Recently, I got together with girlfriends for a potluck meal, which I knew would be delightful, but didn’t expect it to be magic.
After a tour of our host’s artsy home, all of us were in awe of her various collections. As we settled in for the meal, we could have talked about the usual what’s-going-on-in-your-life questions.
But we didn’t.
Instead, the hostess asked, “What were you doing in the 80’s?”
Each of us told a story about those years of our life, which, as you might imagine, was surprising, touching, and randomly hilarious. I learned so many things about my three friends!
At the end of the evening, we felt especially inspired, as if gifts about each other had been unwrapped one by one all evening long.
On the way home, the most delicious thing happened: a promise I made to myself long ago regarding art began to rise up inside.
Fueled By Inspiration
Arriving home, rather than closing my eyes for a good night’s sleep (which would have been a reasonable thing to do given the hour) I googled this promise from my past.
In the mid to late 70’s, I took a ski trip out west somewhere, and during that trip, I visited a gallery of wildlife photographs. These photographs had impact.
Mentally, molecularly, essentially — they changed me, as if someone shot an arrow (of love, awe, reverence) into my heart and there was not one thing I could do about it.
That was forty years ago.
The gallery was filled with breathtaking photographs of wildlife by someone whose name I couldn’t remember, in a ski city … oh, gosh, where could I have been traveling?
Here’s what I did recall.
I remembered the feeling of being with his photographs, and the reverence I felt for the animals. I remember vividly that his photographs were living, breathing prayers for the beauty, strength, and importance of animals and our beautiful Earth home.
I remember the privilege it was to stand in a room surrounded by one-in-a-thousand shots. The skill and patience required to get even one of the photographs — the amount of waiting alone — was beyond me. (And photoshop didn’t exist then. They were honest photographs.)
I wondered about the man behind the camera. I wondered who he was.
I remember that the photographs were large, well-lit and perfectly framed. One was a red fox. There was a tree full of waxwing cedars. A wolf portrait. Tiger eyes.
And, to me, the most stunning of all — a massive print of an eagle flying out of a dark forest, a once in a lifetime shot. I stood quietly for a long time in the presence of that photo.
At the time, I didn’t believe I should spend (that much) money on art, and believed I couldn’t afford the large photographs I really wanted. But I remember making a silent vow to buy some of his work “someday.”
When I could, I would fill my living room with the places he had traveled and the animals he knew. I imagined which photos I would choose and how it would feel to take them home.
On Sunday evening after this magically artsy girlfriend dinner (and an focused Google session) I found the photographer.
There’s a story about this eagle of course.
From Mangelsen’s website: “In this dramatic aerial display over McDonald Creek in Montana, a mature female bald eagle, with wings locked, glides out of its dark roost into the first rays of dawn to pluck a landlocked kokanee salmon from the water’s surface. But there is more to the story. Somehow, the avian had lost a talon, likely to a muskrat trap, which could easily have spelled its doom. Mangelsen observed the injured female for days, admiring her perseverance and will to live. Waiting to capture her in all her glory, he succeeded with this photograph that was one of his most sought-after ever, popular especially among the veterans of military families.
On the morning this picture was taken the bird plunged like a fighter jet emerging from its shadowed roost into the auspicious hope of sunlight. Her frame being pulled into the frigid current as she tried to hoist the heavy payload, she struggled, eventually lifting off again and her wet head feathers carrying a frosting of ice. To all who witnessed the bird’s indomitable spirit, as she clutched the salmon in her lone talon, it was—and remains— unforgettable.”
Thomas Mangelsen Traveling Museum Exhibition coming to Asheville!
In 2021, his work is coming to Asheville. Mangelsen, by the way, is known as much for his animal conservation efforts as he is for his photography. Check his website for details. For a schedule of other cities on the tour, go here.
May 15, 2021 – September 5, 2021
North Carolina Arboretum
100 Fredrick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC
You never know when a long lost promise will come back for a visit. I feel strongly that a collection of wildlife photography is in my future.
Terri’s first book of photography combined with poetry is here! 100 Words: Small Servings of Whimsy and Wisdom to Calm the Mind and Nourish the Heart is available on Amazon.