Hilary Oliver is a thought-provoking writer and filmmaker in the mountain west. We are long fans of her writing, her recent film 'Being Here,' and her contributions to the female voice in outdoor media. We caught up with Hilary to hear the latest on her impassioned freelance life, and find out what's inspiring her this season.
What’s on your summer bucket list right now?
I’m taking my folks to the Tetons in August—they’ve never been before, so I’m excited to share that with them. Otherwise, this summer has been full of enjoying life at home in Denver, which is a rare treat for me. So lots of bike rides to my favorite coffee shops and getting up into the alpine for some big days—maybe a fun traverse or linkup in Rocky Mountain National Park—later in the summer is definitely on the list!
Current source of inspiration?
I just went to an amazing exhibit at the Denver Art Museum called The Western: An Epic In Art & Film, and walked out full of thoughts about how we portray our land, and how we portray people. I love the historic aesthetic of the West, and I love the idea of creating a new aesthetic that’s inclusive, and ecologically sound. Don’t know exactly what that would look like, but I’m full of inspiration for it!
What are you a beginner at right now, or trying for the first time?
Since a lot of my writing and editing work is for the Internet, sometimes it can feel really transient. So lately I’ve enjoyed dabbling in things that produce something physical, tangible—I’ve enjoyed sewing some clothes for myself and playing around with watercolor painting. I love working with natural fibers, even if the patterns are super, super simple. And it’s such a pleasure to let myself paint like a kid—not worrying about what people will think of it or whether it’s any “good.”
What is helping you keep it together? Any saving routines?
Running has always been a personal sanctuary for me. And this year my boyfriend, Brendan Leonard, is training for a 100-mile race, so it’s also been special for us to be able to do some longer runs together. We’re both busy and travel separately a lot, so sometimes it’s a saving grace for us to be able to trot out together for a few hours. Otherwise it’s so easy for us to just sit hunched over our computers working forever …
If you had $300 to spend in the Wylder shop, what would you spend it on?
Ooh la la! [Rubs hands together …]
Canyon earrings from Bri Bol
Set of Desert Tumblers from Coco Barrett-Tormey
And probably something from Juniper Ridge to wear that would make me smell like someplace beautiful!
Photo by Brendan Leonard
Favorite brand in the Wylder shop?
I’m a big fan of Bri Bol and Coco Barrett-Tormey! Beautiful handmade lovelies. Love their style. Also, Sarah Uhl! I’m always sending her cards to friends.
What is at the top of your spotify, ‘recently played?’ Or, favorite current music?
On heavy rotation right now: Mulatu Astatke, Fela Kuti, Angel Olsen, The War On Drugs.
Who is inspiring you right now? Why?
I’ve been deeply inspired by Terry Tempest Williams this summer—I just finished her book When Women Were Birds, and it speaks to the lifelong journey of finding our voices, as women, as writers and as environmentalists. I’m often grappling with the question, 'How do I do work that counts, and is true to myself'? And that book has helped me frame my thoughts about my own work.
If you’ve ever been profoundly changed by a landscape, which one, and why?
I’d never even been to the deserts of southern Utah until I was an adult, but something about the sandstone, the wide-open views, and the resilient flora and fauna has been special to me. I’ve been fortunate to visit some pretty spectacular landscapes in my life, but that’s the one that draws me back over and over—it somehow feels like a balm to my soul. It’s a place where I’ve wrestled through grief and loneliness and come out with a deeply needed sense of self. I feel Gretel Ehrlich’s words there: “True solace is finding none, which is to say, it is everywhere.”
Are you an activist? If so, what are you fighting for and why?
I struggle with the word activist. I’d say I’m a writer and filmmaker trying to find ways to make people think—about the effects of our own actions, about other people, about our ecology. One thing I’m fighting for—with letters, phone calls, social media, and through my media work with brands like OR and REI—is keeping public lands public and as wild as possible.
Photo by Brendan Leonard