Artists Create Art; What Creates an Artist?

Thunderbird’s Eye on the Path of the Cougar

Many times I am asked “how and why did you become an artist,” and “what did you do to be where you are today”.  By stepping back through time, this blog will chart an artist’s life experiences in short story form, and by reading these stories, you can peel away the mystique overlaying a modern day, American nature artist to reveal how normal–or not– this artist may be.

Though these “snapshot” stories could read as a “chronicle of a touring artist” they will also involve background experiences pertinent to the creative life of this artist, including exotic lands, wildlife experiences, and paranormal events. Wildlife interactions and the resulting artwork are a mainstay, and everything written here is factual and meant to intrigue, inform and entertain.

As in any life long endeavor, this artist places importance on creating meaningful memories; in artistic pursuits, at events, and by meeting memorable people.  And if our paths have crossed, you may find yourself in some of these tales.

Although this narrative may have extra appeal for the wildlife enthusiast, and fans of wildlife art,  it is written for everyone, and nearly everyone would take  pause, say, if a fully grown mountain lion appeared in the headlights and blocked your way……

Where on Earth?!

She was young, and as the restless youth wander, she found herself driving to the forested end of a rural road that reached into the coast range foothills.  In the midnight hour of a warm August night and only three miles from a large bay and its populace, she slowed for a sharp curve crowded between a cliff edge and a meandering creek bottom.  After rounding  the curve, a sudden heart pounding moment of shock engulfed her as she braked to an abrupt halt.  A large mountain lion with a freshly killed young deer dangling from its jaws had leaped into the road, eyes glistening straight into the lights of the car that  was now just a few feet away.  She stared eye to eye with the large cat in a timeless moment, and in the next instant what seemed like a phantom leaped up the cliff side of the road, leaving the deer in a pool of blood and the girl in a state of disbelief.  Her first impulse was to drive away, but after recovering from the frantic moment of encounter, she turned around, only to find the deer missing as the cougar had waited above the road to retrieve the kill once the car was past.

The following day the young lady made an effort, in good conscience, to warn the few residences in the area of the sighting, including mine located directly above the aforementioned curve in the road.
“Its length was more than the width of my car,” she said, describing the cougar’s size, “fully stretching across one lane of the road.  And I had to drive around the deer it had dropped in the middle of the road, and all that blood.”

After she left, my dog Rocky and I searched the back of my property and its radical incline from the road.  I relied on his nose in the brushy forested terrain, and sure enough, he sniffed out a partial disembowelment and one lower leg with hoof intact.  The cougar had taken pause a few hundred feet behind my art studio and wood shop, and since the big cat didn’t dine at that location indicates that it was a female and the deer was destined for a den of cubs further back in the mountains.

Gazing about the scene and contemplating the incident, it was natural to re-live the one cougar sighting, like a dream many years ago, that I had experienced:

High up in the mountains, approaching the 5000 foot level where the rare white pines and noble firs begin to appear, a motley crew of tree planters were attempting a last stocking of Douglas Fir seedlings before the deluges of winter snow sealed off the area until late Spring.    A deep and frozen silence surrounded us as a skiff of white helped illuminate the tree crowded forest even in this predawn hour.  The truck tires crunched along the forest track as the tree boss, driving for the past two hours, and myself and a fellow tree planter quietly savored a  last coffee as we neared our work site.

Breaking our lull in this stark wilderness, it came like a phantom from nowhere, leaping and seemingly floating across the road in our path.  As quickly as it appeared, the tawny lion of the mountain melted away.

Where on Earth!?
Kentuck  Inlet,  Coos Bay of Oregon, USA, August 2009
Chilcoot Mountain, Cascade Range of Oregon, December 1977

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