Tree-Watching: Think Like a Tree on Arbor Day

April 11, 2012

Today is Arbor Day in Washington State.  (National Arbor Day is April 27th this year.)  So this post is a celebration of tree-ish things.

Jogger dwarfed by big tree at Green Lake

One of Seattle’s public radio stations, KUOW, recently aired a special called “More Than a Tree,”  and it said over half of Washington state is covered in forests, which translates to over 2 billion trees, or over 250 per man, woman, and child who live here.  (You can read transcripts of the KUOW program or listen to podcasts here.)

Blossoming trees at Green Lake

As you know, this year I am trying to pay special attention to trees.  I find them a challenge to photograph and paint/draw because they are so big and often unwieldy, with branches shooting off and up.  There is so much there that it is hard to figure out what to include and exclude in a composition.

Therefore I found it fascinating to read Martin Gayford’s A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney.  Hockney’s art frequently features landscapes, and trees are a big part of his latest work.  Gayford says of Hockney’s trees: “Trees are presences in the landscape, but also catchers of space and light.  They stand up as markers, dividing up the surface of the land; but they also contain space within them, especially when their branches are bare . . . A bare tree helps you to sense space within the maze of its structure, in a complex way.  In leaf, on the other hand, a tree functions more as a container of light.”

Trees are catchers of space and light.

An exhibit of Hockney’s tree/landscape art has just ended at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, but you can still see some images of his work online at this link.

I am also inspired by photographer Mitch Epstein, who has been photographing trees in New York City.  You can read about him and the stories behind a couple of the trees he memorialized in his photos at this link.

Trees at Green Lake (with HDR-ish effect)

And in keeping with National Poetry month, I’ll end with two tree poems:

Think Like a Tree
by Karen I. Shragg

Soak up the sun
Affirm life’s magic
Be graceful in the wind
Stand tall after a storm
Feel refreshed after it rains
Grow strong without notice
Be prepared for each season
Provide shelter to strangers
Hang tough through a cold spell
Emerge renewed at the first signs of spring
Stay deeply rooted while reaching for the sky
Be still long enough to
hear your own leaves rustling.

Renewing each spring -- buds of big leaf maple

by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.


5 Responses to “Tree-Watching: Think Like a Tree on Arbor Day”

  1. Elephant's Eye Says:

    I don’t live in London so have no hope or chance of seeing the Hockney exhibition, but two of the artists I ‘follow’ blogged about it. Was interesting to see thru two different sets of eyes.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Thanks so much for the links. I, too, enjoyed reading about the exhibit through these bloggers’ eyes. I wonder if the exhibit will travel to the U.S. I hope so. Then I might have a chance to see it.

  2. Chris Says:

    The last poem, “Trees” is probably one of my favorite poems of all times! I love trees of all shapes and sizes but very big, old trees are so magnificent to me and I’m in such awe in their presence. There is something mystical and magical about them. I have The National Register of Big Trees and wish that I could visit them all but will have to do with just a few of them but it’s good to know there are so many! Think of the stories they could tell!!

  3. Renee Says:

    Loved the first poem and had the second poem in mind when reading this blog (wish they’d come up with a better term than blog) So glad to see it here. I believe it was the first poem I ever memorized.
    Thank you Rosemary for everything

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