The powerfully imaginative artist/illustrator, N.C. Wyeth had this to say about the depth of feeling he had for the natural world:
The universe towers in my mind a great overpowering mystery. The significance of the tinest speck of bark on the pine tree assumes the proportions of the infinite sky. My brain almost bursts with the effort to really appreciate the meaning of life.
Andrew Wyeth, son of N.C. was equally passionate about expressing the emotion of nature, attempting to relay something "more" than a literal view of what he was seeing and feeling. About Andrew Wyeth's work, biographer Richard Meryman writes:
Even the surface realism of Wyeth's work is part of the secrecy, a form of concealment creating drama. In all areas of his life his interest is in atmospheres and tones, not the accuracy of facts. His real subjects are the secrets that only he has sensed and plumbed, personal meanings within metaphors and unearthly moods--mute allegories--hidden myths.
James Wyeth, son of Andrew, grandson of N.C. is equally gifted as a painter and reveals through his art the "larger than life" drama that vibrates behind even the simplest things. James H. Duff has written of James Wyeth's work:
Among his animal images, Portrait of Pig is certainly the best known. It may well stand as an emblem of the others. This is surely the archetypal sow, shown in great detail, nearly life size, and in her element. but at the same time, this is an individual, a careful portrait based on as much study as any of the artist's human portraits. "I get as involved with a sheep as I do a president of the United States," he says. The pride often visible in the people he paints is also a strong feature in his animals. And in them we see as much character, as much personality, perhaps, as it is possible to see in any animal that must be frozen in two dimensions and in time.
You might have guessed by now that to provide these brief glimpses into the motivating principles behind three generations of Wyeth art is intended to call your attention to the landscape and inhabitants of Ravenseyrie and punctuate the mythical aspects inhaled and exhaled by every element presiding in this place and time. Like these intense men, whose artistic outpouring was fueled by an appreciation for nature and its "great overpowering mystery", I find myself urged (sometimes feverishly so) to show, through my own art and writing that the universe is intelligently alive--with each aspect of its expression worthy of our attention, our reverence and our exaltations of thanksgiving.
When you live in the wilderness, when you dance out in a gale wind, when you engage in dialogues with primitive horses, when the slant of light in a darkened forest beckons like a crooked finger--all synthetic, "virtual" living falls away and you come to realize that parts of yourself embody the wind, the forest, the shapeliness of horses, and it all has mystical, mythical meaning.
In his book, The Secret Teachings of Plants/The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature, Stephen Harrod Buhner writes:
You may find, as you walk on a certain piece of land, that a mood comes over you that you cannot escape. This may come not only from the living organisms of the place, the self-organized ecosystem itself, but also from something that happened there, some history of Man. For the historical events that have occurred before us remain in the land, interwoven with the soil, set in stone. And, if your heart-field is open, they will come into you as you walk.
As readers of this journal are by now well aware, peculiar flights of fancy are a way of life for me. While I do not think that that the quintessential Ebhardt Form III ancestral equine galloped over the very bluff that Altamiro and his family band now do and extended their friendship and willing service to ancient island dwellers leaving a memory infused in the landscape, I do find that the present convergence of these horses, this particular wilderness place and Kevin and myself has stimulated some curious thoughts and sensations. A concept posed in an earlier journal entry wondered, is it possible that these types of horses partnered with humans in ways that were mutually beneficial--a sort of "domestication" story that reads differently than the "capture, subdue and enslave" methods repeatedly published in books? The way Altamiro's herd has determined, of their own choosing, that they desire to engage with me in mutual learning experiences, completely at liberty in the big wide open sets one's mind to imagining some ancient men and women experienced the same thing and built meaningful relationships with wild horses that did not include eating them or coercing them into service by force.
I must blame (thank!) the "unearthly moods", "mute allegories" and "hidden myths" for such crazy-minded suppositions. Again, I will quote from Buhner's book:
The Greeks had a word for the heart's ability to perceive meaning from the world: 'aisthesis'. "In Aristotelian psychology," James Hillman notes, "the organ of aisthesis is the heart; passages from all the sense organs run to it; there the soul is 'set on fire.' Its thought is innately aesthetic and sensately linked with the world."
Aisthesis denotes the moment in which a flow of life force, imbued with communications, moves from one living organism to another. The word literally means "to breathe in." It is a taking in of the world, a taking in of soulful communications that arise from the living phenomena in that world...[ ]...this basic experience--this aisthesis--has been at the root of human relationship with the world since our evolutionary expression out of the Earth. We are built to experience it, to be aware that each thing possesses a unique identity, its own particular 'eachness'. We are made for the nature of each thing to pass into us through our hearts, which think about it, store memories about it, and engage in dialogue with it.
I can continue to give myself over to exploring the sensations and ideas that the wilderness landscape and primitive horses have strummed in to me via that great organ of perception--the heart, or I can quit these flights of fancy and plop myself down in a chair by the radio and listen to what new course of action the United States and Canada intends to take over in Afghanistan while being reminded that Christmas shopping is good for the economy.
Close your eyes...where do you suppose you will find me?
When I close my eyes, do you know what I see?--I see You, joining me out on the fringe, feeling your way in new territory as the hidden myth present in your own horses begins to reveal itself.
Like N.C. Wyeth said, "My brain almost bursts with the effort to really appreciate the meaning of life."