In 2004 I went for a hike on the Niagara Escarpment in Hamilton with a dear friend. We found some deer bones by the railroad tracks and I felt compelled to collect them, wash them, and together with other bits and pieces I had collected on hikes and the like over the years (pockets are for filling, ya know), I forged a creature small in stature but large in spirit: a sort of forest diety representing all the life of the forest, the passage of time, rebirth and renewal. He is made of all organic materials, and notably, his heart is the hard, smooth, dark, shiny seed of some unknown tree that floated right up to me on the surface of the ocean in Costa Rica, some many years earlier. I adored him and respected him, but became greedy in my desire to keep him close. But he does not belong to me, and cannot belong to anyone. After nearly 10 years in storage, I finally took his crumbling body and fresh hemp twine back to the same area of the escarpment with that same dear friend. While Joe was so kind as to document the process, I rebuilt this creature of sticks and bones, selected a subtle place for him at the base of a tree, and adorned him with flowers. I built a medicine wheel around him, gathering stones of appropriate sizes and placing them around him – a large stone in each of the four cardinal directions, and a smaller stone in between each of these. Properly returned to his home, we hiked back, and he remains there to grin in the moonlight, be sniffed by squirrels, have spiders’ webs crocheted into his ribs, be landed on by butterflies, and gradually melt back into the forest.
Photography by Joe Sneep and Candace Bell, 2013. To see the rest of the images, visit the Forest Spirit page on my official website, here.