Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Of Bears and Buffalo

So this year I get into Yellowstone, find a campsite, and head out for a bit of evening sightseeing. Before long, I'm in the Lamar Valley, surrounded by buffalo. As the herd moved closer to the road, a constant rumbling - somewhere between a burp and a roar- reverberates through them all. Mothers to calves, bulls to cows, bulls to one another. As they neared the road, I climbed out the window onto the roof of the Jug. Buffalo everywhere.

I spent a few days drawing, hiking and exploring. Trying to get a handle on this new idea of landscape painting I am thinking about. For years I have avoided working from or with photographs. I've promised people, Give me a photograph to work from, I'll give you a bad painting.

But now I am faced with the need for more information, and I don't have the time to spend drawing all the things I would like to include. Seems that photography will be necessary.

I hope I have learned enough to avoid the tyranny of all the detail

Tundra Grizzly,
bronze, edition of 35

I love all the wildlife there, but would it be Yellowstone without the bears? The night I camped at Pebble Creek campground, a grizzly chomped on a guy's hand after it tried to push his way into the man's tent, at another campground just down the road, outside the park. The bear eventually left when the man's calls for help alerted others. Investigators said the man had done everything right- kept a clean camp, didn't have any food in his tent. Who knows what that bear was thinking. I have to admit, I slept better not finding out about it til I had gone.

On my way out I watched a big grizzly on an elk carcass. From a looooooooong ways away. From inside the Jug. The carcass was black with rot, and the bear laid on top of it, burying his head in for another mouthful. Beautiful, mesmerizing, terrifying - all the things I love about wilderness, though seeing from the road in a National Park can hardly be considered wilderness.

Finally, as I approached the bridge over the Yellowstone River, traffic was stopped. Apparently the river was too high for a black bear to swim, and as it waited on the shoulder of the road, rangers stopped traffic and cleared the bridge. And the bear crossed. Obviously anxious - from the traffic, the spectators, being stared at?

Who knows what that bear was thinking.

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