Welcome to my Wilderness Journal

You may enjoy my September 2012 blog: Sharing Experiences of Great Mystery, which describes the purpose of this wilderness log, photo-art gallery, and poetry corner. In Peace, Bob

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Man in the Tree

Unity, 1973 pen, ink & brushwork © Bob Hare 2012

Journal: November 12, 2012, Elk Grove, California

This new weblog-journal offers me a unique and exciting way of bringing together and sharing my various interests and creative pursuits of the last forty years, namely, art, photography, spirituality, wilderness, writing, native cultures, and environmentalism. It has also given me a reason to dig out and digitize my old journals, Kodachrome slides, poems, and artwork. 

I just found and scanned this allegorical art piece I made in 1973 when I was a twenty-four year-old Berkeley undergraduate in the School of Forestry. Looking at it today I see how well it captures the way I've always felt about Nature and how humans are part-and-parcel of Nature.

At Berkeley I was taught by a wonderful young professor of forestry, named Bob Lee, who offered us the opportunity to do a piece of art as an alternative to doing a term paper. I jumped at the opportunity and produced this work after studying how the Navajo relate with Nature as revealed in their religion and mythology.

The central figure with the illumined face represents humanity awakened to the seamless Process and Unity of Nature. I got the idea for the shining face directly from Carlos Casteneda's book A Separate Reality which was quite popular in 1970s Berkeley.

My 1972 copy of E.T. Seton's White Wolf's Wonder World
I had just come back from an incredible summer at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico where I worked matting the artwork of early environmentalist and artist-naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton. On weekends I hiked in the mountains with my then new friend David L. Witt, who now directs the Seton Legacy Project . My "Unity" Man-in-the-Tree art piece definitely shows the influence Seton's work had on my technique and style. Seton did allegorical artwork as well, including this piece which I copied from the original (I was so good at copying Seton's work I had Philmont's director of the Seton Memorial Museum a bit concerned about whether I might substitute my copies for Seton's!).

The "Unity" Man-in-the-Tree art work was my manifesto of rebellion against the post-industrial materialist view. This failing-but-still-in-place worldview holds that we are isolated egos struggling for survival and domination in a hostile universe.   

Artists are never supposed to interpret their own works since they should speak for themselves. But I'll break this convention to give you the inside story of what the "Unity" painting means. 

The bristlecone pine tree is the Tree of Life, the axis mundi, a symbolic anchoring center pole around which all Life circles. In other words, the tree is the unshakeable Truth of Unity that connects and runs through all things and beings. When we surrender our ego's illusion of independent self-existence we open up to the greater consciousness always moving through us and all things and beings. 

But this awakening requires embracing life in its wholeness as Life-Death (symbolized by the arms raised to embrace the vulture and the eagle). It also requires accepting Nature's apparent violence and conflict (symbolized by the fighting bobcat and snake. Yet, there is a greater peace behind the apparent conflict (symbolized by the deer). 

Bristlecone pines, the world's longest-living species, live to be almost 5,000 years old in their high, dry, rocky mountain environments. At the foot of the tree is a fallen pine cone and a pine seedling promising continuation of the eternal round. The changing phases of the moon and the wheeling constellations also show the continuity of change, death, and renewal that is the natural cycle. In the background is Taos Mountain, the sacred peak of the Taos Pueblo people.  

In 1976my friend David Witt invited me to show my art at his Wind Voice Gallery on Taos' Ledoux Street. I moved there to live under the spell of Taos Mountain for the next four very rich and formative years. 

May you walk in Beauty! Yours in Peace, Bob