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Eat of the Earth

The work begins with a vision – a paean to a feeling which only occurs in the presence of the greater world: the complete world, the interwoven fabric of earth, atmosphere, waters, and the family of travelers who dwell in between these worlds.

What is a hawk? A hawk is the shadow cast by a squirrel. The squirrel is the shadow cast in turn by the hawk. Evolution is a reflecting pool of beings mirroring each other, evaporating slowly at the foot of an oak, a world-tree, becoming clouds to rain again. The bodies of these beings are sacred. They are so not by some holy writ, but because they are the shapes sculpted by the other forms of life around them; thus they are a communion. To partake of eating an animal or plant’s body is the ultimate act of intimacy and unity. It is an affirmation of the reflecting pool of evolution.

The hawk eats.

Work in progress painting of a red-shouldered hawk by bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz

The work begins as a drawing in red. There is a story told that after the world was made, coyote said that it should be made beautiful with color. And so he painted the world with blood: all living beings were given blood, and the rocks were made red with blood, made colorado. And thus the world was made beautiful.

Red ochre rock art painting by the Anishinaabe people of the great lakes
Anishinaabe rock art. Photo credit -

Red was the first color of paint used by humans on Earth. It is the eldest color. The iron ore of red pigment was born of the unimaginable forces of nuclear fusion in the cores of the stars. It is part of the very fabric of Earth, assembled out of empty darkness. The heaviest element a star can make in its life, iron gives color to the Earth's crust, giving us beauty with which to decorate and celebrate our world. The color of bodies, of communion, of eating.

Rock art of Alta, Norway

As the story proceeds to tell itself, shapes unfold and change, retelling themselves, fitting themselves in, as if evolving. The design process is a sacred bargaining between the real world and the imagination. The imagination shifts just as the real world shifts: shadows reflecting each other.

This particular story is told not on stone, but on wood – the body of a living being, transfigured. Flesh of the forest, prepared for a communion stretching toward the vast horizon of the future. Each story is a meal found in the body of the earth around us.

Work in progress painting of a red-shouldered hawk by bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz
Detailing begins after blocks of color are laid in

Photograph of a red-shouldered hawk in a Monterey pine tree by bioregional artist Derek Schultz

Like the hawk, the artist may be a hunter – one who seeks nourishment from the earth, one who works in the iron of the stars.

Bioregional artist Derek Schultz with original custom commission gouache painting of a red-shouldered hawk
Buteo lineatus, finished.

Each time a story is told, the details are refined, perhaps changed irrevocably. The world shifts slightly, and the reflecting pool stirs in the wind, showing a new vision. All things shiver and seek to fit into one another anew, binding to one another in a slow dance. Stories share the fluid dynamics of continental tectonics. Over eons, stories erode, and what remains is ore: raw material of the earth, waiting to be reassembled.

Art is the ultimate illusion: what we see is meaning, but what is really there is life, or the stars, or the glimmering remnants of them.

First salutations to the stars.

Thanks to all relatives and ancestors.

May all beings be happy and free.

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