"Ancient Oak", 5"x5" scratchbord drawing
While my days at home are spent preparing for the
coming snows, I steal moments while teaching to
bring more ancient trees to life. Only a few weeks
left in the semester, and students work
independently on self-designed projects. I
become more like a consultant now, as long as I've
done my job at the beginning of the class to invite
them into their own creative process. I enjoy working
along side, sharing in the development of our work.
Have I mentioned how much I love teaching?
"Dancing Oak", 5"x5" scratchboard drawing
Much of the land in these hills is second growth,
though stands of old growth forests dot the hills
here and there. The sides of roads are lined
with old, gnarled sugar maples and trees that
escaped being cut because they grew at the
boundaries of land parcels.
One such tree is this enormous hemlock
on the side of the road near my house.
I call her "Grandmother Hemlock". Its hard
to get a good sense of scale here,
I must return with someone for a size comparison.
She is mostly hollow now, and until last year she
was still full of green growth. One night of high
winds brought her top down and most of her
sweeping branches. Until the other day I thought
she was completely dead. I spent some time sitting
with her and noticed to my surprise
that she still has several green branches growing
from her middle. She whispers
many stories to me when I pass- stories of
owls nesting inside, mosses gathering
at her roots, and days gone by when people
other than me greeted her as a wise elder spirit.
Up the road from Grandmother Hemlock, trees cradle
the sinking sun. A barred owl glides past, I stop and
follow her in my dreaming.
The last of the leaves shout orange as I pass,
I catch them frolicking with the light
and wind, flitting this way and that, filling my
otherwise quiet walk with a sound like
paper lanterns in the breeze.
In the field at the crest of the hill, I pause for the
last of the color show.
The return walk on the other side of the road,
reveals stories written in sand. A deer track,
heading into the forest.
And what appears to be a coyote speeding along
behind. Its the time of deer running.
Predators are hungry with the gathering cold,
and the forest is full of coyote pups growing bigger,
and orange-vested men with guns,
stealing a day away from work
to hunt the deer.
I remember a brief encounter as I write.
While driving in the moonlight, I squinted
at the apparition in the middle of the road.
A slight mist, the rising almost-full
moon, a pair of antlers appearing in front of me.
I slowed and the young buck walked slowly to the
side of the road. I rolled down my window as he
turned back to look into my eyes. I waited for him
to speed away - instead he turned and
walked slowly, gently into the dark.