Over Christmas break, my son and I were walking through the woods, collecting hemlock branches that had fallen so I could embed the needles in handmade paper. (Yes, it would have been easier to take the needles straight from the tree, and yes, I know that the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is killing the tree, despite anything we may do, but I won’t harm a tree, particularly one so imperiled.) I asked him if he had ever seen a healthy hemlock, because I wasn’t sure if he really understood the difference between the hemlocks of my childhood and the hemlocks he knows. He thought about it and pointed to one that did have more needles than most, and asked, ‘is this a healthy hemlock?’ ‘No, sorry dear. If you can see through a hemlock, it is not a healthy hemlock.’ A few minutes later, I hear, solemnly, ‘that really is depressing.’
So, here is an image of hope for you, dear child. That even though your childhood has been colored by the loss of these sleepy summer storybook trees, maybe, just maybe, your children or grandchildren will know their mysterious, peaceful shade.
Last January, we decided to make individual reading goals and keep a list of what we’ve read. We’ve never made New Year’s resolutions before, but since we were all interested in pushing ourselves to read more it worked. I used one of my ring bound journals, added larger pieces of paper to divide it into four sections and stamped the top corner of each page with the person’s first initial. Keeping the book journal on the living room table made it easy to remember to write down everyone’s books. Until September. When we cleaned off the table. That said, everyone met their reading goal. I read over 110 books. My goal this year is actually to read less and do more art. Do you make New Year’s resolutions? What are they?
I thought the sparrow’s note from heaven,
Singing at dawn on the alder bough;
I brought him home, in his nest, at even;
He sings the song, but it cheers not now,
For I did not bring home the river and sky;–
He sang to my ear, — they sang to my eye.
The delicate shells lay on the shore;
The bubbles of the latest wave
Fresh pearls to their enamel gave,
And the bellowing of the savage sea
Greeted their safe escape to me.
I wiped away the weeds and foam,
I fetched my sea-born treasures home;
But the poor, unsightly, noisome things
Had left their beauty on the shore
With the sun and the sand and the wild uproar.
From “Each and All”
As you can see in the photo above of my drawing table, I (and all the kids I walk in the woods with) collect things to study and draw later. Yes, it gives me more time, access to field guides, etc, but the spark of amazement seems to die a slow death the longer I am away from the woods. I have to be in their environment, with them. Three more weeks until I can get back to my woods. Then trilliums, orchids, hepatica and bloodroot will all be up. I will go to the woods, so that I may live.