Sometimes even your happy place can’t turn a frown upside down.
Stacie Dosmann is usually happiest anywhere outside, like the scenic area in Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest where her family visited one summer. Photos on Dosmann’s blog detailing the trip show smiling faces as they explored ant villages and camped overnight at a fire lookout tower.
On the inside, Dosmann was having “a grumpy moment.” Little things going wrong got to her. So she searched for little things to change her attitude, “which sucked by the way,” as Dosmann wrote in that blog post.
Looking around on the ground, she picked up some green fern to form into an “L.” A pine cone looked like an “O.” Nature had crafted pieces of wood and tree bark into a perfect “V” and “E,” respectively.
She placed the items atop some burnt bark, their shapes spelling out a word: “Love.”
It served as a reminder of how love surrounded her, even in this less-than-lovable moment.
“I found peace searching for beautiful letters to spell what I was feeling,” Dosmann wrote about that day in 2015.
She found something else. A passion that has helped Dosmann, 44, connect with nature and with herself.
“I fell in love with how it made me feel,” she said. “It’s something that makes sense in my nature brain.”
She’s carried on this form of “nature art” since moving to Colorado Springs in 2016.
Whether the single mother is hiking or mountain biking, she’s usually with her three sons. And she’ll usually pause the adventure to go word searching.
It’s never planned or predictable. She doesn’t know what word she’s looking for until it’s happening.
“It’s inspired by what I’m thinking or feeling in the moment,” she said. “I don’t go do it because I have a word on my brain.”
Here’s how the process works: “It begins with asking for a word, finding the magical spot, gathering materials and putting the pieces together to create the word inspired by the moment,” Dosmann said on Instagram, where she started sharing about her art in November.
She has more than 600 photos of words, each carefully shaped out of twigs, colorful leaves, plants, rocks and anything else laying in plain sight or hiding on nature’s floor.
Dosmann credits her creations partly to her noticing skills.
“I’m hyper aware of all the things around me,” she said. “Everything on the ground, I’m like, ‘That could be a letter.’”
All kinds of letters have formed all kinds of words: Joy. Motherhood. Bittersweet. Embrace. Passion. Path. Tough. At least one curse word, surrounded by leaves in the shape of a heart. Lots of repeats of love.
She says the word comes from whatever’s going on in her life.
If she’s thinking about her mother, who passed away in 2015, Dosmann’s word might be “grief” or “death.” If she gets to the top of the Manitou Incline on a snowy day and has the view to herself, her word might be “thankful.”
A similar word, which Dosmann has created in nature several times, might be the most fitting to sum up why she does this:
If she’s feeling stressed or overwhelmed, Dosmann knows what to do. She goes to Ute Valley Park or even her own backyard and lets her feelings arise. She turns them into a word made out of the land under her feet and the trees above her head.
In these moments, she’s reminded to be grateful for her life, her kids, her teaching job and the beauty surrounding them all. She’s reminded to be grateful for the moment.
“This is what fills me up,” Dosmann said. “I know it’s what I need to be a better mom and a better person.”
Dosmann has considered turning her passion into a side business, possibly by selling calendars or personalized artwork. But she also wants to keep it for herself.
So she’s tipping her toes iby sharing photos on a public Instagram profile.
“I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about it,” she said. “It’s just me trusting that if something is supposed to come out of it, it will.”
It’s kind of like her approach after she finishes a word.
If the word feels too personal, Dosmann destroys it. Most of the time, she takes a photo and continues on her adventure.
Maybe another hiker or biker will see the word or maybe the wind quickly blows any evidence away. It’s up to whatever nature intends.