The old cliché ‘money can’t buy you happiness’ could not be truer than when comparing the happiness level index of money versus wild untamed lands in my life. I just returned from a business trip through Wyoming and am feeling so incredibly empowered by the raw prisms of land and water that make the mark of a western landscape.
I pull in late Thursday afternoon to the small town of Alpine, Wyoming. A charming working mans town lying at the confluence of three great rivers. My whole drive east from Montana, I’m forcing myself to not pull over ever 3.5 seconds to capture the wild edge this landscape teeters on between civilization and a primal return to the truest primitive notions of untouched. Everywhere I look life shows its fangs of fight and struggle, but instead of flaunting its’ scars all you see is the most beautiful and delicate furs and gems. One of my most favorite things about the western landscape is this dichotomy of grandeur beauty versus the true fight of remote survival. Life in these areas is hard. It is dirty. There is grit beneath the fingernails of the rich and poor alike. The use of land is just that, it is used…The land is the way of life.
After slowly setting up my tent and booth, each handcrafted item taking its’ seat on the shelf marked ‘day___ in the life of Hannah Dewey’, I walk over and greet the other artists and makers with an eager excitement and curiosity of what the weekend will bring. After a wonderful chat and a content belly full of summertime fare, I’m ready to find my spot amongst those whom I feel most comfortable with. I find a place to call home under the stars and amidst the fir, alder and red willow above the commanding and very alive Grey’s River. I’m too exhausted to do much else other than take a quick walk down to the river to wash my face in the breathtakingly cold snowmelt water. It is like a jolt of 240W electricity when you splash true mountain water onto your skin. The sting and stimulation are reminiscent of riding your bike through a windy thunderstorm, each droplet a small awakening and reminder of just how fleeting time truly is. I meander back to Tinctoria, my unfailing VW travel companion and light up her two-propane stove burner to make a cup of fresh mint tea. The invigorating feeling of fresh mountain water stays with me and I ride the wave of energy for a little longer, soaking up Brendan Leonard’s New American Roadtrip Mixtape. I love reading about other people’s lives and the true account of beginning to reaching success, and this book is just that so far.
The next 3 days are a bit of a blur of hello’s…and thank you’s…and oh gosh’s…and no I did not know that…and phew, OK I do really love what I do! These art festivals are an insane amount of work to prepare for and leave me a bit bone tired. 6 PM hits and I’m ready to re-commune with those who call the wild’s home. I’ve found an incredible spot on the Salt River overlooking Palisade’s reservoir with a clear view of both the Salt River Range and the Caribou Range Mountains.
I take a deep breath and fill my lungs with that pure mountain air. Inhale. Exhale. And, I open my eyes to the true beauty of the world. The splendor and wildly free presence that I try to capture and emulate in my own work. I’m all alone tonight, with only the sound of my own heart beat and the rhythms of my neighboring river as company. Not even a dog to snuggle up for warmth with. I pack a small backpack and head down for an evening on the river. The truth is I’m not a very good fisherman, but that doesn’t stop me from casting until the last drop of daylight sinks below this world hemmed by mountains and colossal magnificence. Just like with any skill, fishing takes patience and practice to master. I used to be self-conscious about being a beginner, but now I own it. Even the fish respect me more now. 🙂
I made myself a hand-tooled leather trout belt for my birthday and was testing my pretend theory that wearing a totem belt would make me a better fisherman. Well, since I am a trained scientist, I really do not feel I can give you any definitive results yet, but I assure you, it is way more fun to fish in a handcrafted trout belt, than to not fish in one. Fact. A few bites and no catches later, I decide to continue on down-river. The sun is setting over the great Rocky Mountains and the song of color mixed with the days experiences makes me throw my arms up in triumph. I am here, I yell aloud. I say it again so the big horn sheep sleeping on the mountaintops can hear me. I bend low and scream it so loud it ripples down to the confluence of all three rivers, splits and delivers the message to all aquatic animals. I don’t mind if the nearest human can hear me, I do these things for myself. This place is me, I am this place. The wild lands are my home; I feel the most alive right here. I snap a few photos and watch the sun sink down behind the commanding high granite faces looming just beyond my reach.
Wyoming was incredible. The people I opened up to and in return opened up to me have left an imprint of love and truth down to the very core of my marrow. But it’s the wild lands that wrapped their claws and sank their fangs deep into the heat of my beginnings. I came and left the same person, but really…truly, I did not. I let this place in and it has changed my person for eternity. It is the elements of time that truly know right from wrong, and that is where I want my peace to come from.
A few other things of note:
PLEASE go check out Johanna Mueller’s work over at Feverish Art Prints and keep up with her here. She in an incredible artist and an even more astounding individual. I feel very connected to her work and am just in awe of the way she connects and depicts animals and life cycles.
I am now selling my work through MADE and Mountain Dandy, two very well curated stores in Jackson Hole, WY. It was such a pleasure getting to meet and chat with the store owners Christian and John, who are both artists and extremely supportive of the indie arts scene. If you are ever in the area pay them and their wonderfully unique brick and mortar store-fronts a visit.
I’m headed to Whitefish, MT over July 4th weekend, and would love to give more of you hugs if you happen to be in the area!!