Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ancient Trees, Setting Sun, Apparitions in the Night

"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.  


Tammie Lee said...

such a lovely post bringing me to the majesty of our world, the beauty of your art and heart and I am grateful to know you through your sharings.

Your trees are marvelous!

Unknown said...

How beautiful these glimpses of your part of the forest - the orange still there when we are now entered into the silvery season here. Happy thanksgiving, V and Pasha!

stregata said...

Love your ancient trees! And your photos are just so stunning - love the one of the leaf glowing in the late sun...

Dreaming Woods said...

valerianna, i would want to take a woodland walk with you! so many beautiful words and photos.

illustration poetry said...

I'm exhausted but still I'm just staring at
a fuzzy moon;
setting sun;
the branches of an oak;
plus some wispy cloud formations.

Thank you for this.

renilde said...

It's wonderful to take a walk with you; photos and text and imagination take me to a faraway place where you live.
The dancing oak is beautiful.

Penny Berens said...

Valeriana; your posts always resonate with me.

Penny said...

Such a lovely post,your trees are so beuatiful and your stories peaceful.

Acornmoon said...

when I first looked at your drawing I thought to myself that the oak looked as if it were dancing, then I read the title!

Michala Gyetvai (Kayla coo) said...

Beautiful drawing, trees love dancing.xx

Windsongs and Wordhoards said...

'Grandmother Hemlock' conjures so many whisperings of ancient folk tales to my imagination!
I love your oak paintings, very strong like the tree... I put up a Ted Hughes poem about oaks a few posts back... a part of how he describes them is '...A guard, a dancer, At the pure well of leaf...'
They do seem to be a very evocative tree!

Sharmon Davidson said...

Beautiful! I'm loving these tree drawings, too!

Tammie Lee said...

came back to enjoy your tree art some more ~

Reading Tea Leaves said...

Your posts engage my imagination and carry me along in wonderment. You are the most wonderful teacher Valerianna! Your tales of old whispering hemlock trees and encounters in the moonlight transport me to an ancient long-forgotten place.

Wonderful scratchboard drawings!


layers said...

you captured the majestic trees in your scratch board drawings so well... beautiful images and words about your woodland walk.

rivergardenstudio said...

I hope you are doing well in your beautiful ravenwoods. The lines are so graceful in your ancient trees... and the animal tracks show that life is abundant there in it's quiet way. roxanne