The first time it happened I was at Girl Scout Day Camp, in the oak ravines of Tuolumne county. Camp Apalu. I was 11. We were standing in the closing circle, baking in the sun, when I noticed how beautiful Mrs. Walsh and her adopted daughter Donna were, right there beside me. I grabbed my trusty Brownie Starlight camera and turned it on the diagonal to capture this mother-and-daughter image bathed in sunlight.
I was careful to conserve my film, so I only took one photo of Mrs. Walsh and Donna. But I knew the love of a mother and her daughter would shine through with the intensity of the Madonna and Child in the stained glass window of the Little Red Church where I’d spent a few Sunday mornings daydreaming.
I was shocked when I opened my envelope of developed prints and saw Mrs. Walsh in curlers. Not at all what I had seen when I snapped the picture.
Making art is about creating a vehicle that transfers the image in your head into someone else’s head — through photography, music, dance, art, story, film, etc. On that day at Camp Apalu, the yawning chasm between what I thought I saw and what the photograph recorded was disconcerting.
So you can imagine my delight when the spellbinding moment of imagination did come true.
In the process of creating artwork for LITTLE WOLF’S FIRST HOWLING, John and I traveled to Yellowstone last September, scouting locations. I had my sketch dummy in hand, based on images in books and Googled.
We watched for wolves in the LaMar valley during the day,heard them howl across the ridges in the evening, saw the full moon rise.
Then, driving through the park, I saw a ridge that looked just like the place I imagined Little Wolf first howled. How amazing! Luckily, this time the photo was the same as what I imagined I saw.
We walked up and looked around, taking photos of the sage and grasses, the snags of dead trees and rocks. The specificity of these photos has informed the final art.
I have stood on the grassy bench where the Little Wolf of my imagination first howled.
I wonder if any of you have experienced this convergence of imagination and art in a life experience?