What is and What if…A Visioning and Art Workshop in the Forest

By Carrie Ziegler | Lead Artist and Community Engagement Extraordinaire for Thurston Climate Action Team

Recently, we took our Climate Art in Action work offline, out of buildings, and into nature. While soaking in the forest of Squaxin Park, roots extending below us and trees rising high above, we made deeper commitments to creative climate action and decolonization. 

Until just this year, Squaxin Park was named Priest Point Park. For many of us, this was our first gathering in the park since the name changed. Simply entering the park and seeing the sign naming it Squaxin Park felt healing.

Writer Kathleen Byrd opened the workshop with a poem she’d written several years ago about how Priest Point Park was misnamed. Then, Candace Penn, Tribal Member and Climate Change Ecologist of the Squaxin Island Tribe, shared her experience of the recent Un-naming and Re-naming of this incredible space to Squaxin Park. It was an honor to hear her words. Her vulnerability opened a space where others felt compelled to share their own art, grief, and anger about climate change and colonization. 

The tabletops we sat at were covered in paper, paint markers, and natural materials from the forest. We used these materials to draw and write, as well as to make a mandala under a nearby tree. People returned to the mandala throughout the day, adding and expanding this collective work.

Candace shared thoughts on Climate Grief, helping us to normalize it and offering ways to spot it in ourselves and others. She suggested taking time in nature as one way to cope with this grief. If you are unable to be in nature, bringing something from nature inside, maybe dried leaves, shells, or pebbles, can also help ground us.

After delving further into Climate Grief, and what helps move us through grief and into action, Kathleen led us in a writing exercise exploring “What Is and What If”. Participants shared parts of their writing with the group. I was amazed how the grief seemed to transform into hope and commitment to take action through this writing. 

We ended the workshop by walking to the Salish Sea, finding a pebble, and resting our thoughts and commitments to artful action in our pebble. Throwing our pebbles into the sea, we watched the ripples move ever outward, choosing to believe that our actions can and do create ripples of change in ways that we may never know or understand. 

When we create a healing space for people to recognize and share their grief through words, writing, and art, we come away feeling connected, motivated, held, and activated. 

Thank you to everyone who participated in this workshop in Squaxin Park. 

As the ground is healed
So too the people are healed
As the people heal
So too the ground healsIt is our hope to offer a series of Visioning and Art Workshops in the Forest over the next year. If you would like more info on those, or to join the Climate Art in Action group, please contact Carrie at 

What is and What if…

What is and what if.

What is and what if.

What is: I am surrounded by hopeful, creative people.

What if each one of these people said Yes to the sometimes quiet, sometimes loud, persistent voice in our heads. What if each of us said a loud, deep, primal YES! to walk through our fears and into the fullest expression of who we are.

What if there was, or maybe already is, support for this. What if the universe, represented by those we come across in our day to day lives, was waiting, with arms open to hold us, to support us in ways we can’t even imagine?

What if when we say Yes, it results in another being able to say yes.

What if, this is already What Is.

Then I say Yes. Yes! YES! That my Yes will make yours that much easier to say.

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