The wilderness is unkind, unforgiving, sometimes demoralizing, but yet can find a way to reach so far into your heart and soul that you become addicted to the relationship you build with it. Many warn to not venture into these wild places alone, but I cannot help it. The mountains, the forests, or wherever it may be is where I find my true self and my understanding for what's most important.
Most times when I leave the gravel or the trailhead to venture out alone I get a pit in the bottom of my stomach. I don't know whether that's the fear of the unknown or from the excitement of what's to come, I just crave the outcome and nothing can keep me from finding out what that will be.
I would say that the emotions and thoughts I have when I'm far back in the wilderness or venturing into it come from past experiences. The moment I take that first step off-trail is when life seemingly becomes more real and suddenly I realize how small we really are. It's hard not to think about difficult moments of my past rather than the good ones. Maybe it's natural instinct kicking in to remind me to move forward with caution, but those moments I've had around fear always seem to come back to me.
When it comes to the other animals that roam the landscape, there's not many other than the grizzly bear that I'm concerned about. I've only had one incident with a bear behaving predatorial, thankfully for my case it was a black bear and I was able to diffuse the situation. However for that one brief moment as we peered into each others eyes from several feet apart, I saw life for the first time in a completely different light.
Despite all of my inner thoughts I always find myself pushing on. Perhaps the addicting appeal of the wilderness is the fact that hardship and hard work never goes unrewarded. Mother Nature will always provide for those with the desire to learn and discover.
This painting captures what I fear and at the same time what I love so dearly. Our connection with the wild is no different than with any animal that roams it; I feel it every time when I'm out. The enriching experience that the wilderness and all its beauty provides never comes without some costs.
Time spent in these magnificent areas can be life changing however, and without this struggle perhaps there wouldn't be so much beauty to be discovered. 30x40" Oil on cradled canvas board.
I'm Chuck Black, landscape and wildlife artist based in Southwest Montana.
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