I am from the wilds.
I always have been.
I always will be.
I’m not talking about a valley between two mountain ranges or regions that are punctuated by flat patches of earth.
I mean prairie — interior lowlands, wide, weather conducing swaths of land that roar with silence when the wind isn’t ripping through bunchgrass, willow and scrubby poplar bluffs.
For years now, I’ve referred to the great northern plains as a caesura;
a wide breath of space that robs the mountains of the true meaning of grace,
a hard and undulating passage of land between the jutting lobes of the coasts,
the place the heartbeat of the wild is traced out
in the staccato of
in the gleam of
old bones in the gloaming
in the conductivity of
tall grass and pungent sage
in the way the soil clasps hands with the wind.
It’s a place that gives and steals in both a merciful and merciless manner; bringing forth new life in steady arcs while old life fades to rust and bone split in two by wavering gold. It’s a hard place for anything to do its living and dying, but there’s a comfort in knowing the prairie always takes back her own.
You know me. And if you don’t, I’ll be the first to inform you of the fact that I spend a lot of time out on the land and it’s my great honor to be able to live off of it, to take from it what I need exist on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels — and to give back, when I can, what I can. Not a day goes by when I don’t step out into the wide arms of the world here and notice, firsthand, the cycle of energy between the living and the dead, the bones and the wildflowers, the trees and the mountain springs, the pronghorn and the sage. I’m connected, I’m plugged in, and I’m grateful to be so.
It’s a perfect system out there; left on it’s own, there is no beginning or end to it — just like the One that created it all — I’m talking about Alpha and Omega.
The mountains, the plains, the great oceans, they are the beginning, they are the end. There’s simply a smooth line, the birth and decay of wildness and beauty, the tall grasses splitting bone in two, the heave of the flowers and sage, the eruption of the sun each morning and the going down of the same.
How blessed am I to see it in full dimension as often as I do. To be almost blinded by the simplicity and perfection of the great feast, of the great unbroken circle of energy between the elements, between the coming and going of spirit, between the bloom and frost of the seasons and to exist there, wholly, belonging because I choose to belong in a deeper way.
The difference between the living and the dead is breath. Caesura. A great and quiet plain. The space between the dead and the living is an inhalation, an exhalation, a great pause, a long rest in the holy of holies. I see it all the time, at my own hands or the fangs and claws of others; the short rest before the bones and flesh are thrust into use once more; the timeless moment when the spirit departs and the body begins its transition into something new.
Ashes to ashes. Stardust to stardust, baby.
I arrived home late last night from Saskatoon via Bozeman after two long days of winter driving and was washing a dish at the kitchen sink when I looked up to see this image stuck to the wall with a magnet. I took this photo with my film camera at a take-out after a canoe trip on the Churchill River System of Northern Saskatchewan when I was 21 and Robert was 24. Two months later, we eloped in Reno, Nevada and the rest is history, as they say. I mounted the image on card stock and mailed it to Robert at Wheaton College as a postcard when he was a student there and I was still living in Saskatoon attending the University of Saskatchewan. Rob found it while I was away in a box of things his parents shipped up to us from California and no doubt, it touched him the way it touched me, and so he stuck it up on the wall. There is a long missive written on the back of this postcard in a tiny, cramped hand. The words take me back, root me in the present and make me dream about the future.
We were dreamers then. We are dreamers now. We never dream small.
Here’s what I think of when I look at this image:
Holy basil. Robert is a looker.
We were doing things on rivers in wild places, catching fish, living beautiful lives in beautiful spaces at the genesis of our relationship. We lived this way when we met in New Zealand. How we make our way through this world has been unchanging.
Even then I was taking portraits of us with my camera and stylistically, my images have the same voice today which FASCINATES me — my images continue to look this way (but better) and my work continues to revolve around nature, portraits in nature, and self-portraiture in holy moments which really assures me that the way I take photos is my own, and always has been. That feels good.
It is apparent that who we were at 21 and 24 is who we continue to be at 32 and 35. This is who I want to be, forever. I want to keep ironing out unpleasant kinks in my personality, keep divorcing the sins of the generations that haunt me (as they do all of us), keep existing courageously in wild spaces with an arm wrapped around my best friend.
And I want to always have a boat.
To Robert: I didn’t think I could love you more then. I don’t think I can love you more than I do now. Which means I’m sure to love you exponentially more in the future. Thank you for staying by my side.
I’ll be listing a batch of rings in the old shop tomorrow morning around 9AM, Mountain Time. They range in size from 5.5 to 9.5! I hope to see you there.