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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This is Summer

 Happy summer solstice, sweet butterflies! Summer always seems like this moment of long-awaited angst and excitement. Feelings exaggerated by a long cold winter, lack of sunshine, a wish to be surrounded by green and color, and just an overwhelming desire to fully embrace all the glories of this wildly beautiful earth of ours. I love summer, but if I’m to be quite honest, it’s not my favorite season…but it does house many of my favorite activities.

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 I had a long day playing catch-up in the “office” yesterday, (I always use the word ‘office’ and  ‘work’ loosely as I still can’t believe I’m making a living doing what I love, as I assure you it does not feel like work!) and was absolutely ready to get outside when the 5 o’clock bell chimed louder than even the melodically shrill call of the red tail hawk.  I’ve never packed so fast…post office packages, mail, backpack, water bottle and zip…out the door…crum, forgot my shoes and keys, back in, OK now I’m ready.  We head east after dropping letters and packages at the post office, with no real plan other than just to be outdoors smelling and experiencing the myriad of life the sweet days of summer shares with slaves to the hills, such as I.  Everybody that encounters myself and my two crazy dogs on the trail always remarks on Ryley and Waylon’s exuberant disposition and insane zest for life.  These two LOVE to be outside.  They are lovers.  They love…love!  They are acclimated to the cooler mountain climate so after a climb to the summit, they were ready to hit the creek for a pretty serious romp.  We all stayed and splashed around for a good long while.  We met quite a few other dogs, Max was my favorite though….a Labrador and Great Dane mix.  I remarked at his size and commanding stature, as both my dogs, while very strong, are on the smaller end of size for their breeds.  Dogs bring so much joy to my life.  Do they also bring joy to yours?

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After we were all thoroughly cooled off and delightfully refreshed by the fresh mountain creek water we made the drive back west and decided to spend the rest of the evening working in the garden.  This to me is the truest joy of summertime.  Gardening is the culmination of everything wonderful and delightful: sunlight, long and warm days, cool and crisp evenings, afternoon rain showers and the harvest to bring everyone all together.  There is nothing better than getting your hands dirty and sharing your labors with those you love.

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Happy sweet days of summer.

xx, Hannah












Rounding out my 20’s

untitled-30 I’ve reached the end of the decade over here.  EEeeek!!  The honest truth is, it feels great…I feel great.  I sat in bed this morning, after Waylon our GSP came and got me up at about 6:30, just thinking about all the absolutely fantastic things my 20’s have held for me. This list is more for me…I always think if nothing else maybe this blog will be fun to show my children when they are old enough…but I thought it important, and interesting, to highlight a few moments of triumph.  So, here you go and here’s to hoping this last year of my 20’s will continue to offer many more incredible adventures!

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-Meeting the man I would marry while studying abroad in the Himalaya’s of India

-Meeting so many of my still to this day best friends on that same trip

-GRADUATING COLLEGE…don’t underestimate this one…academia is not my strongest area!

-Leaving the city and moving to the country to live the rural dream…and never ever looking back

-Growing enough food in my own garden to limit our summertime monthly grocery bill to under $100 (well at-least when PB’s gone on fires)

-Learning how to can and preserve enough food for us for an entire winter…and beyond…with lots to give away as presents (don’t worry friends you will still be receiving relish and pickles from me this year) 🙂

-Holding and enjoying NINE different jobs before finally starting my own business

-STARTING MY OWN BUSINESS

-Successfully hunting my first big game on our honeymoon through Idaho, Wyoming and Montana

-Learning how to fly fish and catching and filleting many a fish on solo backpacking trips throughout the magnificent western mountains

-GETTING MARRIED

-Running my first marathon

-Seeing my photography work published

-Seeing my writing published! (This one seemed bigger than my photography, because I mainly write for myself)

-And, having an INCREDIBLE family and wonderful friends to share these places and moments with.

Have a wonderful day friends, and go ahead and do something extra rad…just cause!

XX

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So my husband jumps from an airplane into wildfires for a living…

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Well, he’s professionally known as a smokejumper… yes, this is an actual profession :).  PB and the majority of my best friends, and pretty much my entire family (besides my one brother who’s technically still involved in fire for a living…he’s a blacksmith) are wildland firefighter’s employed through the United States Forest Service -USFS.  But, getting back to the exciting part, yes he parachutes from an airplane into active wildfires to fight and suppress them in order to protect natural resources and homes in the wildland urban interface.  The truth is though; it’s not so much the job that’s exciting and intriguing as the people behind the hockey masks, oompa-loompa suits, and greens and yellows.  The men and women of the smokejumping and fire world are not your run of the mill Joe’s and Susie’s.  They are quirky, weird (and I mean this as a compliment!) and incredibly loving people who come from all walks of life.

My husband has been involved in the fire world for the last 10 years, and I by proxy and by past employment, have also been a part of this zany community for the past 7 years.  I’ll tell you, no one is quite like these singular and wildly unique individuals.  I love them all…I love you all…even if I’ve never met you, because that’s just how the fire community works.  It is an incredibly tight-knit group of people who have each other’s backs, no matter what.

I recently returned from a trip down through the southwest with my girlfriend, and fellow fire wife, where PB- my husband, is stationed at a Forest Service spike base for the heat of New Mexico’s fire season.  He’s down there with around 30 other smokejumpers from 5 other bases.  I was afforded the wonderful opportunity to spend some time with these characters, and also to watch them do a proficiency jump.  I tell you, it never ever gets old watching your husband parachute from an airplane…ever!  It’s the sort of giddy and slightly terrifying feeling that you might get as you step onto stage to give a big speech…or the knotty but super-charged feeling you get as you are waiting to run your first marathon…  You know, it’s just terribly awfully exciting all wrapped up into one!

Don’t get me wrong though, there’s a lot of crazy wrapped up into all this goodness, but maybe that’s another topic for a different post.  Do I miss my husband while he’s gone for months at a time either actively fighting fires or anxiously waiting to fight them…ABSOLUTELY.  Do I sometimes resent the fact that he spends more time with his fire community than he does with his own wife and two crazy dogs…YES…but I would never ever in a million zillion years trade my life with anyone else.  Quite honestly, I thrive off of a little crazy, so the excitement and thrill of this lifestyle is directly in tune with the beat of my own drum.

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Here’s a visual story of these absolutely wonderful people.  It was a true pleasure getting to meet all of these men and women, and I hope to run into them, their wives and husbands, and their children again very soon.

Enjoy!

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Post Scriptus

If anyone from my NCSB fire family is reading this, I miss you guys something terrible!!!!
Be safe friends.
XX


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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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Into the Wind

IMG_1154There is this indelible feeling of primalness;

as if the fangs of the beautiful gray wolf are sinking deep into the heat of my beginnings

A reminder that history is written and re-written

and words are spoken, but never forgotten

Have you ever visited the twilight prairie to see the rapture of a true plains storm;

the sight prickles your skin with a vision into the above and below all at once

As I step into the wind, time erases stone and I return to my roots

Boots grounded in the loamy dust and leftover duff that carpets our walkways

Soul made of all that is mixed and brought to life as movement whips through the four corners

I am here and nowhere else

Powerful and Bold

The scent of sage runs deep,

pulsing through my veins and enrapturing all that is good

UP to DOWN

Circling, spiraling; the centrifugal force of this earth is too much                                              I close my eyes and step into the sunset

Grounded and Whole

There is something extraordinarily magical about stepping into the wind

A reminder to stay true to yourself and that which you love

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Do you ever ache for beauty? As the blue sings into purple, the sky bleeds forward creating magic from motion.  As this day comes to a rest, the earth is always cycling to the next dawn.  I make my way home in the dark, wind-pinked and frost-nipped, I feel the wind has brought a renewed hope, a lesson of love and a reminder to let the wild in me grow.

IMG_1225Sending all of you some of that sweet scent of sage on wind.

XX

Have You Ever Stood?

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Have you ever stood

In the heart of a coniferous forest

While the owl perched high

Watching wind and will

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Have you ever stood

Beneath the sky of twilight

And eve’s beginning

Without a thought existing in space or time

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Have you ever stood

Absolutely so still you could hear

The crystals forming below your feet

Creating life and movement from matter

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Have you ever stood

Because there is nothing, and nowhere else you would rather be

Only existing now and in no other place

Except for in the silence of this forests’ winter breath

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Have you ever stood

Deep in the heart of this wild and ever-loving place of

Roaming wolf, stalking coyote, stoic elk

And magnificent forest beneath gloaming sky

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Have you ever stood

To feed your soul the food that drives

It forward allowing the candle

To burn effervescent and full of shimmering life

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Have you ever stood

Allowing yourself the moment to create

Something from nothing

Something from everything

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Have you ever stood

Just to stand…

Have you ever stood

Just to stand?

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