Traveling Companions

Traveling Companions

Last week I was on an annual post-Thanksgiving trek with my husband, making an attempt to reconnect with him after several months mostly apart. For me, it is always a bit of transition from the intensity of a full-on shop focused life to one in balance with personal life and rest.




Even though my husband Bob, for the most part, has retired from fishing and the children are now the ones, very much for the most part, in charge of running their own operations, I have not yet retired from the mindset that years of that migratory nomadic life instilled in me.   I have grown used to a somewhat independent and solitary life, I nest wherever I am planted, I do my best to experience with all of my senses whatever place I am in as “home”, and I have learned that for me, home is more about who I am with than where I am located.

I have mentioned this before, but one of the tools that I have found helpful with this lifestyle, has been to incorporate the routine of journaling into daily life.  For me, as I process and record my responses to this present environment and relate my current thoughts and emotions concerning that which I am experiencing, I find it helps me to be more attentive and better able to connect with my current surroundings, wherever they may be.

On this last trip, I added to an older journal I keep solely on hand for these annual travel ventures with my husband. It is interesting to read back on past years and what I was thinking and doing at that time.

Sometimes I think I just go in circles, because many of the things I write about are often the same things I continue to wrestle with. I guess it is time I either accept these things or make more of an effort to initiate a change. Some things just take time, while others just need greater inertia and grit to overcome the status quo. I can see that journaling helps me clarify and identify things in such a way that I can begin to establish more clearly defined goals, lest they become a swirl of random thoughts rattling around in my head with little hope for manifestation.  

In the past I have shared about the traveling kit I carry along with me wherever I go and that I keep alongside me in my office. This year, I have a new little fabric folding case in which to keep my watercolors and traveling tools. I had it made for FisherFolk by Marianne Pitchford who was living in town at the time, and kept one for myself. 

These fold over cases were designed just for the summer event, and each person that was enrolled received one, as well as a linen watercolor journal, in hopes that they would embrace the opportunity to use them to create a lasting memoire of their FisherFolk experience and on into the future. Each kit is fastened with a handmade antler button collected and created by Leon Phillips, the husband of a special friend, Bonnie Phillips, one of my first Cordova friends, and my way of keeping her close, even though she could not be here for the event.

This year, on my travels,I have added a matching Net Loft fabric zip bag to my group of "traveling companions".  I find having a place for my rollup kit, plus the extra space for my cloth and additional tools, to be a nice addition in order to keep everything orderly and contained. They are roomy, fully lined, and I appreciate the zip closure to keep things intact while traveling. Constructed in Cordova by Marianne, we do have these on the website in a variety of prints.

This past summer we also gave everyone a miniature aqua or green leakproof jar with their journaling kits.


I am really liking these handy little small bottles that I now always keep in my kit. They don’t leak, they are the right size for airplane travel, and they are perfect while journaling when you just need a little bit of water to put touches of watercolor on small illustrations.  

When I was a young girl and first went to camp in Colorado, we used to carry these khaki canvas rucksacks for our backpack treks. They were fairly minimal, but held our essentials just fine.

I equate some wonderful times with those old packs, as our counselors guided us along mountain ranges by day and around campfires by night. 

How I loved those days high up in the clouds, following the alpine ridges with low to the ground wildflowers  and lichen covered rock trails.  When we got close to a mountaintop, we would take off our rucksacks, and pile them in a heap, leaving them behind, so that the rock scrambling element of scaling the final tops of the peaks could be more easily accomplished. Eventually, in later years, these old packs were replaced by newer, more lightweight, bright orange versions made from ripstop nylon, but I never forgot the memories contained in those old khaki canvas packs of earlier days. I am guessing my mother probably used these same packs when she was a young girl at the same camp in the Rocky Mountains.


It is from these memories that the idea for a small rucksack resonated with me in regard to finding something to keep journal and traveling kit altogether for FisherFolk adventuring. 

The small simple rucksacks, made for us from waxed canvas and leather, are not large or many pockets and places knapsacks, but rather sturdy ones featuring a single zipper pouch and just enough space to carry one’s journal,  journaling kit, a water bottle, and plant press.  I love to include leaves and flowers in my books, and so nice to have a plant press along to slip things into for preservation.

These packs are extra comfortable with their heavy cotton webbing and leather straps, and made in the USA by the small company who makes our FisherFolk Totes and Cross Over Bags. My rucksack has been following me around everywhere I go since FisherFolk, keeping my array of journaling needs organized and easily found, which is especially nice as I am always losing things in my moving about back and forth, from and in the shop. They also work well as a traveling office for those on the go with a space to slide a computer in as well as other necessities.


It is one thing to have the ingredients; paint, paper, pens and pencil, brushes, scissors, washi tape… but in general, I find, at first, people are afraid to draw, paint, and write. They don’t like their handwriting. They don’t feel skilled in painting. They are not sure where to start.

Knowing how much I have personally appreciated my journals and journaling, this past summer at FisherFolk, I really wanted to give everyone the opportunity to be launched into the practice of it, especially for those who felt anxious or unfamiliar, and so along with providing The Net Loft kit and ingredients, we brought to Cordova, artist MaryJo Koch, a very dear and kind friend, who I thought would help lead our group in an introduction to field sketching and keeping notebooks. 

There was also a day in the field for those who wanted a little more time with Maryjo, and despite the usual Cordova rain and stormy weather, we were able to squeeze in a little outdoor time at Alaganik Slough under the roof of the little wildlife viewing sheds the edge of the boardwalk overlooking one of the marshes, as well as some focused classroom time with plants and flowers we had gathered in the field, including the wild tall purple Siberian wild iris that grow plentifully here. 


Maryjo has a way of gently mentoring one in a painterly experience.  My first class with Maryjo was many, many years ago. In that class, we spent a full day learning how to paint a leaf with a raindrop.  At that time, it was before her studio was built, and so the very small group of us gathered in her home on a variety of tables and chairs in her living room and study.  I was mesmerized  by her and her woodland home filled with treasures. I have no photographs of that day long ago, but the experience is etched in to my mind as one I will not forget.

Not only is Maryjo a lovely illustrator and instructor, but she is also a fine chef. A highlight of taking her course and future courses in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, is the lunch she provides as all students gather around her wooden table for a beautiful luncheon.  I will never forget what a treat it was gathering together, being served a lovely meal  and spending hours learning to paint that simple leaf.  At that time, I hardly had a moment away from my children and the whole day was like a dream. I have since taken several of her courses, now in her barn studio, but with each class, a lovely meal.

Her book, The Artist, the Cook, and the Gardener is an outpouring from the meals she has created for her visiting students over the years. It is a beautiful book with her drawings and wonderful recipes.  We have autographed copies available for purchase in the shop and online.

For our Alaganik outing, in true Maryjo fashion, we had Casey Landaluce make us a lovely platter style lunch complete with wild blueberry and spruce tip syrup spritzer, and homemade bread.

The rain and storm brought us closer to town for our bundled up feast at the gazebo at 8 Mile, and then we were back to the classroom to paint for the remainder of the afternoon.  

I enjoyed hearing the calm voice of Maryjo doing her demonstrations throughout the day, and watching everyone mixing colors and putting pen and paint on paper.

I was so wound tight from being in charge of things, and keeping all the plates spinning,  that even thought I wanted to participate, I was only able to write a few words and do a brief sketch.  It is my motto, however, that some is always better than none, and I am grateful that I at least had those minutes to have a cup of tea, a treat, pull out my paintbrush and paint, and record my excitement of that moment, seated next to Lori Ann Graham (Loritimesfive) in the presence of Mary Jo and friends, new and old, that filled the classroom.  Lori passed on her wildflower paint dabbing cloth to me that afternoon which now has joined my assembly of traveling tools, and a nice reminder of an afternoon well spent.

Those writings and quick sketches are my way of freezing treasured moments in time with something concrete that I can glance at and remember in the future, as well as to simply heighten my awareness of the present right then and there Milestones. . . Life markers of the days that pass oh so quickly.

As with our other instructors, we had Maryjo select a favorite word and wildflower which we made into a little card.

We also printed extra stickers that you can place on your paint boxes as we had on the ones for FisherFolk with artwork from a wreath of favorite local flora that I painted surrounding a quote by Gustav Klimt that encapsulates my thoughts on journaling and illustration. This is the wreath and quote found as the header to this blogpost.

I was hoping to have more of the little cases available that we gave to everyone, but we are waiting for another batch yet to be produced. It helps so much to have everything close at hand. It makes all the difference to have everything organized and easily accessible, otherwise it takes too much momentum to just pull out and fit in when there is an inkling.  We do however have our Net Loft traveling companion art kits, which contain similar items, and work perfectly well if you are interested in one for yourself or for someone you know might like as a gift, especially for the holidays.  If you use code TC18 you will receive a free wildflower wreath sticker with your purchase of any of the traveling art kits or Van Gogh Paintset  or Van Gogh Empty Palette Box until the end of this year.  The sticker fits right on top of the paintbox. 

For FisherFolk we had a palette box filled with colors that Maryjo selected. We filled the empty boxes up with her chosen colors, which you can see first in the  collection of paintboxes we filled for the event and then later in the photo below with my very messy well used set of Maryjo colors.



We have these empty paint boxes available in two sizes for those who have favorite colors and tubes of paints they want to use to design their own color boxes with, or you can get the little set that is already filled with colors from the manufacturer.

Regardless of where you are or what you are doing there are moments to be captured in words and illustration. Sometimes we just have to look around to notice the special little things that surround and to think of the words that express our reflections on our thoughts and experiences.

At the same time last year I wrote on this and it still rings true.  We are here and happy to help you with the simple ingredients to get started, or to inspire you to continue or restart if your pen and brush have been silent for awhile.

We are all in the midst of a busy season of the year, and somehow seems even more important to etch out some time each day out of our busy lives to pause and reflect. This is not something new,  or a reason to feel any more pressure. It is meant to be a relief from pressure, and just a reminder and some encouragement for this worthwhile activity.  It can also be a way to log your inspirations and ideas as they develop. Instead of simply keeping multiple lists, I journaled the FisherFolk event in a medium sized linen journal, taping in certain things with washi tape, sketching in ideas, and keeping graphic lists that helped me to plan and brainstorm all the ideas that emerged as I was putting it all together. I found it an enjoyable activity, which also helped me keep my head straight.

I would love to see and hear how those who attended FisherFolk have filled their journals, and if they are still waiting, I encourage you to gather your materials and find how they would work best for you and your lifestyle. I love show and tell. 

Thank you for listening.  I love closure. At the end of the year I like to take time to remember and document the moments that were special to me during the year before they slip away and this is a lot of why I am taking time now to write on these things, even though months have passed by.  If I can encourage you to do the same, I would be grateful for that.  For me it is just little moments captured, even if briefly as they are the reminders of those milestones made up of the incremental bits and pieces that make up our lifetimes. I am never sorry for carving out the minutes to do so., and it always helps to have some "traveling companions" by my side to help me do so. We hope you will find them helpful as well.

Hope you are enjoying all the goodness this season of love, joy, and peace has to offer.

Back to blog


Hello dear Dotty,
I still can’t draw a circle or knit or paint, but I love reading your blog posts and following the Net Loft. Let us know when you are going to be at the Landing. We’d love to meet up there or at our house ( masked and socially distanced, of course). It’s been WAY too long!


Claudia Weaver

You are such an inspiration in so many ways. I am happy that I can call you my friend. Happy travels!


Your husband’s energy and your love of community are inspiring…..I’m going to Papua New Guinea with him again this winter…..along with Matt and Nate and hopefully Nelly…such rich times ahead!!!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts here….life is precious and as Bob says this isn’t a rehersal….this is the real deal….

John Baldwin

Thank you for this lovely posting.

Linda Biram

i loved reading this dotty, you have a beautiful way with words, so gentle and kind. thinking about this summer in cordova, such a blessing for me. thank you for sharing here, it’s perfect.
(wildflowers 💛) x


Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.