As I journeyed (and it is a journey) through Eleanor, Eley, and Brittain’s brilliantly mythical exploration of self, my heart was heavy from the previous night’s riots in my hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Shaken by where our country seems to be headed and the manifestation of oppression in violence, this humane story of acceptance swept me away and gave me hope.
Like Alice going down the rabbit hole, Viola, a character created by Eleanor to represent her future self, steps through a hollow tree and into a metaphorical wilderness where she goes through a Homerian odyssey in search of herself.
The storytelling is a combination of Rachel Eleanor’s words and Eley’s photographs, in stark black and white, produced with an almost mezzotint effect. Elevating the images, Eleanor creates illustrations on the photographs bringing to life the fairy tale’s mystical evocations. Model Dominique Brittain as Viola completes a collaborative trio in telling the story in multi-dimensions and the podcaster, Marthame Sanders, provides a space for an even deeper multi-platform experience. Each is propelled in the project by a genuine mastery of their respective crafts and the joy of seeing it all come together seamlessly is triumphant.
The hard rock center of the story is Eleanor’s early life growing up in an evangelical Christian faith, then, as experiences caused her to begin questioning some of her beliefs, she embarks on a journey into self-discovery. As the story unfolds, there will be wolves, and dragons, and creatures small and large challenging and guiding her along the way. She uses metaphor and allegory to express an opening of the soul.
Her words are narrative and poetic at the same time, she writes that:
I am slowly learning to read my soul’s compass.
Two things I’ve found:
First, my griefs are skittish
and have grown quite feral
in their lonely burrows in my heart.
They must be approached
with great patience and care.
And second, that the only way out
Of this wild country is through.
A Walk in The Wilderness is a unique experience and a walk I hope you will take. It brought to mind Rainer Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet a small book of wonder which has been a guidepost for my own journey.
Rilke, like Eleanor, addresses dragons as metaphor: “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
In a time fraught with dragons, we should consider A Walk in the Wilderness as a journey toward hope. Eleanor, Eley, and Brittain have created a roadmap for us to follow.
As I finish writing this, a Falcon 9 rocket has just launched two astronauts into space, the first manned mission from America in almost a decade. The name for the capsule carrying its precious human cargo, fittingly, is Dragon. God Speed to all of us in our earthly—and otherworldly—adventures.