Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Winter Trees

I've always loved the bones of trees in the winter; the skeletons. The ability to see how a tree is made and how it reaches; its spread and girth and width. The bones, the basics, the dark against the grey sky. The shadows cast, the possibilities, the past, present, and the imagined future.

For years I walked the same route, no matter the season, and it was in winter that the changes over the year were most apparent to me. Where a huge branch had been struck down by lightening or age. Where undergrowth was more its own. Where nests were left vulnerable to driving snow, sleet, rain. Where time had taken its toll.

The first winter of my walks there I noticed trunks with door-sized holes and wondered if I had peered inside would I find Peter Pan and the Lost Boys or a bear in hibernation? I noticed stumps large enough for picnics in the coming summer. I wondered about lone leaves stubbornly clinging to an otherwise bare branch. What is it holding on to? Why won't it let go?

If I were a painter, winter trees would be my subject. From a distance I would paint the colony, the community of trees in their nakedness, like being at a nude beach. Up close I would paint every line and blemish and wrinkle and wart and age spot and acne scar.

I've always said I have earned my wrinkles and feel an affinity for trees in that respect. They have lived through many seasons, many years, known draught and deluge, the coldness of abandonment and neglect and the pressing heat of passion too close for comfort. They've earned their wrinkles. I love the starkness, the lack of pretense, the startling beauty of trees in winter. The way they seem to say, "Look at me. This is who I am." I welcome the life, the new, young hopeful life of spring, especially this year as we experience our first spring in this house, but on this cold April morning I honor the season of winter trees. A winter tree looks either older than its years or younger than time and that is just the way I feel. I am a winter tree. (Note: the painting is "Aspen Trees" by Ann Doody, an artist based in both Madison, WI and Aspen, CO)

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