Tuesday morning in the arboretum and the juncos are busy collecting food off the ground and chasing eachother into the bushes. The firs and larches are filled with their calls alongside Chestnut-backed chickadees, a Brown Creeper, Stellar Jay, Song Sparrow and a nuthatch.
I came to sketch the beech trees. Instead I am soaking up the sun in a meadow on the verge of a good cry. It’s the time of year my father died, society is traipsing vastly off-kilter, and I’m caught in my usual conflict of deciding to be a human who has a retirement plan versus a human who follows their passion versus a human who helps humanity versus a human who lives a simple life.
The wind picks up and it’s cold like it’s come off a snowy mountain slope. Just thinking about being in the mountains brings me so much happiness I feel like it’s ok if this moody nap in the grass is the only thing I accomplish, ever.
Eventually I get up and walk to the beech grove to draw. There I am surrounded by the sound of beech nuts falling into the cover of dried leaves on the ground—some of them opened like woody stars. The green leaves above flutter against each other in the late summer wind like a soundtrack to the joy of cold, distant mountains pulled along by subtle harmonies of the dark realities that makes this life so precious.
I draw one tree; it’s a slender thing with just a few major branches all growing upwards. A young girl walks through the grove with her grandma, “What does the tree say?” the girl asks. Grandma doesn’t have an answer to this lofty question until the girl points out the tree has a tag on it. “American Beech” Grandma says and they walk on. My pencil feels strangely heavy and answers my quandary. I have a nature to follow, a song that happens on its own when the wind comes through. Someone else can make a tag labeling the kind of human I am.