rainstorm on your commute, a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, or finding a patch of wild blackberries, humans have been adapting to naturally occuring curveballs for as long as we've walked the earth. And like the adaptations of desert flora and fauna, the ways we allow ourselves to be shaped by the natural world often produce striking outcomes.

Now seems like a great time to think about adaptation, and the incredible results it produces in plants, animals, and people alike!

watercolor illustration of raven in flight

Monday, May 4, 2020:

What is your earliest memory of the natural world?
I love beginnings, and newness is in evidence everywhere in the desert—even as the temperature begins to creep toward summer's heat. This curious juvenile raven, for example, flew so low over me last week that it ruffled my hair as it swooped down to have a look at what I was doing (and see if I had any snacks). Reliving the curiosity I brought with me every time I stepped out the door as a kid is a central part of how I behave outdoors. I look forward to hearing about where and you how first stuck your toes in the dirt, and what this print reminds you of.

orange wildflowers beside notebook with sketch of same

Monday, April 27:

Which plants are the first to tell you it's spring where you live?
It feels like everyone is focused more than ever on growing things, and fortunately things are still growing: tomatoes, crocuses, dandelions, and desert wildflowers. Over the past few weeks, any time I've felt panic or anxiety creeping in I've found myself turning to plants. Whether it's digging in my yard or drawing globemallow, the minute details, flowing lines, and energy always get me recentered. So this week tell me about the growing things where you are, and I'll send you flowers from the desert!

paintbrush creates dark blue sky, white dots as stars

Monday, April 20, 2020:

It's International Dark Sky Week!

80% of Americans live in areas of the country where you can’t see the Milky Way due to light pollution from cities, but even in those cities at least a handful of stars usually cut through the smog and light. Do you know their names? Have you ever seen a meteor shower? Maybe you live on a farm and have more familiarity with the night sky. I look forward to reading (and replying to!) your experiences with stars, and reflecting on my own, this week.

Last updated: January 28, 2021

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