Several months ago I published an essay in Stay Wild, which is a fun new magazine produced in Portland, Oregon. The essay is about outdoor gear and adventure and branding and self-image, and it’s also quite personal. It wasn’t easy to write, but I believe that it’s important.
I gave a copy of the essay to my dear friend Alexander Martinez, who is a talented outdoorsman and an incredible artist. He responded to my essay with this piece of art, which gives me goosebumps.
This is what he wrote:
A few weeks ago, I got in my van and made a long-delayed trip home to the Pacific Northwest, where I spent a few days in Seattle visiting with my friend Charlotte. She gave me a copy of Stay Wild, which contained “The Things We Carry.” I think I’ve read it six times now.
Her writing sparked my own memories. I’ve spent countless days in the wilderness as a guide, instructor, and adventurer. I depend on my gear to keep me safe and to help me take care of others. I wear it as a badge of courage. My kit is refined, built from field tests and prejudice. When I venture to new places, I wear my patched climbing pants and faded trucker’s hat as if shouting: I’m part of this crowd. I belong here. But all of my well-oiled items are associated with specific memories, and when I take the time, each item takes me back to a moment. I remember when and where and with whom — and in remembering those things, I also remember why.
Charlotte and I have spoken about collaborating before. After reading her essay, I wanted to create something that captured the spirit of the piece, but I intentionally waited before responding. I think it’s important to sit quietly with an idea before reacting. After several days, my first thought was to draw a person loaded with every piece of gear I could imagine, which would be my way of showing how, in our effort to have and be and see everything, we depend on the external and forget ourselves. But the piece evolved, as these things often do, to this: a self-portrait, created with Adobe Photoshop after six cups of coffee and eight hours on a hard café chair. The writing on the page is split: on the left are memories of the times I’ve used my gear, and on the right are words associated with branding. As I wrote, I didn’t filter myself. I just wrote until I reached the bottom of the page.
Every piece of art I create is an attempt to take capture and pay respect to emotional experience. I’ll place put this piece on a shelf among stacks of papers and half-read books, and every time I see it, it will remind me to think carefully about what I carry with me — and why.
Xander and I have some upcoming collaborations up our sleeves, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can see more of his work here.