The horse guided me into the realm of art. My earliest memories are my pretending to be a horse, romping around on all fours on our brown shag carpet. I did that all the time—my knees had permanent carpet burns. Later I drew horses obsessively, horse after horse, copied from books by C.W. Anderson and Marguerite Henry. Even my first pangs of creative jealousy were centered on a horse, or rather, on a six-year-old girl at bible school who drew them better than me.

I drew horses because I wanted to experience them fully. And so I learned at a young age that art was a doorway to an inner landscape, a near-mystical practice where I could experience more deeply the object of my attention. 

Stephanie sketches the Savage River in Denali National Park

Writing, too, became a pathway into the inner landscape. I have journaled, to the point of obsession, all my life. That compulsion to write became the primary lens through which I understood the world. (A shout-out here to my older sister, Sabrina, who helped me write my first poem).

I did not go to school for either of these practices. I am self-taught, perhaps mostly because I am inherently stubborn and refuse to allow someone else to tell me how to do something. (Ask Sabrina!)

Roan Sunrise, pastel of sunrise on Roan Mountain by Stephanie Thomas Berry

And now, having walked long on my own peculiar path, as it winds and twists into even more sublime territory, I find that all I want is to love the world, to be in conversation with the little stones and the ferns, to hear the song of the landscape and honor it, with each drawing, with each poem, with each little essay.

It is my greatest hope that my work kindles in you that bright knowing that the world is alive, and adorned with mystery. That we might find resonance in the unmitigated delight that is life on Earth. It’s a new paradigm we are building, with our joy, and yet it is the oldest paradigm of all.

Hepatica, a pastel by Stephanie Thomas Berry
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