My life in trees

I feel like I may have already written this but I can’t find it so I’m going to assume I just pondered it… Trees are important. We carve names and lives into them. We shelter under them and clamber into them.

The first important tree in my life was the tree which introduced me to tree climbing. It was near our driveway and you could see the quiet lane from it. I had my spot and my younger sister had hers, slightly lower down. One day I was in the tree with an adventurous friend who went a bit higher than she should have and got stuck…  We were maybe 4 years old so the heady heights were thankfully fairly close to the ground.  Still friends with her when we were 18, we both remembered that tree.

Later on, I had a reading tree. You had to wrap your legs over a shoulder height branch and swing yourself into it, book and all. But once up, your back would lean against the Birch trunk and your legs would lay out ahead of you on the solid branches. You were slightly hidden in the leaves and so it doubled as a refuge. I never showed been my sister how to climb that tree.

The next important tree in my life was really more of a bench.  The trees sheltered the wooden seat round the corner from the university counselling service.  I would sit there, on a rarely used route, opposite a large metal Buddha in memory of someone or other.  I would sit in my just off the beaten path sanctuary and summon up the courage to enter the single story red brick building with the sign that seemed so huge to me that I couldn’t comprehend anyone not noticing I was going for counselling.  There was nothing else through that exposed door, there was no excuse if anyone saw me.  At that time I needed excuses.  I wasn’t ready to go public with my mental health.  I was barely ready to tell the counsellor.  Then, after, as I waited for my next lecture, I would return to my bench and my trees and the Buddha who was not mine and I would wait.

It was a while after that before I had another favourite tree.  And then it was more a place rather than the tree.  There were years when I didn’t look closely at trees, I just saw them as part of an environment.  I lived in one house for a few years then moved to the next street for a few more.  At the end of those roads, were some trees which dropped delicate pink blossom all over the pavement in the spring. In the summer, I would sit on the grass next to them and often, a small group of people would turn up and tie a tightrope between two of them.  They were fairly good at walking the line and I would steal glances at them through my sunglasses.  I didn’t know them but I felt a bond, we were sharing a space, we were sharing a summers day.

Diana Mini - York Walls

My current favourite tree is one I am documenting throughout the year.  It is a youngish red oak in my favourite park and it seems to be used as a meeting point for people.  The last time I saw it, mums in running clothes with pushchairs were stretching and greeting each other by it.  It is a tough tree.  It holds it’s leaves well past autumn.  It stands slightly alone, no tree within branch touching range.  But I like to think that the other trees are close enough to hear its whispers on the breeze.

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Oh, and I nearly forgot the tree from my primary school.  It was just out of sight from the teachers and dinner ladies.  I don’t remember how we got started but we were digging our way to my friend’s back garden.  It backed onto the school.  I’m not sure why we were trying to tunnel our way out of school.  Our school was a little bubble, a snowglobe of safe space.  But we spent lunch time after lunch time digging with our little twigs to get to the other side of the fence.  Looking back, I wonder why we didn’t chose a tree that was nearer her garden…

Do you have a favourite tree or trees which are important to you? Tell me about them!

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Winter solstice

In my post about my words for 2017, I mentioned that I wanted to tune in more with the seasons.  As part of that, I want to do a photography project where I take a photo of the same tree each point on the wheel of the year starting with Winter Solstice.

Well, today is Winter Solstice.  And it looked like I was going to be rained off.  I had already made peace with the fact that I probably won’t get all my photos taken on the actual day because of my health and not being able to go out on my own in the rain… (I can’t put my wheelchair waterproof on myself).  But then the clouds parted, a bit of blue shone through and I headed out for a brief trip to the park.

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In addition to photos, I sat and wrote for a (very short) while and I’m going to compile some of the words and pictures into a book I made as part of my 2016 tree project.

Trees: a year long project

So this year I have had a tree project running along in the background.  Dipping into it now and then, pondering it when I awake in the night, looking out for ideas in my day to day life.  I’ve really enjoyed it.  Having a longer term project on the go.  And I like the seasonality of it.

So far we’ve had:

Spring – a large canvas collage and mini tree book as well as research and idea storming

Summer – a deck of tree oracle cards made from photos, some taken this year, others taken previously

Autumn – this is stil in progress but the hope is it will turn into something along the lines of:

using leaves that I’ve preserved using glycerin

Winter – currently unclear but quite possibly involving sticks…

And next year I’m thinking butterflies, breaking it down into eggs, caterpillers, metamorphosis and butterflies.  Have you ever looked at butterfly eggs?  They’re suprisingly beautiful and intriguing.  I’m trying not to jump ahead and start now although I do have a pinterest board where I am collecting images.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the heady fun of new ideas and abandon existing projects…!

Tree oracle cards (again)

Apologies for any strange formatting issues. Each time I preview the formatting is different despite me making no changes…  I’ve messed around a lot and still can’t figure out what’s going on…

I’m still loving my tree oracle cards!  And despite them all having words on them I’ve found they’ve been revealing deeper meanings as I use them.  Some comes from the context of the picture and thinking about where I took it etc.  Some comes from how it interacts with other cards in the spread (particularly how it sits alongside tarot cards in my dual deck readings).

Anyway, I have started putting together a little guide and thought I’d share some of it here as well as ask for feedback and ideas for cards which are holding back on me.

A couple of the cards I’d like to hear feedback on in particular are:

a fork in the path
Which direction should you take? Does it matter? Both paths actually lead to the same place
dreams
Be careful not to squash dreams that aren’t fully formed, they are fragile, let them develop
perseverance
It takes time to achieve your goals, perseverance can help you to thrive against the odds
shadows
Things are often not black and white, explore the greyscale. Perspective and context are important to understanding confusing and unclear situations
the future
The future is delicate and there is not just one possible future.
the past
The past can imprison us as well as protect us

Projects for 2016

I like projects.  I like having a focus and working with limits such as theme or colour can be helpful at getting the creativity flowing.  I’ve got a few projects in mind for this year…

Trees: a year long study

This is essentially what it says.  I want to spend the year using art, photography and other mediums to explore the topic of trees.  A key reason for choosing trees is that they are common.  I can lean out my window and see one.  When I move, I am sure I will be able to see a tree.  When I’m out and about, I will see trees.  I don’t have to go out my way to get inspiration and to take photographs etc.  Given my physical limitations, this was really important.  If I went for something more specific such as… bridges… I’d not be able to do as much ‘in the field’ work.  Keep this in mind if you’re thinking of your own long term project – if it’s accessible, it’s harder to make excuses.  I knew I was going with trees from the start but other possibilities that I might pick up in the future include streetlamps, doors, windows, letter boxes…

At the moment, this project consists of a sketchbook which is being filled with pages, each focusing on different parts of the theme eg colour, texture, uses for trees, types of trees, the little bits of a tree which make up the whole.  Once a theme or an idea starts to form from that I will then work towards a piece of art/photography/other that captures that.  In an ideal world, I’d like to make one piece per season to reflect the changes throughout the year but at this stage I can’t say because I don’t know what my direction will be (although I am quite interested in the use of trees in language and mythology…).  And I love that the centre of the tree trunk is called heartwood.  Do you have any interesting tree facts?!

Blue

On a day without internet (eek), I passed the time by making a journal.  It has eight pages (at present, I may add more) and is made from cardboard from amazon packaging.  The theme of the journal will be blue.  I’ve wanted to do this for a while – complete a journal using one colour set.  So I’ve got my book, I’ve started collecting and keeping an eye out for blue things for the pages and when it feels like the right time, I’ll get it out start putting it together.  This is partly an exercise in restraint.  I feel like everything is so instant that you don’t get the satisfaction and excitement of waiting very much.  So I’m waiting.

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Nature

Probably as a result of being stuck in the house for a week, I have a longing to reconnect with nature.  And I was thinking that creating mandalas from natural material would be a deeper way to do this.  It would bring me more peace and focus and connection than just standing and admiring.  It would make me look at things differently, and that is what I love about creating; looking at things differently.

 

and I want to get back into writing… but this is on the back burner for now.  If/when I give up work, I may look for a writing class to replace that social interaction, routine and focus.

 

Do you have any projects for the year ahead?