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Forest Woodward

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Duke and I bounce down the road, straddling the ruts, not talking now. Some words better seen than said. The prairie around us shifts, a pastel mirage through dirty glass. Faded yellows into rich golds. We scan the horizon for silhouettes. I still can’t time travel. sometimes when we see certain things though I think we can. maybe now we do. bison trailing a long dusty line across our view. The sun will be gone soon, the mountains all agree. I press the shutter button repeatedly, a metronome of seconds ticked away. Try to hold on to a few. Try to see see what is out there, not just in here. Try to listen, to remember, to speak without breaking silence. Put the camera down and watch now for a spell.

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Headed home

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“As we slowly move this herd through the chutes, we make physical contact, touching them even. I looked into this cow’s eye less than a foot away wishing I could see what these eyes have seen through the ages: dinosaurs? Saber tooth tigers? Horsemen in pursuit with spears and arrows? Images I can barely even imagine, yet more vivid than looking into a fire. How they moved through the eons, helping create the great high plains of North America, endless herds that historical accounts document stopping trains for up to 9 days. Fertilizing, recycling organic matter into the soil, feeding the inhabitants of the prairie. I get lost trying to see all the things she has seen. The least we can do is attempt to live with them and learn.” - Ranchlands founder Duke Phillips III @dukephillipslll @ranchlands

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Duke III and his grandson Hayes, Zapata Ranch, 2017. “Conservation isn’t about plants,” Duke explains in his quiet way, looking out across the valley towards a dark slow moving mass. Some thousand head of wild bison dwarfed by the sprawling high desert grassland of the San Luis valley and Sangre de Cristo mountains beyond. “It’s about people.” I nod. spend the next few days flipping those words around in my head. It’s not that he doesn’t care about plants. He does. And animals too. As a third generation rancher he understands the complexity of the interplay within the ecosystems he stewards. But the idea that conservation is something reserved for socially estranged nature lovers doesn’t hold up in these times. Conservation is for all of us, in every sense, and the choices we make to engage in evolving the conversation and practices around conserving wild spaces and species will shape not only the land that our children and grandchildren will inherit, but every aspect of their future existence on earth and that of all the generations to follow. // @ranchlands @dukephillipslll

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Sangres

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sometimes I write things I feel need to be said, regardless of whether they ever get read. others I remember it’s better for me, to sit with the quiet. watch. listen. try and see.

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Looking forward to spending the next few days documenting and learning alongside the @ranchlands crew as they conduct the annual bison roundup here at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Southern CO • “The abundance of the Great Plains up until the nineteenth century was equaled only by the Serengeti, Masai Mara, or the veld of South Africa. Teeming with bison, wolves, pronghorn, elk, and coyotes, North American grasslands hosted one of the planet’s greatest wildlife spectacles at a scale that is today almost beyond comprehension. This ancient ecology that evolved over thousands of years had reached some sort of equilibrium that balanced vegetative production, grazer populations, and predation, including by native peoples • That long-refined system was thrown into disarray with the arrival of white settlers, whose hunting and land use practices radically reduced the range of native wildlife. Bison in particular, confronted with a lethal combination of drought, massive demand for their furs, competition for food and water from new herds of wild horses, and likely foreign diseases introduced by Old World livestock, were nearly wiped from the landscape entirely • Today we’re at a point of recalibration. While bison as a species have rebounded to safe levels, only a small fraction of the animals alive today are wild. The herd we manage in conjunction with @nature_org is considered a conservation herd, meaning we manage the herd to be as wild as possible. This week is the only time all year these animals will be handled, being otherwise left alone to roam and live their natural bison lives.” - @ranchlands

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[Excerpt from a letter to Stefan 11.1.17] . By most measures we aren't here for a long time. We can't stretch the fabric of time on a longitudinal plane. But what we can do I think, is push and explore on the fringes, wander off the timeline to pull at the fabric of experience and human connection - and thereby widen it. Think of all the things we do in order to most simply stay alive so that we can die. Eat, drink, sleep. work, routines, cognitive absence. that time to me encompasses a small amount of what my perceived life experience is made up of (though in hours it is certainly a majority of my life). The experiences of deep connection to other humans and the earth, of sitting on the edge of a grand vista or staring into a loved ones eyes, fighting for a foothold high on a mountain or day dreaming by a streamside in a valley, the press of a friend's chest against your own, the smell of a changing season, the rush of a new idea or feeling or sight, the familiarity of going home...these to me are moments that widen time, moments that are only achieved when the rudder of fear is dropped from the stern and the winds of creative whimsy and wide eyed love are allowed to fill the sail and soul. . If we acknowledge then that dieing is the only thing we are required to do in our time here, the creative possibilities between here and there become expansive and playful -and time wasted worrying about the details of death and the fashion in which we arrive become trivial. All of a sudden it becomes much more important to consider how we're living, acknowledging that the business of Death will surely come to us in its own fashion and with little input from us in the matter, while life...life is ours to paint and create each day, infinite possibility in a small secret freedom #fearlesslivemore @wereallgoingto

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Land of the living // For many years my friend Stefan has been one of my favorite creators of film and purveyors of artful heartful living. Over the course of the last year and a half he has poured his creative soul and life philosophy into We Are All Going to Die - a multimedia festival built around the idea of fearing less and living more. His work has served as a reminder to me to try and live intentionally, laugh at myself more, and examine the roll fear plays in my decision making process. There’s no cure for fear, it’s not something that we can or should eradicate, but limiting the extent to which it controls us seems to make life a lot more fun ❤️ thanks @stefan_hunt @wereallgoingto #fearlesslivemore [images from a roadtrip in Stefan’s homeland circa ‘15]

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