Before Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, we had no knowledge of our separateness from ourselves, from one another and from nature. Each of us suffers that loss; we wake each morning as refugees.
Once people traveled underground into the dark caves of Lascaux to draw horses on the wall. It was the need to reconnect that drove them down into the dark with their weak torches.
As children we have an innate understanding and desire to get close to the primal power (and identification with the abject powerlessness) of the animal. The bear is made benevolent in its childlikeness and becomes the attaché to the private world of the child. The young heroine of National Velvet keeps a shoe box under her bed filled with paper cutouts of horses; when she takes them out to play with them the air becomes charged with ritual and desire. Toys become totems.
The dog entered my circle of fire very early on, offering to become my closest friend, my teacher, and still…no matter how many mindful hours we spend together there remains between us a space that no language can cross.
Art, for me, remains a way to meet the animal, perhaps within myself, perhaps to mourn what’s lost.
- Elizabeth Knight