Winning

IMG_7569I’ve reached the point wherein I am very, very fire season tired.  I’ll get a second and third and fourth and fifth wind.  I always do.  But for the moment, I am tired and waiting on that breeze, that thing to loft my wilted feathers and carry me skyward.

I stayed in bed this morning until 10AM simply because I felt ill equipped to face the day, the week…the month.  This month and August were not supposed to be like this.  I was supposed to relish spacious living, room to roam the backcountry with my fly rod in hand and my dogs at my heels, daily ten mile runs, watering the gardens in the cool of 9PM while sipping a gin and tonic after a decent day of work…

That moment when life takes drastic turns in a thousand different directions is when we fire wives (and otherwise) prove our fortitude, when we prove what we are made of, as humans; I’m in the thick of a proving ground right now.  I feel undignified, savage, scrambling, scruffy, exhausted.  I told a friend today that I just have to keep on doing everything I’m doing because if I let everything come to rest, I’ll never get it all up in the air again.  That loss of momentum is such a killer.  I’m sure some of you can relate, fire wife or not.  I just keep telling myself, “Don’t stop.  The burden of it all will thin out eventually and then you’ll see the benefit of hard work.  Keep pushing through it all.  Fix what is broken.  Make what you can.  Feed yourself good food.  Relax as deeply as you can once the sun goes down.  Answer the emails with authentic joy.  Keep saying yes.”

I simply must keep it all up in the air, orbiting and swirling at lofty heights.  I’ll break a thousand fecund sweats keeping it all there, but the effort boasts a greater result than the alternative.

I made it into the studio around 4PM today.  I didn’t get much done, but I was there, I made it.  I fought the chaotic trajectory of the day with all my might and I won.  I’m going to do it again tomorrow and then the day after that, because in the summer, this what I do, I fight hard and I win.

The Office Above My House

Above my house there is an office space that operates on a first come first serve basis.  Which is to say, if you get there first, you get to use it for as long as you like to, and everyone who swings by (and no one ever swings by) can find a space of their own, elsewhere, on a different mountain peak.

I arrived by 4×4 around sunset the other night, just as a blood red forest fire sun was sinking through the clouds over the Snake River Plain.  I had the dogs with me (you can take your dogs to this office no matter how rowdy they are) and they galloped through indian paintbrush and fireweed hunting for marmots as I sat with a stone for a backrest, balanced my sketchbook on my knees and poured black ink over six pages, front and back.

I live, quite literally, on the very edge of one of the biggest cities in Idaho (there are about 50 000 humans in Pocatello) and the only reason I can live in town like this is because this space, THIS SPACE, is directly across and above the street from my house.  I can be on a single track trail in thirty seconds if I run out my front door.  The West Bench feels like an extension of my property, and in a way, it is, since I pay my taxes to the United States government.  Public lands are mine, and they’re yours too if you also render part of your income to the government here.  That’s cool to think about, isn’t it?  Here in the USA, we are rich in so many ways.  I saw Utah Phillips play in a tiny venue in Grass Valley, California once with Robbie.  Something he said between songs has stuck with me for ten full years now, it’s something I share with others regularly and I’ll paraphrase the heart of what he said here because the truth of it is sure to resonate with you.

One of the most special things about the American West, the American interior West to be even more specific, is the huge sum of land that is held in trust as wilderness area and public use area.  I’m talking about Beaureau of Land Management lands, Forest Service lands, National Parks and National Monuments.  By the nature of the fact that your tax paying dollars go towards the care and preservation of those lands, you OWN them.  They are yours to explore, to keep, to treasure, to adore.  They are yours to escape to, ride your horse on, graze your sheep and cattle on.  If you are a meat eater and you believe in eating clean meat and you choose to hunt wild animals in order get that clean meat, public lands are the lands you take your meals from.  They are yours to draw your water from, if you own water rights to a spring, creek or river like Robert and I do.  They are yours to glean peace, comfort and inspiration from.  They are yours to love, cherish and keep clean.  They’re yours to fight for, to represent, to speak on behalf of.

One of the reasons I go out, so often, to explore the land around my home and the land directly up from my house here in Pocatello is because I own it as a taxpayer, but I’m also beholden to it.  This is the dirt, forest, sagebrush, water and moonrise that informs my work, inspires my pen and claims my heart.  I walk, run, ski and hike the mountains here because I need them and because they need me, too.  When I write about the land and sky here, I write for myself, but also on behalf of the space I call home, the space that owns me back, the space that has been entrusted to me.

This space outside my front door is entrusted to you, as well, if you are a USA citizen or greencard holding permanent resident (like me).  You may not live here, but you still own it.  I share it with you through my writing and photographs so you know it exists, so you can believe in it and cherish it, so you can be a part of it when you are on holiday driving cross country in your mini-van with your kids and dog in tow, so you can feel the spaciousness of our wild lands through your computer screen when you sit in your office cubicle and secretly check out my blog between coffee breaks.  We humans are going to seek out the wild places more and more often as life and technology begins to overwhelm us to a greater degree.  The wild spaces are our redemption from the synthetic, fast paced nature of our culture and lives; they will become increasingly important to humanity in the years to come as they are dissolved and are taken from us, foot by foot, mile by mile.

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IMG_6587 IMG_6596 IMG_6606-2IMG_6653 IMG_6674 IMG_6689 IMG_6693 IMG_6764 IMG_6780 IMG_6813 IMG_6819A friend of mine recently wrote a blog post on a similar topic and I want to take a second to direct you to his blog.  I have been a fan of his writing for well over a year now.  He is an avid bird hunter and angler and I believe, a passionate, straight shooting advocate for the interior West and her shrinking wild spaces.  Plus, to be perfectly honest, he writes like a son of a gun.  He’s going to publish a book one fine day in the future and I’m going to buy a hundred copies of it and hand it out on street corners to perfect strangers.  I encourage you to head on over to read his most recent post.

Long live the West and may her wild and free spaces remain unchained, unexploited and cherished (though it’s already too late to hope for such a thing, in some places) for years to come because I dearly love an office space at 8000 feet.

Bad stuff happens…but how about that beautiful sunset!

IMG_6344 IMG_6376 IMG_6394 IMG_6420What is it about some weeks?  I just spent the past three days tending to life maintenance and experiencing what my friends have been calling very-rotten-no-good-bad-luck.  Mostly everything is sorted out now, except for my camera lens replacement, which is in need of replacement because my camera was blown off a cliff shortly after I took the above image.

Alright, so the crap hit the fan here this week, but let me tell you what, I managed to soldier through all the sordid life details, fix what needed fixing (except the irrigation, I’m still tinkering with that, and the broken law mower), run a small business like a son of a gun, work in the studio with such a thankful and happy heart and I fed myself, great, summery, robust meals.  The problems of this week were meltdown inducing but I don’t remember crying or being self indulgent enough to freak out and wallow in crisis.  I simply gritted my teeth, worked from dawn until dusk and beyond, every night, and slowly the ship began to right itself.  Though I felt terribly overwhelmed, I didn’t feel angered by my circumstances or self-pitying; my focus was not on myself, it was shooting off in fifty different directions.  Stuff happens and you have to find a way to make the most of it, iron out all the wrinkles and build momentum again.  The sooner you do these three things, the sooner you get your groove back.

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Last night I ran a cutie pie fifteen mile trail run that was truly the very definition of magnificence.  I chugged that run so smoothly, dropping into low gear as I traveled, step by step, miles and miles straight up the West bench.  I was joyful as I ran, seeing deeper into the landscape as I went, feeling the air thin as I climbed.  I ran through the curves in endless switchbacks, tall grass brushing at my legs and hands, the dogs romping about with glee while tripping on their tongues, the cool of the scrub maple stands, the quiet of the aspen groves, the good company of the stately douglas fir and the views, the views were life altering.  I came down the same way I went up, creeping around switchbacks, scuttling over volcanic rock rubble, sun on my shoulders, empty water bottle in my waist belt, sweat drying in the wind.  I ran myself hollow and then step by step was filled up with only the very best Creation has to offer.  It was that kind of run, marked with the wildness that is restored when a human is reduced by the land and sky, made humble, made empty and so, transformed and filled to brimming once more.

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It has been lovely to be at home, here in Idaho, in my little farm house, gardening in my spaces, harvesting the fruits and vegetables of my yard, hanging out with my girlfriends, reacquainting myself with my trails and my mountains.  After arriving home from New Mexico, the very second I sat down in the studio and picked up my jewelers saw I felt stabilized, energized, brimming with impetus, forceful and calm.  It is with a morsel of regret that I am packing a bag for a trip to Wyoming today, but only a very tiny morsel of regret.  I travel, once more, to be with friends and my younger sister, to a state that is a stalwart sibling of Idaho and magnificent, to boot.  You’ll not hear any complaining from me!

The road is calling and I must go!

Until we meet again, be well.

X

These, too.

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[sterling & montana agate]
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[sterling, 23 karat gold & sleeping beauty turquoise]IMG_6493[sterling & pearl]

 

Wapiti Update

IMG_6206 IMG_6242[Saint Wapiti Rings and Necklace :: sterling silver and 14 karat gold :: Patron Saint of the high country.  May the mountain always rise up to meet you.]

Hey honey bunnies.  I’m trying my best to manifest a shop update for you tomorrow, despite a handful of small but pesky natural disasters that happened in home and life here over the past two days!  I am aiming for an update time of noon, mountain time, and will let you know if that changes at all between now and then.

Also, entering the shop today will be the STAY CONNECTED POSTCARD PACK — some of you have had the patience of holy people and have been asking for a while for a new little pack of images.  Here they are.  It’s a fairly limited run with four cards in each pack, as well as one extra card (which has been my tradition for years now) of my choosing as a little surprise for you.

A little about the image selection for this pack of postcards:

Oh, it’s always so hard to choose.

The photos featured in this postcard pack aren’t anything different than the photos I usually take except they were shot with the intention of showing effortless connection to the elements.  These are self-portraits, usually partial body crops, but always, the elements are present:  earth, fire, wind and water.  Or off shoots of the elements are present, for example, objects that are carried on the wind, stone turned to dust, flowers that eat the sun…etc.  What causes these self-portraits to be specifically elemental in nature, for me as the photographer, is that when I decided to take these photographs, I felt seamlessly interwoven with the mountain, land, wind, sun, lake or river I found myself beside or on or in.  I felt connected enough, to Creation, that the hum of my own molecules was in tune with the singing of the stones, the chanting of the waters, the alleluias of the sunbeams and the arias of the wind.  I was one with it all.  Connected.  I made a tangible memory of the moment with my camera.  I try to do this all the time, but there are moments when I feel it more deeply — these photographs were taken in those moments.

I realized something about myself last summer, I even shared it with a friend or two by letter once I realized the significance of the act,  I need those moments wherein I lay myself down on the ground beneath the trees or drape my skinny bones over the river cobble and dip my finger tips in the whitewater…I need to press as much of my surface area up against the dirt of the world, feel the sky press down on me, the sun warm me through and the river lick at my hands.   It undoes what needs undoing in me, it rebuilds what needs rebuilding in me, I think I hear the Spirit of God moving over me as it moved over the dark waters in the very beginning.  I can feel the good and bad in me separate like oil and water, and then I think I feel the bad being stripped away leaving me shining and new and ready to begin again.  It is an act that is redemptive by nature, for me.

I never set out to lay around in the dirt under trees or alongside a river in an intentional way, it’s always felt like an intuitive act — I do it when I feel moved to do it.  This is generally my approach to life and work — I do things as I am led to do them.  I make things as I am led to make them.  I rarely try to control the process, it makes for a lot of mess and some seriously scattered work at times but by now, I know enough about who I am to simply go with it.  A lot of beauty eventually stems out of the chaos and those are some of the greatest moments of my creative life.  When I take the time to lay on my back, walk to the very top, collect the tiny things and really feel it all I don’t do it because I think it’s going to take a good photograph that might get me some attention, but because it’s a way for me to be consumed by an environment, to close my mind off to needless chatter and purely focus on my senses, to ask what changes I need to make in my heart in order to belong even more to the holy places, to listen and to hear, to be taken in by it all, made one with it all, cell by cell, matched in newness and decay with the world, one more piece of creation under the mighty wing of God, joyfully singing His praise, lifting my voice to blend in infinite harmony with a beautiful world.  The stars sing soprano; they pour the high notes forth like raw silver.

I’ve written about it before.  And I’ll write about it again.

This is the place these images stem from, I just wanted you to know.  Now if you see me in such a photograph, you know it is no dramatic contrivance made immortal by my camera lens and shutter, but a genuine, private moment — remembered by my camera and shared in trust.

And so, I stay connected.

I stay connected.

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