Live the Wild Life

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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3, 187.3 miles and a whole lot of wide open spaces

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Filson-2Filson-3Filson-4Did you guys know PB took a job detail down in New Mexico for the better part of this spring and summer?  (I know we have a lot to catch up on here!)  Well he did, and I just returned from an incredible trip down there to visit him and the new landscape he is learning to love.  We both hold an incredibly intimate and highly revered spot in our hearts for the southwestern landscape.  These spaces are open, raw, and decorated with such intensely severe beauty it sometimes makes my heart bleed in despair for the fight and tenacity desert life owns.  I never realized how much I took water for granted until visiting these high desert mountains and seeing just how even a trickle of water can support an entire green oasis.  Water is sparse here, and by sparse I mean you can go days without seeing even a drop of it.  And, what makes it worse is there is sign of where it should be flowing sweet as a freshly squeezed lemonade on a hot summers day everywhere I look.  Each round of the bend, dip in the valley, depression in the mountain hillside is a disappointing tease and an intense reminder of just how different desert living is than my now apparent spoiled lush mountain valley living.

After hiking two-and-a-half hours in 90 plus degree heat at just shy of 9,000 feet, all I can think about is water.  Water to drink, water to swim in, water to stick my dusty, sunburned, cactus scratched and heat blistered toes in.  Water, water, water…!  I’m exaggerating a little bit, but seriously it has never been so clear to me how distinctly I have become the ecosystem I most comfortably call home.  I belong in the high granite mountains, the ones where rivers and lakes dictate how life leaves and enters existence.  How existence is by nature intrinsically tied to the blood and rhythm of all things aqueous.  How obvious it is that I am made of water, 75% to be somewhat exact.  I’ve never felt so weak and exposed with this new and humbling knowledge of just how limited I’ve become based on this one natural resource.

As I sit here writing this, at 8,920 feet in the Gila Wilderness, I am both proud of my ability to have lasted 6 days down here, in temperatures well above my normal functioning comfort zone, but also a little disappointed in myself with this newly discovered limiting weakness…heat and no water.  It makes me feel even worse as the whole time I’ve been down here I’ve taken a searing desire to find out and soak up all I can learn about how the indigenous people and nomadic tribes who passed through this area used this landscape to their advantage in their fight for survival.  And, not fight like war or battle, but just a daily fight to hunt, gather and grow enough food to nourish themselves and their tribal kin.  A fight to build homes in the cliffs above whatever water source they could find.  A fight to limit disease, stay hidden from enemies and advance their society with intuitive cultivation, tool making and necessity living skills.  I am in awe of these people who ranged these lands in the early and truly wild days, pre horrible-horribleness that plagued the indigenous people for centuries to come.

It again makes me feel weak and soft as we leave the basically untouched Mimbres Valley and return back to the nearest city; now decorated with car dealerships, grocery stores filled with boxed crackers, sliced bologna, american cheese, enriched white bread and processed snack cakes; instead of the small-eared corn, pole beans and squash that beckon to grow tall and nourish any willing and mother-earth loving soul.  Geepers, how did we go from that to this…how did we end up here?

I am now delightfully cooled off as I found a shady and sheltered spot on the side of Signal Peak amongst the sweet cream soda smelling Ponderosa pine trees, the always steadfast Douglas-fir and the lovely catkin wearing Gambel oak.  I now realize I’ve already adapted to this new landscape, I can survive here…heck I’m sure I can even thrive here.  It’s one of the very favorite things about myself, if I can be quite frank, is that I am a landscape chameleon.  Any place I get to call home, no matter for how long or short, I learn to love it.  I believe this connection happens because I throw myself head first into exploring these new places.  I put a backpack on, shoes on my feet, hat on my head and head out of my threshold to the timeless abyss of landscape and space.

What a trip, what a truly incredible and enchanting trip, friends.

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Breathtaking, right?! And can you believe this is only about one-quarter of my favorite photos…phew!  Thanks for letting me photo-bomb you.

Also, I finished this book while I was down there.  I can see why Georgia O’Keefe fell so head over heels in love with this landscape.  It is truly the land of enchantment.

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Coming Home

I spent five days in the city.  It was really, just so fun.  Full of family, friends, delicious food, thrift stores, shopping, walking, rain…lots of rain, snow and immense beauty.  I had a wonderfully grand time.  It is always very good for me to leave my safe haven here in the Methow, and experience the greater cosmopolitan areas neighboring us.  I did not take out my camera once while I was in the city.  It was very odd for me.  I think maybe it was because it was raining so hard and I wanted to keep it safe…  Or it may have been too challenging, too full, too busy…too something… for me to photograph.  Either way, I felt very content to take the visual stimuli of the city in through my eyes, to be processed by me alone, at a later time.

IMG_9220 IMG_9276I did however make up for my lack of city photographing, on my drive home over the mountain pass.  As soon as I hit a familiar spot in the road, I hopped out and clicked away.  It took me quite a long time to make the few hour drive home over the mountain pass.  I was so very grateful, for all of it.

As soon as something would strike my eye, I would pull the truck off the side of the pass, pop out, trot across the road and snap at any old thing I wanted to.  I felt myself again.  I felt challenged.  I felt alive.  I felt invigorated.  I did not mind the rain and snow mixture texturing my mustard sweater with sky mist.  I just wanted to be a part of it all.  I wanted to be in it.  To be next to it.  On top of it.  Side by side with it.  I sat on it.  Stood on it.  Let me fingers grace its’ scales and fronds.  I stuck my hand in it.  I washed my face in it.  I let it run through my toes.  I collected pieces of it.  I smelled its’ sharp and effervescent evergreen essence.  I breathed it.  I breathed it in so very, very deep.  It is a part of me now.  It always will be, no matter what happens.  That to me is one of the truest gifts nature gives us.  It let’s us draw strength from its solo and singular beauty.  Welcome home, Hannah, is what I said as I let myself be a part of it all.

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