Abstract Landscape Painter. Rural Dweller. Lover of Modernist Art and Design.
The Turning Of The Trees
There is a vicious wind blowing from the north today. It is bitingly cold outside and the remaining leaves are being torn from the trees. In the garden, the small birds are eating and moving as fast as they can. I am doubly pleased with my homemade log store, as it is also providing shelter and food for them. The blue tits and the robin keep appearing and disappearing as they hop in and out of it via the air slots. The sparrows are busy foraging for food amongst the plant debris on the oak floorboard roof.
We had the tops of the trees trimmed last week, but I wanted to l leave enough cover for the birds, especially since two more trees have been cut down in the neighbouring garden and because the kestrel has taken to swooping down into the front garden now and then. I have no objection to him / her hunting over the meadow, but I’m not so happy about the garden birds being attacked at the feeders. Again, the log store is providing shelter.
I like the winter, but that’s easy for me to say from the comfort of my fireside. I don’t have to eek out a living out in the elements as the creatures do. I provide for them as best I can - feeders, trees and bushes, fallen apples, piles of logs, half of the meadow left uncut, a stone water trough, holly and ivy. I put high energy food out when the temperatures are at their lowest. Tonight it is supposed to drop to -4°C. They do so well just to survive.
I have brought my paints in from the studio, in order to prevent any crystallisation in the low temperatures, and it won’t be long before I break out the thermal underwear!
I have been working on a series of tree paintings. I’ve grown much more interested since doing the residency at Great Saling. I have been struck by the atmosphere of the woods. During my twice-daily dog walks, I always pass through or beside one. When there is no air movement, the stillness within is one of the most peaceful experiences that I have known. Even without human company, I never feel alone whilst walking through trees. I am always aware of the abundance of life thereabouts. It isn’t just the birds, or the occasional fox or deer, but the trees themselves. The sense of life force that they give off is enormous. I can see why writers, such as C.S. Lewis, could create stories in which trees moved and spoke. They often seem to be on the verge of it. The space amidst them is a magical space in which anything might happen. And when the wind blows.......then is power truly unleashed!
Philip Larkin, describing trees in full leaf, moving in the wind, wrote, “unresting castles thresh the air in full grown thickness every May”. He uses the word “thresh” and later, “afresh”, both of which are onomatopoeic. They evoke the sound of those leaves and branches hurled back and forth in the wind. The term also makes me think of the old method of beating corn with wooden flails and letting the chaff blow away whilst the grain remains within the “threshold”. The trees, he says, are threshing the air with their branches. Standing beneath vast trees and hearing the wind rush through their outstretched arms, is one of the greatest experiences of the power of nature. The roar is both deafening and exhilarating.
Like the trees going into Winter, my Mum is now shutting down from life. Their leaves change colour and fall. I know that before February, I will prune the apple trees because they will be dormant. She is becoming dormant. Her illness means that she is now almost always asleep. And like the chlorophyll dying and the leaves loosing their grip on the stems, her abilities and faculties gradually died and fell away. First she tripped and stumbled, then she was unable to get up, to remember, to walk, to speak, to feed herself and now to stay awake. The desire for nourishment, and the ability to consume it, is almost gone too. She can hardly swallow and she no longer opens her mouth for the small morsels of puréed food. Sometimes, she places her frail fingers between the spoon and her lips. She is tired. Life has run it’s course.
Larkin says that the trees die, but they will be reborn in the Spring. There will come a day when she will not awake again in this life, but I have high hopes for her rebirth in another. She will be alright. But the body that she is in now has outlived it’s usefulness. She must be transformed. Meanwhile, the trees that are now also losing weight and beginning to show their skeletal and beautiful forms, will awake to new growth in the Spring.
‘Die Welt wird alt und wird weider jung ‘
‘The World grows old and grows young again’
All text & images ©2017 Carol Saunderson