Updated: May 26
You know the expression, "a journey of 1,000 meters begins with a single step"? 千里之行，始于足下 in Chinese, this proverb expresses how difficult change-making can be at the start. Sometimes you begin to make changes, small and incremental, and then over time, they add up and start fitting together like magical pieces of a dream-come-true puzzle. One step at a time, 一步一步, transformation happens, built upon vision, love, perseverance, and support. In my early adulthood, I started carving my path in life blindly, relying on the truth in my heart as my guide. Needless to say, thanks to my good fortune combined with due diligence, the outcomes have been truly and delightfully unique. Always let yourself be surprised if you want to accomplish the impossible.
Sometimes you don't realize the steps you have taken to get where you are until you look back and assemble them in order. Here are a few photos, all from May 7th but in different years, showing the progression that led to me creating an ocean exploration series that travels around the world, blending ecomythology with youth empowerment messages and activities: 2004 Crowded Shanghai Subway, 2006 Diving Certification Class in Nha Trang, and 2013 Garbage Monster Creations by Roots & Shoots Students, Beijing (shown below).
My love for art, nature and people eventually lead me to find support from the Jane Goodall Institute in China, along with several other international and local environmental agencies, to develop a community led eco-arts collective focused on addressing environmental problems with creativity. It got to a point where I would wake up every day knowing exactly what I wanted to do with that project. I was driven. It seemed to fit me so perfectly and yet I had no plan on doing that when I went to China, it emerged organically, over time, after each event and analysis. Every year I led a team of volunteers and developed new community art themes, events, partnerships, until one day, after 10 years, satisfied with China's newfound sustainability zeal on a state level, I decided to write a children's book series about life in the ocean. I wanted to write about the many hidden threats to marine life, and how it affects life on land. Given how dire our environmental problems are and how little most people understand them, I have always relied on creative work to help convey complex messages about sustainability. I was even more determined to write about the sea when I realized the majority of children I was teaching in a coastal city had very little knowledge about their surrounding environment and how it affected them.
My book series was conceived. As a SCUBA diver, I had first-hand knowledge of ocean degradation in 2006 when I swam over damaged reefs from dynamite fishing and coral bleaching. And while experiencing is believing, the next best thing is simulating. So, I decided to write stories that would help take more people under the sea to explore, since diving 15 meters or so below is not accessible to most people. My students in Shenzhen, China, remained my inspiration and study for the first book. You could say I started writing for them, but of course, the books are for everyone who's curious about and interested in ocean adventures. And that's how the Blue Marble Series and Beneath the Surface began.
Fast forward to me today, deep in the genesis of my series, following a style of storytelling that is more Eastern than Western (thanks to my Asian Art History studies in college) that aims to engage readers and inspire them to take further action to protect ocean health with a special activity pack (see examples below).
(Note: the Garbage Monster activity has been updated for the Blue Marble Series to include a zerowaste design rule using reusable materials and nontoxic adhesive methods for construction in order to not add to the amount of garbage collected to build the monster).
(Note: Visit @bluemarbleseries on TikTok for more free Ocean Lovers' Chinese micro-lessons).