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James Michael O'Brien

Email: jamesobrienart@yahoo.com
O'Brien Art, LLC

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A Closer Encounter with the Sublime.

May 7, 2018

 

When I go exploring in the surrounding forest, I am not only physically traversing the terrain but I begin to wander within my mind. My thoughts reshape my experience as I navigate an almost spiritual response to the land. Stepping into a world primarily constructed from a wilder otherness is powerful. It is in these places my safety, convenience, and comforts are secondary to the environment. Feeling this demoted state of being human and sensing this elevation of the landscape is what draws me towards landscape painting. 

When I pass the forest edge I enter in and out of shadowy pockets under the tree canopy. I feel the contrast of light. I feel the protection of the rain and intense sun. While other times I am faced with dark shadows full of the unknown and can see my emotions manifest, reaching out attempting to pull me into fear.

Several days ago my brother and I ventured out at dusk to setup a game camera. I had been seeing tons of moose sign everywhere around us and I was hoping to capture the animal on the camera.Quickly we began to deviate, taking a longer path to our desired location.

It was late and the light penetrated the fuzzy horizon like hot embers full of warm glow. Escaping from the comforts of my cabin to this place of darkness made my brother feel uncomfortable. This environment was only getting darker and less enjoyable. We arrived a large ditch covered with jagged rocks and a dangerous drop. As we rounded the corner we could see into a dark and spooky cave. The cave was clearly empty but showcased evidence of it's recent occupant. You could see bones and fur and maybe a few claw marks. My brother wasn't interested in exploring that cave and certainly disapproved of entraining the idea of a bear or something worse lurking close by.

Startled by a turkey vulture taking flight, we froze and felt our heart race. Then we saw a darken blur move and soon saw a porcupine approaching us while keeping a safe distance. This moment felt ironic, here unpredictable things were distracting us from placing our game camera. But more importantly, here was a real encounter with wild game right in front of us! I soon saw little need to place the camera but my brother insisted of the fact that it was getting too dark and we needed to move. In this moment we didn't see any fairytale deer or cute bunnies instead we saw the real creatures of this area. I understood this moment as a wonderful surprise and a great success. However my brother sensed something eles and was less impressed. 

It seems to me that to ignore the spiritual dimensions of the landscape is to miss the forest for the trees. These places transform every moment and to wrestle with the unknown is truly scary. Feeling lost, defenseless, and exposed drove us to rush out. Similar to a storm approaching the darkness was upon us and the environment changed. It felt like before the environment didn't care about us, now it didn't want us.


The following day after a long evening of discussion, I returned to that place to find the same turkey vulture standing guard over her nest. Once home with my game camera I discovered several pictures taken just forty minutes after the timer was set. Here I had captured something different. 

At first I was confused but then began to get excited and laugh out loud. Was this really it? Had I really captured a close encounter with the spirt of a moose!? The next couple of photo proved it. What Is posted below is indeed a moose and what your looking at is a close up of fur.
 

 

 

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