A snow hare encounter from The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane:
"We began to move steeply uphill, over boggy ground, slipping on bracken and grass. Our clothes, already wet with rain, became slicked with mud. We neared the rocks. Then -- Hares! Hares! Two shouts from John, and two hares breaking cover in the rocks above us, ghosts slipping from the rocks, over the bilberry and heather. Five seconds and they were gone, leaving my heart thumping.
"We walked up into the heart of the tors, alert for more hares. The tors were spread over the rim of the plateau, and they faced twenty clear miles of high moor. At that height, the wind was colossal, hurtling out of the black west, and of such strength that it was impossible to stand straight in it... Looking for cover, we walked up and over a shoulder of the moor, and there, suddenly, were more hares, dozens of them, white against the dark moor, moving in haphazard darts, zizagging and following unpredictable deviations, like particles in a cloud chamber. They must, like us, have been driven away from the rocks by the wind, and come here to the peat-troughs for shelter. Their white fur drew the very last of the light, so that they glowed against the dark moor. One, a big male, still dabbed there and there with brown fur, stopped, glanced back at us over his shoulder, and then spun away into the dark.
"So few wild creatures, relatively, remain in Britain and Ireland: so few, relatively, in the world. Pursuing our project of civilisation, we have pushed thousands toward the brink of disappearance, and many more thousands over that edge. The loss, after it is theirs, is ours. Wild animals, like wild places, are invaluable to us precisely because they are not us. They are uncompromisingly different. The paths they follow, the impulses that guide them, are of other orders. The seal's holding gaze, before it flukes to push another tunnel through the sea, the hare's run, the hawk's high gyres: such things are wild. Seeing them, you are made briefly aware of a world at work around and beside our own, a world operating in patterns and purposes that you do not share. These are creatures, you realise, that live by voices inaudible to you.''
The art in this post is by one of my favorite contemporary sculptors, Tricia Cline, a self-taught artist from northern California who works primarily in porcelain. The top piece here comes from her "Animal Gods" series, and the rest from "The Exiles from Lower Utopia" series.
"This body of work," she says, "is an ode to the Animal, its ability to perceive, and our return to that perception. An animal is its very form. Its function is its form. A dog runs at full speed, a distinct scent or sound alters its direction. The legs, the nose, the ears of the dog are its function, its bliss. When an animal recognizes another animal it reads with an instinctual eye the character in the form -- the essential nature in the form before it. Its text is not a concept about what it’s looking at but a full-bodied response to the shape, smell, movement, and stance of the image in front of it. The language of animals is the language of images. An image is not an idea with a defined meaning, it is itself an animal.
"This is the ode -- to reconnect with our own animal perception is to clarify and heighten our perception of who and what we are in the moment … to go beyond the limited mental concepts of who we think we are ... to an awareness of oneself that is infinitely more vast. The Exiles migrate between the human world and the animal world and carry this awareness on their backs. They are the silent embodiment of this Quest. They understand the language of animals and are self-appointed ambassadors from that world. They are firmly seated, in the language of animals, the language of imagery. They have succeeded by virtue of being."
Visit her website to see more of her work, which is mythic, magical, and thoroughly astonishing.
See the picture captions (by running your cursor over the images) for individual titles of Tricia Cline's sculptures, each one of them conjuring stories and the myths of a forgotten world.