Month: October 2018

Diligently

In the senate justice turns to parody. In the woods rain turns to damp earth without any untruth.

It’s raining at Woods Memorial. I’m out-of-breath after riding my bike up the hill along Spring Garden Park. I haven’t ridden much since the hot weather we had in summer and now I have just enough strength left to enjoy the quiet forest trail—robins chuckling here and there but mostly just the sound of rain.

It has been a tough week for all of us who support minimum standards for employment. I believe Dr. Blasey Ford, but even if I didn’t I would still be appalled that an unstable, vengeful and paranoid man who can’t answer simple questions coherently now has one of the most important jobs in the country. I would not hire him to look after an unwanted pet.

The trees don’t appear to care. It’s not that they aren’t impacted by the decisions government makes. They clearly have more important things to do that never required evolving the kind of thinking center humans have. They stand in one place breathing, making shade, providing shelter from the rain. This comes in handy for me today. After making one really drippy sketch on the trail I find a dry spot under a lush tree, sit down and make some more sketches on reasonably dry paper.

It is strange that someone as educated as a judge wouldn’t take the high-road, wouldn’t admit to drinking too much to remember all of his actions, wouldn’t own the obvious disrespects he expressed in his year-book. I could forgive someone who engaged in ill-repute during high-school and college if they apologized, demonstrated how their understanding of women’s humanity has since evolved, publicly denounced the social structures that allowed such barbarism and expressed gratitude to feminists for diligently moving us all forward into a more just society.

Politics are not my strong suit in life, nor even my mediocre suit. I still vote, write letters to representatives, occasionally join a march. I’m not convinced this is enough but instead of doing more I draw trees. Today I am making very loose line drawings. I used to fill up sketchbooks with off-hand renderings of trees floating in space, no attention paid to their surrounds. I then started a project of making 100 tree paintings that would include the landscape and foliage around them. Since finishing that study I’ve been struggling to come up with a new body of work, a new way of talking about trees.

Today I decided to go back to my old ways, just loose drawings of trees, their structures and anything else that catches my fancy. It feels good to draw without thinking and I see that the project changed my voice. I can’t help but include things besides branch structure. I’ve learned to see the importance of the tree’s community. I’ve come to love the places that hold the trees, the places the trees protect with shade and cover.

I just received my voter’s pamphlet, I hope you are registered and planning to vote. In the meantime we could consider our other suits in life. How we can be honest about our wrongs to evolve a more sophisticated thinking center, how we can breathe and provide shade for each other.

One Specific Place

I went to the arboretum this morning just after sunrise, above the shadowy deciduous trees the evergreens stood glowing green-gold in the light as the crows flew over in black-gold wings, the robins chuckled, and a morning dove flew quietly into the maple.

I feel unusually content as I walk down the slope toward the flames of trees in yellow leaves. The ground feels soft, as if this is the one place in the world I am invited to be in right now, that there is one specific place I belong in each moment but I am rarely there except this morning.

I walk to the Tupelo trees, my Autumn favorite. They are sporting a few red leaves already. I would love to come everyday to watch them turn. If I had a bucket list the one thing I would put on it would be to take the entire Autumn off, to wander around all day admiring trees changing colors.

This is just the beginning of the season, I spent the first full day of Fall walking along the Clackamas River with a new fellow I’m very fond of. Like a lot of people, I think it is Fall the moment I feel a little chill in the air and see leaves turning colors. He holds off on such celebrations until the actual equinox. This year I paid attention as the leaves turned and the air chilled and find myself agreeing with him. Autumn is still my favorite season and part of what makes late summer so enjoyable are the signs that Fall is encroaching.

 

I walk along the Maple Trail listening to a northern flicker and a stellar jay. I sit down on a bench for a while basking in this surprise contentment. It is amazing how much I wear myself out just trying to live a genuine life. I once met a woman who had lived for years at an ashram in India; she thought humans would do well to give up the idea that living a life of joy and peace should be easy.

I think of all the trees and plants and wonder what it feels like to grow—is it ever uncomfortable? Does it strain their peace in spring to produce so much new fiber in such a short period of time? Perhaps they enjoy the tumult because they trust it is their nature.

I sit down in the Beech Grove to do another study and decide to cast off the unfortunate ideas I acquired while trying to be enlightened in my 20s—that making an effort to develop my own life is contrary to living a peaceful and meaningful life.

It’s not natural to live like it’s Autumn year-round, the trees know. In Sprig they surrender to the hard work of making leaves and when Summer yields to the Autumn chill they surrender to the delicate task of letting them all go, each landing in the exact place it has been invited to rest. Perhaps I will find more humility in doing the tremendous work needed to be successful with my inborn talents than I have smugly settling for a less turbulent mediocrity.