A landscape photographer for over 30 years, I’ve had the great good fortune to awaken many times – amid Wilderness – to a startling reorganization of the sense of “personal” experience. It has influenced my work, life, and beliefs – profoundly and irrevocably.
It seems to be the result of entrainment with Nature and its absence of human concept or impulse to control. “I” feels markedly different after years photographing alone in Wilderness.
Absorbed in Nature’s profoundly silent, yet potent stillness, my fickle library of internal storytelling – which I had believed correct – slowly began to dissolve. The result was a tangible overshadowing of my “I” by the serene spirit of Nature looking through the viewfinder – apparently creating self-portraits!
Those moments and resulting images hold profound and far-reaching significance for me. Now, many changes later, including a motorbike incident that severely restricted this body’s ability to experience Wilderness, I find myself asking, “What’s it all about”? Was it Wilderness that was the most crucial part of my life, or is it the state of awareness discovered while there?
In the relentless and unprecedented maelstrom of change through which our lives are passing, our cherished moments and memories comprising our most sacred beliefs, are being stretched, tested, and sometimes vaporized.
It seems the challenge these times bring is to dig deep into our treasured experiences and spotlight those outstanding moments which can guide us in decisions of consequence. Stepping back for an overview of our human story opens a penetrating view of miraculous resilience when we ask: “How is it we are here”?
For me, that perspective appeared as Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.” I heard it early one evening in Misty Fjords National Park, Alaska, listening to wolves sing to each other across the lake of a volcanic caldera.
With the next human being a hundred miles away, their haunting melodies developed a depth and personality I had never experienced in the natural world. At once, those moving airs – stirring and captivating, transformed further, into actual conversations. Each manifested a distinct, intelligent personality as my concepts about the singularity and superiority of human existence shattered.
In that instant, all barriers and separation between my “self” and that of another creature, fell completely apart. I experienced a Truth: We are not alone here. We’ve been living as insensitive tourists in a foreign land who don’t speak the native tongue. For wholeness to manifest on our planet we must reconnect with those who we share this life because we define each other!
Tears and rapture remain the most compelling memory of the extent, breadth, and depth of consciousness I witnessed in another species. It remains the single most motivating force behind the images “I” create – to share the magnitude of life’s layers with others.