Awe, Glitter, Motherhood, Home, Mbiras, Clay: the Watsons Return

Every August, forty Thomas J. Watson Fellows set off from the United States in different directions, never having contact with one another, occasionally crossing paths but seldom knowing it.

I love to picture the Earth as a blue ball floating in space. At any point in time, forty Watson Fellows are crawling slowly over its surface like ants, independent, alone, asking questions and gathering stories on their own little ant trails.

One year later, these forty (or so) ants convene and meet one another for the first time at the Returning Fellows' Conference, held every August on the campus of a participating college. Simultaneously, the next batch of Watson ants are dispersing from their homes to embark on their trails around the world.

A sunny afternoon at the 2018 Returning Fellows' Conference.

From August 2 to 5, my Watson class convened at Pomona College. Each of us presented a ten-minute talk on our year, an impossible task. I captured each talk in watercolor and ink with a simple sketchnote. (Click on a photo to launch a high-resolution slideshow.)

Words to live by:

"Let go of the conflation of motion with progress. Value digestion over excretion."
––Sheila Chukwulozie

"This whole year I thought I was looking for a home. Turns out, I was looking for a treehouse."
––Paulus van Horne

After the conference, I had the chance to watch Tomal Hossain perform music from across the Islamic world in his home neighborhood of Little Bangladesh, Los Angeles.

Did I forget to mention: Tanner Byer's talk was presented by his fabulous alter-ego, Eve O.G. Woman. (My kit of watercolor paints is now home to countless flecks of glitter thanks to Tanner's presentation.)

Sheila Chukwulozie asked the audience whether we'd like to hear her prepared talk, or sit in a circle and listen to a children's book she wrote during the year. We chose the children's book (see above sketch of Momo the Goat). Sheila's project focused on the reawakening of awe through West African textiles, which she brought for us to admire.

For the first time, someone sketchnoted my talk!

Emily Ross appreciated my sketchnotes and decided to return the favor. I was gushing. To see my talk through someone else's eyes was incredible, and it gave me a little window into the audience's perception of my story. Thank you, Emily!

Visit the Watson website to read more about these projects and meet the crew of 2018 Fellows who were spreading out across the world just as we were condensing in toward one another. May you all feel as humbled and inspired as I did in the presence of these incredible thinkers and feelers.