Sunday, May 20, 2012

Standing Poetry

Willa Cather said, "I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do."

For years, my favorite tree has been a snag in the middle of the water at the Kitty Hawk Boat Ramp, standing like a sentinel, greeting all who come to share the beauty of this spot. This old skeleton has witnessed water snakes struggling to down an oversized catfish, osprey exploding onto the water surface after a flash of a finned dinner, beginning kayakers trying to keep their balance, and many other small dramas.

I have tried to capture the essence of this tree many times. My favorite painting of it was done while I was so sick I had to hold a wad of tissues in one hand and my paintbrush in the other. But I felt drawn on that particular day to try to capture the poetry of the tree leaning under a broody sky with soft reflections dancing about its base. That painting lives at my youngest son's house now.

I knew one day that tree would be taken down by a storm or would just collapse from pure exhaustion. I dreaded that day. And this year it happened, or maybe it happened after the hurricane last year. All I know is when I pulled into the parking lot, anticipation coursing through my veins, I saw that my tree had vanished. And for me, the place had lost its spirit, its poetry.

Sadly I decided to drive to the new town park to sketch the turtles and perhaps a bird or two. The trail had been extended around the pond, and as I neared the bend in the path there stood the most beautiful snag sporting a huge cavity where I'm sure many creatures have found protection. This one too was on the other side of perfection, and its days are definitely numbered. But I had fallen in love again. I will sketch and paint it as often as I can till it gives up its roots. So far I've done three finished paintings. And when the day comes that I walk around the bend and it is no longer there I will remember that there will be more trees, more standing poems for me to love.

FYI: A snag is a standing dead or dying tree. They are important for wildlife, providing nesting sites, storage areas and sheltered spots for roosting and perching, as well as fabulous subject matter for wandering artists.

1 comment:

  1. It will be with a heavy and sad heart that I'll eventually have to call someone to cut down the long-dead live oaks at our house here in Burlington, when the danger of the trees flattening passers-by on Fisher Street outweighs the stark beauty of their shade and shape. When we had the weeds and witch-grass mowed this week, all I could think of was the snakes and mice losing their home and their safe protecting from our cats. Sometimes progress and mere human presence harms what nature manages best unattended.