Sometimes life’s greatest blessings come in mysterious ways.
It was only days after his birth that Dan Gaube learned his son Julian had suffered a traumatic brain injury during delivery. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination. In the years that followed, his parents dedicated much of their time to occupational, physical and speech therapy while Julian made slow, steady progress.
“I don’t think I realized it when I was in it, but I would never have been on this career path if it wasn’t for him. He’s a teacher who’s forced me to do this for my career.”
Then at age 4, Julian began to suffer from regular seizures. He was identified as having Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a relatively rare condition that results in multiple seizure types daily.
At the time, Gaube had been working as a traveling wildlife biologist, but Julian’s condition necessitated a lifestyle change.
“For about 12 years, I had a career working for the Forest Service and consulting firms, while doing fine woodworking on the side,” he says. “Once Julian started developing epilepsy, I realized I couldn’t be traveling out of state. It really affected me being away from home, not knowing how he was.”
“I began making jewelry from wood scraps and natural materials of the forest and ocean. Now half of my house is converted into a shop. I’ve been a full-time artist for the last three years. I’m able to be completely home-based, flexible and there for Julian whenever he needs me.”
“It’s so hard having a kid with special needs no matter how strong you are,” says Gaube. “All his seizures are triggered [by sounds or other stimuli] and it’s nerve-wracking when you’re around it 24/7. It becomes your own bubble and there’s a lot of emotional turmoil. You never get used to it.”
Gaube balances his inner and outer life by dedicating his energy to his growing woodworking and jewelry business, Art Naturally Speaking, and spending quality time with his son.
“I don’t think I realized it when I was in it, but I would never have been on this career path if it wasn’t for him,” says Gaube. “He’s a teacher who’s forced me to do this for my career. I never had this planned out. It’s just happened organically. But that’s what these kids do. They teach you to wake up and start kicking ass because it’s not just about you anymore. Now I’m affecting all kinds of people in a positive way. And he’s a happy kid.”
While he left his biology career behind for the life of an artist and father, Gaube and his son still find inspiration in the natural environment that surrounds their Kings Beach home.
“When I was doing wildlife biology, I would always get ideas from the shape of the things I’d see,” say Gaube. “Like a really gnarly, curvy branch could be a unique shape for a base of a table. Now, I get the most peace of mind in nature when dealing with the stress of caring for my son. When I feel isolated because people don’t get it, I’ll go down to the beach with him and feel so much better. He’s also happiest when he’s in nature. He could just sit and throw rocks in the water all day long. There’s something soothing and therapeutic to his brain about the repetitiveness of it. It helps him to be calm. And it helps me, too.”
Gaube is also part of the newly opened Mountain Arts Collective in Truckee.
For more information, visit artnaturallyspeaking.com.