Artist, Cow Spokeperson, Art Adventure Facilitator
Some background from Meagan Burns herself:
Throughout most of my career, I was a graphic designer and restaurant marketer, although I struggled to find my right groove. In 2013, I was fired from three jobs in less than two years and my mom also became ill and passed away. But something happened in that time with my mom; she had a deathbed epiphany that changed my life; she confessed she was wrong about me and regretted that she wasn’t nicer to me. This admission came from the bottom of her heart and sent chills up my spine, but I attempted to brush it off because I did not realize she was going to be dead soon. Her words completely changed the course of my life. It’s as if it cleared the path for me and where I was once lost in the confusion of who I was or what I was supposed to do, suddenly I could see clear the path ahead of me. It was an incredible gift, but in reality it felt like I was having a heart attack during this time and I literally thought I was dying — because a part of me was.
Meagan Burns Stares at Cows
During this time I found comfort in the farmlands of southern Wisconsin. I couldn’t breathe in Chicago anymore, I had to be out in the country. I stared at cows, and they stared right back. I began to learn about cattle ranching by going to farmers markets and talking to a few friendly farmers who were producing grass-fed beef. I met a lot of people who thought it was a ridiculous waste of time too.
Everything in my life was different since my mom passed, including the space around me, so I was encouraged to learn reiki so I could understand this new found energy that was swirling around me. I became a Level Two certified reiki practitioner, but was a bit embarrassed to tell anyone, so I practiced on my own and on the cows in the fields. Not long after that, I re-visited my ex-husband in Texas, where his family had a cattle ranch, and it wasn’t long before I found myself spending sunsets with the cows and practicing reiki on them. I felt better around cows, I studied their behavior, I began to read about them, I began to read about the meat industry. I changed my diet when some health issues surfaced, I wanted to know more about clean meat and cattle ranching. But I was in Texas and someone like me does not just waltz into an industry like that, in a place like Texas.
I visited my ex-husband in San Miguel de Allende, and over heard him selling his cattle to a commercial meat producer, that would be sure to stuff these cattle with growth hormones and chemicals, and fold them into a factory farm production. I asked him why do that when the community needed clean meat? He said he had no time for that, and when I expressed I had time, he gave me one cow. The next day I was in a meeting with Via Organica; and the following week we were processing that cow; Via Organica bought that cow from me and I threw myself head first into the grass-fed beef industry in Central Mexico.
During this period of working with my ex-husband, which I do not recommend, he would yell at me to GO GET A LIFE and I would be furious that he would be so small-minded. I had started sketching again, and met a community of people who also loved to sketch. In these times that I was not allowed on the ranch, I would organize sketch tours and workshops in and around Mexico, and so began the travelling art workshop tour company. I helped organize the sketching community to become a regional chapter of Urban Sketchers, and now were plugged in with sketchers and events all over the world. I have also since joined forces with an impressive organic, grass-fed, grass-finished cattle ranch in San Miguel, Cañada de la Virgen, where I get to work with an amazing team of people to produce responsible and clean meat.
I am a big fan of the work of Temple Grandin and learned through her about how to work with cattle and learned that you do not have to physically assault a cow to get it to move. Try telling this to ranch hands who don’t like to be told anything! It would drive me crazy when I would see the ranch hands whipping a cow to get it to move, causing a lot of stress throughout the herd. I decided to approach the subject with my butcher; we literally would take the bruised meat to the ranch and the butcher would talk to the guys about how they were damaging the meat, and that we could not sell it because they were bruising the cows. That made sense to the cowboys and on my next visit to the ranch, the guys were hooting and hollering and waving their arms like crazy to get the cows to move — which the cows did without resistance, because cows don’t really want to be too close to people! I cried like a baby when I saw all the wranglers not hitting the cows — it was my proudest and most accomplished day, still to this day.
Below, the ranchers stopped whacking the cows to get them to move and used much gentler techniques.….
I drew a picture of me on a stool facing the eiffel tower holding a big bunch of balloons. It’s my intention to see the world through my sketches. I want to make that possible for others as well through my Art Leap Adventure art tours. I love the community I’m discovering through sketching. I love meeting other sketchers wherever I go. I have discovered a global community through Urban Sketchers. (Meagan helps organize the local chapter in San Miguel, here’s their Facebook group)
I started my immersion into sketching by giving myself an assignment to practice my drawing. All throughout 2016, I drew a drawing every day based on a random tweet I would select. Then I’d post on Twitter using this hashtag #pictweetart
I was committed to drawing every day, which I loved. I still draw every day.
What are you looking forward to?
Seeing more of the world with my sketchbook in tow, as I discover and talk aboutI the global issues of meat production and the plight of the today’s cattle ranchers
What will you be having for dinner tomorrow?
Probably grass-fed beef and vegetables
Where are you finding your personal joys these days?
In the place where all of my passions intersect: the beef, the sketching and art adventures. Check it out!
How do you relax?
I love to walk, it’s a peaceful time to be away from my phone. I like to sketch by myself too; I get lost in my thoughts and find it quite meditative.
What’s your favorite outfit?
I like dresses with leggings and my gymmers so I can run around like a gazelle, and also so I’m free to do a cartwheel or handstand. I do these as a nod to my mom for saving my life. #handstandsforjuls These celebrations remind me how I made positive changes in my life, my health returned and so did my strength, in more ways than one. I hope to have more #handstandsforjuls all over the world.
Have you got a personal philosophy or words to live by?
The gift of my mother’s death bed apology truly saved my life and inspires me to be nice to myself and the world around me, every single day. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what my mom did for me and feel it is my responsibility to live up to it.
What book, move, article or show have you seen recently that gave you something?
For the work I do with cattle, there is no greater inspiration and leader than Temple Grandin. Check out a documentary on her career improving the meat industry practices which has resulted in much better treatment for cattle below:
Have you got a favorite app?
- Enlight – photo editing app
Is there a day in your life you’d like to erase?
What do you hope for?
For so long I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing in life, but now I do. I hope I’m helping some cows live a more peaceful life.
What’s one thing about you that no one could possibly ever have guessed?
I was a quarterback on a co-ed football team and I had an amazing spiral. We were the Mad Cows, fittingly.
Books: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Movie: Howard’s End
Music: Elvis Costello
Place: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Favvy SMA gem: my terrace to watch the sunset
- email email@example.com
- Link to Meagan’s worlds: http://www.artleapadventures.com/canadavirgen.html
- Facebook Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/meagan.burns
- Twitter user name @meagan_burns_ https://www.instagram.com/meagan_burns_/
- Grass-fed, organic beef of SMA – http://www.canadadelavirgen.mx/
- Art Tours and Adventures – http://www.artleapadventures.com/
- Urban Sketcher of SMA – https://www.facebook.com/USkSMA/
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