Phil and I were trying to figure out how to explain some of the ideas behind this project and what it means to us. We decided an easy way to go about it was just to have a conversation about the idea. So I asked my friend Michelle Johnsen, a talented photographer with a naturally curious and creative mind, to give us a little interview about the idea. This is the conversation that followed.
Michelle: Well some things I wondered were: Where did you hear the story/who told it? Is this an audio project or a blog? Who’s your audience for this? What’s your goal?
Natasha: I read the story in Colin Turnbull’s book The Forest People about the Mbuti Pygmy people who live in the forest of Africa. It’s an amazing book about a group of indigenous people who live completely immersed in the ecosystem around them. The story about the Buffalo was one of my favorite parts.
Michelle: What did the story spark for you?
Natasha: Well, as someone who has spent many years purposefully trying to deepen my connection with the natural world, I love the idea of right off the bat that someone could be so fully immersed in their land base and environment that their perception of the world is literally built on that. I also loved the story because of the way it plays with perspective. I’m very curious by nature and I love to challenge myself and my beliefs. I love to learn new things. So my experience in life is that of constantly trying to shift my perspective from my established viewpoints to new ones, or at least trying to challenge myself to do so. I like the idea of the buffalo representing the things, experiences, or ideas we haven’t yet encountered in life. That through the process of discovery we can move towards understanding. But even when we see one buffalo, and understand what we’re seeing, there are still more in the distance, waiting to be discovered.
Michelle: Once you read this story, what did you want to do?
Phil: Wait 15 years and retell it to another crazy person 🤪
Natasha: Haha, yeah Phil. That is what it amounted to. Well I guess specifically the story was inspiring because it was about this group of people living in a way that was highly connected to the natural world. The story inspired me to push myself to continue to work towards reconnecting with the wild world in whatever way I am able to. And it pushed me to examine my own biases and boundaries around my understanding of the world and my belief systems.
And then after loving it for many years, I met Phil and told it to him. Phil and I have a pretty similar brain you might say. And we get along really well. So he kind of instantly liked it as much as I did when I read it originally
Phil: I think what struck me first in hearing the story was the moment when it was mentioned the man got into a truck. Kind of a “statue of liberty” in the sand kind of moment, realizing the story of a people living entirely in the Forest was part of our world, and not the long past.
Then from that first feeling of “things may not be what they seemed” it carried on to be a meta version of that theme inside the “tiny buffalo” piece. It’s really remarkably composed, like a foreshadowing of feeling.
And I’ve always liked thinking about how the foundations of understanding that we take for granted, such as language, really shape our ability to understand the world. All of that combines with the feeling I have, that something is missing from the way we’ve grown to look at existence, to make a profound experience.
Michelle: Okay so how do you plan to examine all of this? Through living it, through experiences, then write about it? Or study other perspectives? Interview people?
Phil: Although our histories and backgrounds are very different Natasha and I just have a very similar end result view of the world. We both think there is something off about the common human experience. And we’ve enjoyed exploring that in conversation, and writing, and wanted to share it somehow.
Natasha: Specifically we’ve been exploring ideas through poetry and writing, and we’re talking about making a podcast. Basically this blog gives us a nice broad umbrella for which to examine whatever ideas or subjects we would want to examine, in whatever way we wish.
Michelle: So which subjects and ideas interest you the most and make you want to start researching? Where would you start?
Phil: To me, research is almost the wrong primary approach. We live, and observe our own lives, how our mind works, and how we feel. From there trying to capture the nuances in the experience and sharing them, then just following whatever paths come up.
Maybe the biggest topic we talk about is language. We both read a lot, and have a love of words. But thinking about how the language we know shapes the way you think and experience the world. That’s been a natural lead in to poetry. Which I hilariously spent my whole life insisting I didn’t understand, until I started writing it a month ago.
Natasha: Phil and I oddly similar places in our lives and we both happen to be doing some, let’s say, inner work of learning to understand ourselves better and our place in the world. So we have sort of a common place to jump off of. And I think a male and female perspective together is always pleasant, in music, in writing, and in life, generally speaking. Not to get too hung up on gender or anything. More just to say two different perspectives are nice to have.
Michelle: That’s awesome. I can’t wait to read what you guys come up with!
Natasha: As far as the goal of the project and what we hope to do with it, most of my projects I really just start for my own pleasure and experience, and then I find that if they resonate with other people then they tend to grow and take on a life of their own in sort of an organic way. Phil is a great friend, we are similar enough to understand one another but different enough to kind of challenge each other’s framework let’s say. So, personally I just want to to do some more writing and push my boundaries creatively so to speak. And on a larger cultural level, which is something that I pretty much always think about, I like the idea of encouraging others to push their boundaries and their belief systems, to examine the relationships they have in their lives, to examine their understanding of the world, and to do whatever work they can to reconnect in a real way with the people and environment around them. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this project goes, and am thankful Phil and I can work on it together.