Saturday, February 5, 2011

Seeds of Inspiration

Glowing embers in the blue-black of the fading day. 
Outside, sleet and freezing rain beating on a drum 
of softening snow. Just a brief respite between 
frozen winds and clinking icicles. Late tonight 
 temperatures will drop again and somewhere 
above, the snow maker will sculpt 
crystalline flake-mandalas. 

(do click larger to see the amazing detail in these!)

In a moment of remembering today, I pulled out 
an envelope of treasures. Years ago my father gave 
me two of my grandfather's notebooks, both from his 
work as marine biologist. 

One is a small, handmade folio of card stock 
on which are pasted algae specimens collected 
from Long Island Sound. Delicate branching 
systems, and warm sepia tones: they 
could be drawings of trees. 

A well-spring of inspiration, seeds of  
drawings take root in me. Even the process of scanning 
these few pages have sparked to life some 
sleeping embers in my imagination. 

Obsessed as I am with branching systems, 
this tree caught my attention on a recent snow shoe. 
The lichen and moss patterns: variations of fractal 
patterns in the microcosm.

If ever my studio heater arrives, I think the images 
trapped inside me will explode onto paper. Though 
I've been drawing, what I want is my work table with 
my bones and stones, nests and feathers and the 
freedom to be as messy as I need to be. 

I know there has also been a gift in this time. 
I've been forced to look closely, to step out of routine 
and to let other forms of expression fulfill 
my need to create. 

Above and below, branching systems studies. 

A large wound on a beech tree reminds me that I am 
molded beautifully by the forces that push against me.

Beautiful bark texture on enormous ash tree 
in a nearby old growth forest.

My friend and neighbor, Anneliese and I snow shoed in the 
deep snow on the Rivulet Trail, one of the few remaining 
stands of old growth in New England. The trail is on
the homestead of the poet, William Cullen Bryant,  
 who "helped inspire the 19th-century land conservation 
movement that involved Frederic Law Olmsted and 
Charles Eliot, founder of The Trustees of Reservations." 
(from the Bryant Homestead site link above)
  The pine loop on the trail winds around pine trees 
reaching up to 150 feet. 

 Anneliese enjoys a moment with 
an enormous cherry tree. Its rare 
to find such a huge, straight cherry 
still standing as the wood is prized 
for veneers and furniture. The Rivulet 
Trail has several beautiful old cherry trees. 

At the beginning of our journey, 
we were met by this wonderful forest spirit.
We want to re-visit him in the spring to see 
if his fern-dreads are rooted there or 
somehow found their way onto his crown.  

We are still buried in snow, with no end in site. 
So much so that roofs are collapsing. Everywhere 
around town, roofs were dotted with people throwing 
snow onto huge piles, sometimes covering windows. 

I've been out in many a storm, trying to stay ahead. 
Arctic fashion is somewhat turtle-like. 

I really might have to have a neighbor come over with his 
tractor to move some snow around so I can still shovel 
a path to the studio! 

I decided to head the warnings, and do some 
roof raking yesterday. Tootling around on snowshoes
with a long-poled shovel-thing was amusing. A 
couple of times I dislodged a snow pile onto 
my head, and almost toppled over backwards 
when it let go!  

I decided to leave it to the youth to do the high roofs, 
so Shelby came over and shoveled. Having the two of us 
out and about all day  was great entertainment for Pasha, 
until he realized that our activities resulted in snow avalanches.  

A sense of solidarity came with the snows: 
  all of us engaged in the same chores, passing on  
humorous stories as we passed roof rakes 
one to another. 

I leave you with a recent tree drawing. I'm stuck here 
wondering whether to leave it as is or bring out more 
light. What do you think? 


A mermaid in the attic said...

I can't imagine your tree drawing could be any more perfect than it is now. Such sights, so much snow...I wonder if I'll ever experience something like that in my life, it seems so hard to imagine in my corner of the world!

stregata said...

So much snow to contend with! Stay safe and warm. I am glad ours is melted away - but winter isn't over.

Donna~Q~ said...

What an absolutely lovely legacy from your Grandfather ~ I can defintely see how they would be inspiring! I'm totally enamoured with both the "fern dreads" and your tree drawing ~ the shapes and shading in the latter are fantastic!

Unknown said...

The branching algae pressings are fabulous! I enjoyed seeing the ancient cherry tree, too - stay warm! sus

Rowan said...

Your grandfather's notebooks are beautiful, there are so many wonderful natural forms in this world. It will be interesting to see your forest spirit without his helmet of snow. As for the drawing - I'm not an artist at all but I think I would try it with a little more light.
You DID ask? :)

steven said...

valerianna what a wealth of images and words and all that spins out from them! i'm grateful. i am so struck by the algae images - baby trees! in response to your question at the end of the post my immediate thought is to create two images - one light and one dark and to place them side-by-side. steven

Valerianna said...

mermaid - I hope you do have a chance to experience this kind of snow... it is too magical to miss in a lifetime!

stregata- we're having a melt today, but, its going to take a LOT more warm days like these to even make a dent!

Donna~Q~ Thanks! I love the fern-dreads as well, wonder what he'll look like in the spring?

susan - I was taken also with the mosses and lichens, the mossed looked like yarn or stitching to me...

Rowan ~ I agree with you now that I see the tree drawing in a different form here, I think I will add a tad more light.

steven- Aren't they wonderful? If I could do what you suggest with the tree drawing, I might, but a scratchbord drawing would be challenging to copy exactly- or at least, I don't have the patience!

Bovey Belle said...

Thank you for the wonderful inspiration your photographs and drawings bring. There is an award waiting for you on my blog, if you have time to check it.

Velma Bolyard said...

oh. more light. definitely. (in my modest opinion!) what a treasure those seaweeds are. lovely how it connects to your current work.

Sharmon Davidson said...

ooooh, the tree drawing is wonderful! I do think I would make it somewhat lighter, but that's just me- I'm a contrasty kind of person. I absolutely love your grandfather's algae samples; how lucky you are to have these treasures to connect you to him. It's so amazing that macrocosm and microcosm are so alike- tree and algae- as above, so below!

Penny Berens said...

Nature's fractals and textures too... some of my favourite things.

Tammie Lee said...

wonderful to wander through winter with you. The lichens are beauties! I can see why they inspire you. Do be careful of that snow landing on you!!!
Time for me to go out and shovel my paths!
love your tree, if you bring out more light, please show us again.

Windsongs and Wordhoards said...

Fantastic pictures Valerianna... I love all the textures of bark and delicate algaes.
You do have a lot of snow! We have snowdrops here now instead, Spring is on its way...Take care on those rooftops!

chicory cottage said...

love the algae; that's what i thought when i first saw the images without reading our text. did some work with freshwater diatoms when i was in grad school; algae is fascinating! love the snow pictures; and the old growth trees, of course.

mairedodd said...

the algae specimens are so incredibly beautiful... thank you so much for sharing them, and yourself...
re: the tree - it is all about what it feels like to you - if you add to it, would love to see...

SKIZO said...

good creations