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layer upon layer. [two artists tuesday]

peeled back from the tree trunk, the bark first reminded me of the colosseum in rome…that one tall section rising above the rest. it is also sadly reminiscent of one of the devastating iconic images of 9/11, a piece of building at ground zero, standing through absolute destruction.

at a different time, in different circumstances, in a small forest in northern illinois, this gorgeous bark in the woods has remained steadfastly in place for several weeks, holding on to the tree at its base and, yet, yielding to nature bending back, back.

i wondered about the peeling. if this is a sycamore tree, this exfoliating is natural, even a charming characteristic. if this is an oak, it can be a sign of an unhealthy tree, unless there is new bark underneath, waiting.

i don’t suppose that is much unlike all of us. peeling back the layers…as we lose each layer, we are vulnerable to the elements, unprepared peeling exposing us to harm. we can more easily share – layer by layer – if we know we are out of harm’s way to do so. we can more readily divulge – layer by layer – if we know that we will not be pummeled. we can more assertively process – layer by layer – if we know we are not at risk of stress, infection, infestation. we can, if we trust we are safe.

decades of life have a way of peeling the outer bark. time may soften the edges; time may bring cycles of raw learning…those moments we speak truth, we take chances, we jump…moments of transition.

the colosseum is over 1900 years old. sycamores live somewhere between 200 and 300 years. oak trees can live from 80 to 500 years, though there are varieties with a much longer life span.

we humans have less time on this good earth, less time to grow to maturity, less time for our structure to weather the storms, less time to lose our bark, less time to peel back to our essence. it would seem prudent to offer each other the room, the space, the shelter to exfoliate.

oak trees develop from the inside out, as do pine and maple. the older bark chips away on the outside making room for new bark. it take some trees till the time of their full maturity to exfoliate their outer skin.

obviously, trees are people too.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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a festival of branches. [k.s. friday]

long island’s ice storm of ’76 was a doozy. crunch was over, hanging out at our house when it started. though we encouraged him to stay, his big green four-wheel-drive truck made it to his home through what was heavy slush at the time. in the middle of a snowglobe world, magically coated in sparkle, he was back the next day and we wandered the neighborhood, taking photographs of everything encased in ice. it was stunning. the graceful mimosa tree, tall stately oaks, forsythia bushes, azalea, rhododendron, rose of sharon…all wrapped in crystal, the sun’s glare making sunglasses an absolute.

i can’t remember an ice storm like that here, at least not in the last three decades since i’ve lived here. wisconsin is more of a sub-zero-temps/snowfall state than an ice-storm state. but there was a pretty devastating winter storm in 2020 when everything along the lakefront was frozen, trees bending to the pressure of wind and water.

in predictions for this next week or so, accuweather uses terms like “limited outdoor activity recommended” and there is the emotionally wrought overuse of the word “bitterly” used next to the word “cold”. negative windchills are prevalent and even miracle mittens aren’t enough.

so when you look outside and see blue skies only interrupted by the artful limbs of trees, you are fooled. it may appear to be the perfect day for a walk, but warnings not to be outside – “hypothermia likely without protective clothing” – are pause for thought.

we haven’t walked on the lakefront path past the marina lately. when the water starts churning from north and northeast winds, the lake pounds the shore. ice forms along the coastline – sometimes in those circles called ice pans or ice discs – and the metal railings jutting out over the lake along the walk have collections of giant icicles. we’re not sure what’s there right now.

in this neighborhood of big old trees and above-ground power lines we hope ice storms continue to be a rarity. each time a huge beautiful limb is down or a tree succumbs i feel a sense of sadness. though i believe the soul of a tree is somehow left behind and surrounds us with the wisdom of the ages, i wonder how the squirrels will move about. for here, in our ‘hood, there is a festival of complex travel high above the ground, branching every direction. savvy squirrels scamper from tree to tree to high wires to tree – squirrel highways.

out the window next to me, even now, i catch the shadow of a squirrel running south down the line parallel to the driveway. it makes me smile every time.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY


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the glow. [d.r. thursday]

even on a foggy, overcast day, looking down from the ridge the glow was unmistakable. the everciduous beech trees stubbornly held their leaves, dying the brown woods a shade of cantaloupe or hard-to-identify pantone.

the forest floor below our feet was shuffling-full of leaves, oaks and maples and a variety of brown county timber. vines curled their way around trees in attempts to find the canopy. on this winter day, were it not for the marcescent beech, we could see further than any other season in the woods.

marcescence, i’ve learned – for this is not a word that sprang to the forefront of my mind – is the retention of leaves through winter. it isn’t until the leaves are completely brittle and wind takes them that they drop. and in the meanwhile, new growth – new leaf buds – have been protected and had access to nutrients and moisture, a sort of still-on-the-tree mulch.

it occurs to me that marcescence is like changing jobs. one generally holds onto a job until retaining the next, the security of employ feeding confidence and necessities while new awaits. it’s always a little disconcerting to leave before next is there, a leap of faith, sometimes, a premature leap, with regret.

yet sometimes, it is absolute. we drop our leaves. we stand naked in the forest, tall and exposed, willowy trees waiting for spring. sometimes we shed all that protects us and take risks and go fallow in liminal and shiver in cold winds. we gaze around and see everciduous folks nearby, confident, predictable, stalwart. we dig in, deep roots of belief in ourselves despite weather that tests us. we draw from the ground, are fed by what we know, what we have learned, what we have created. we hold onto tiny bits of light. we protect the glow. we push on.

and new buds show up. spring always follows winter.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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matte, glitter, shiny. [d.r. thursday]

we are a silver ball family. the tiny tree on our sunroom table flaunts silver balls. the branches we dragged out of the woods and spray painted white a couple years ago are adorned with silver balls. the straight tall tree trunk in the bedroom that is wrapped in lights also is dressed in silver balls. the restoration hardware tree on the dining room table has one silver ball and the one on the open shelving in the kitchen has many. all. year. round. i guess, when it comes down to it, we have a silver-ball-thing.

silver balls – when you purchase sets – usually come in three varieties. there are shiny silver balls, matte finish silver balls and glitter silver balls. my favorite are the shiny silver balls (in case you wanted to know this inane bit of information). matte is dully understated. glittery is very holiday. shiny happily catches the light of day and of candles nearby, but doesn’t seem overly invested in any other kind of screaming-ornament statement. a clear winner. but they all have their place.

in a holiday season that celebrates glitter and shine, this year i made sure not to buy glitter ribbon. though i love to wrap in brown paper and glittery ribbons, our children do not like glitter. they open presents and glitter gets everywhere – even on zoom you can see the annoyance caused by the glitterstorm. so, far be it from me to be annoying – we moms do the best we can – i bought ribbon sans glitter. admittedly, i did not have to clean up the entire dining room after wrapping, so this could be a new trend.

i am guessing that the young woman working at a shop i visited yesterday does not feel as my children feel. she had very long eyelashes – butterflyesque – and glitter deliberately placed all over her lovely face. she is clearly a glitter-person.

everyone has their thing.

ours is silver balls.

*****

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wishbones in the woods. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

we received a letter from the energy company that tree pruning may be required on our property. there is one tree that is closer to power lines than any others. this tree is out front and has been there the entire three decades plus that i have been here.

this old tree invited my children to climb it, was the source of limbs we used for christmas trees, shaded the front yard and gardens through the years. i watched this tree change through the seasons out the window as i rocked my children in the nursery; i’ve taken pictures of it with snow stacked up against its trunk. i’ve pondered what to do in the area around its roots, which rise above the surface of the ground; i’ve given up planting around it and allowed it to just co-exist with the dirt and scant grass. this tree has lost limbs in recent years and has some interior rotting causing some breakage to bear no leaves. but this is the source of long-time wisdom which has welcomed me home each time i’ve pulled into the driveway. each time i silently thank this tree and breathe a little bit easier to be at this place so familiar to me. i am wondering now if this is the tree. it pains me to think of this old tree pruned beyond recognition or, worse yet, taken down entirely. if indeed this is the case, i would hope to have pieces of this tree to save – slices as chargers for under dinner plates or even just simply a limb to wrap with happy lights and place in a spot of honor inside. yes. i am wondering if this is the tree.

the tree in the woods off the trail we follow was one that collected snow, its face to the wind. we hadn’t noticed it before; it blended into the rest of the woods and fallen trees. but, with snow on its bows it was clearly a wishbone, and, obviously, making a wish, i hiked into the underbrush to get a closer photo.

i wonder how often we pass by trees – and perhaps every living thing and perhaps people – without noticing them for what they are or who they are. how often do we turn a blind eye to that which is familiar or that which blends without any outstanding characteristic? it is possible that we participate in life more peripherally than we ought, more aloofly than the stuff of life deserves. the merit of each bow, each limb, each living thing, each person, is lost in our pursuit of next.

in the still threadiness of our hearts, perhaps slowing down and looking more closely might yield stronger connection to that which we understand, that which is familiar, that which we know well. more importantly, perhaps it might yield stronger connection to that which we don’t understand, that which is not familiar and that which we don’t know well. an opportunity to discard apathy and discuriousness and embrace old trees by the driveway and wishbones in the woods.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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whittled. [merely-a-thought monday]

“we all travel the milky way together, trees and men.” (john muir)

the pandemic rages on, wreaking destruction; after 800 years, jupiter and saturn line up in the sky. and i cannot wrap my head around the absolute-insignificant-significance of each of us. in this moment, on this piece of earth, under this sky, we whirl through space and time, reaching out to grasp onto bits of life – merely air – and make a dent in the atmosphere where we stand.

2020 has been a year of whittling. it has whittled away at our safety. it has whittled away at our health. it has whittled away the physical companionship of our loved ones. it has whittled away relationships, through political divide, social justice mores, the pursuit of personal freedoms over community. it has whittled away trust, heaving it to the side as we watch, astonished, as untruths, gaslighting, even propaganda surround us both under the cloak of country and up close and personal. it has whittled away the security of our finances, our work suspended. it has whittled away at our shock gauge; each time thinking there has been enough and being surprised by yet more, the baseline of dismay ever-changing. it has whittled away the convergence of reality and logic and it has left confusion in its place; it has paralyzed us and it has frightened us. it has whittled away what we understand.

and yet, the trees stand steadfast. they continue to reach for the sun, arms held out to the light. they neither seek to understand as they grow nor question the storms that have battered them. they just are. their place in the milky way dents the atmosphere a tiny bit, just as ours does. we travel, in various rotational directions, hundreds of thousands miles per hour along with the trees. all of us, together.

“you are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” (max ehrmann, “desiderata”)

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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a few warts. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

barnacle tree 1 copy

a burl on a tree is caused by the tree undergoing some form of stress.  indeed, if this were true for humans, we would be loaded with burls.  instead, our burls are inner-burls.  they don’t generally manifest as growths on the outside or present as small or large bark-covered lumpy warts.  instead, our worry makes us lose sleep, have intestinal issues and headaches.  it makes us eat too much, pour the glass of wine a bit too early, seek medicinal solutions or drugged numbing.  it makes us argue and lash out, insist on our own way, slam doors both figurative and literal.  it causes sickness, physical exhaustion, loss of relationship or work or time in our lives.  we become afraid to share our burls with the ‘outside’, scarcely making headway, fearful of the opinion of others, confused by the wart in our lives.

we should be like trees.  the burls cover with bark, insulating from the outside yet evident to the outside.  they grow in response to the stress of disease or injury or insects, but a tree may continue to live with these burls indefinitely.   actually removing the burl exposes the tree to infection. the burl wood is prized, with swirling grain patterns.  often, burls are harvested (both legally and illegally), with stunning furniture and wooden bowls the goal of burl-wood-turners.  these trees stand tall and mighty, growing from seedlings, co-existing with disease, injury, insects and, even, together with trees more beautiful sans burls. they wear their wrinkled protuberances with grace.  they don’t rid themselves of the evidence of life amid stressors, seeking botox to hide irregularities and minimize affirmation of living.  instead they continue on, growing and growing and growing – despite a few warts.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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peel back the layers. [two artists tuesday]

peel back the layers copy

“don’t judge a book by its cover,” my sweet momma used to say.  i’m missing her today as i write this post for tomorrow.  four years ago today she left this good earth and i could feel it tilt on its axis, trying vainly to readjust.  she was generous when it came to people.  she saw past what was on the outside; she sought to see what was inside.

the rough exterior we sometimes see on the outside of people is quite often a guise.  we all know someone we believed to be gruff, but turned out to be quite the mush, once you were able to peel back the protective layers.   we believe we know what someone else thinks or feels, but we are actually unable to physically pare back those visible and invisible outer layers, the extrinsic stuff, to get to the raw of their heart, to feel their actual worries or concerns or fears.

we each have our bark-masks, carefully designed for the venue or situation within which we find ourselves. we choose what to share with others, rarely brave enough to shed all that outer bark.  for there have been times when you have peeled back the layers, revealed truths in confidence, perhaps looking for wisdom or common ground, and have been torturously walloped with judgement or scorn.  it becomes much harder to allow the next shared peel.

it takes courage to BE who you really are with others.  it takes courage to meet on common ground.  we fear the gruff outermost skin, we are afraid of what we see and don’t understand.  we may not realize someone else feels that same fear.

but there are cracks in the bark; there are fissures in the icy exterior.  the tree may be shedding, the trunk expanding, growth waiting in the wings.  allowing for cracks, fissures, reaching toward and not away – those can be the gps to another’s heart.  it’s not always what it looks like.  growth is waiting.  because, you know, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY

momma, d & k website box copy

 

 

 

 

 

 


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trees and angels. [merely a thought monday]

merely words framed copy

“how was your week?” jonathan asked.  we rolled our eyes.  he was unpacking his bass while i uncovered the piano and d adjusted the mic stands.  he said, “tell me about it.  you guys always have great stories!”  eh.  great stories.  more like mini soap operas, you might think schadenfreude applies here (where he might derive some pleasure from our angst) but on the total other side of the spectrum, we have agreed that jonathan is an angel.  i wonder if, as he drives away in his subaru outback, he turns the corner and POOF! he disappears.

“it’s ok,” he says.  “trees must split their bark to grow.  there is pain.”

i can’t remember ever truly thinking about this.  but…i immediately pictured a beautiful sapling, our own “breck”.  a baby aspen we brought back from colorado, we have been nurturing it for over a year now, watching it carefully -and proudly, like parents- through the seasons.  the smooth bark on its adolescent trunk glows in the sunlight and we worry as we see this summer take its toll on the young tree’s leaves.  we notice little scions near its base, our aspen sending out roots to perpetuate itself.

i think of all the walks in the woods, the trails in the forest, the old trees in our yard and neighborhood and i can picture the rough bark, the puzzle pieces up and down the trunk of each tree.  somewhere along time, these trees, too, had smooth skins.  and then, in growing, the cambium layer’s cells, just under the bark, divided and grew, adding girth to the tree’s diameter in the process.  the outer bark continued to protect this inner layer of growth.  the job of that outer bark is forefront, keeping the inner tree healthy, as it experiences pain from the environment.  and the tree grows.

the bark.  the cambium.  the heart of growth.  and angels.

thank you for the perspective-arranging, jonathan.  again.

read DAVID’S thoughts on this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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o christmas tree, o christmas tree

three years ago the boy and his best friend and i went to the christmas tree farm. there was a lot of snow and we ran through it, dodging each other’s snowballs. plodding around, we found the ‘perfect’ tree and an extra little one to go upstairs as well. the boy and pierre sawed them down, we loaded the big tree on top of the car, drove home and had hot chocolate before digging out the tree stand from the basement. this ‘perfect’ tree held white lights proudly and felt like a celebration.

IMG_2828two years ago d.dot and i were standing with the boy in the snow out in the field and the boy said, with disdain, “not THAT one!” he was talking about a christmas tree we had moseyed over to, a christmas tree that was speaking to the ‘youtwoarenotnormal’ in us. the boy wanted a ‘normal’ tree – one that had a ‘normal’ shape – one that looked ‘normal’ – the kind of tree that everyone associates with all the hallmark movies and norman rockwell christmas plates. and so, since we had driven in his car and he vowed to make us walk home from the christmas tree farm in freezing temperatures, we obliged his wish for a ‘normal’ tree. and it was beautiful. it had ridiculously sharp needles (we later named it ‘satan’) but it held white christmas lights proudly and it felt like a celebration.

last year the boy wasn’t there when we went to the christmas tree farm. so that meant that two artists were let loose in the fields. dangerous. we stomped through the snow and mud, laughing and looking at every single tree there. it wasn’t all that cold out, and the light was streaming throIMG_3997ugh the fir branches. it was glorious. we found our tree in the back of the farm. we nicknamed it ‘christmas-tree-on-a-stick’. (if you ever go to the minnesota state fair, as the boy and the girl and i did a few years back, you will find literally everyyyything on a stick.) this tree had a long trunk with no branches – about 3-4 feet up- and then the tree part started. everyone who saw it, loved it. it was a ‘perfect’ tree…a ‘perfect’ tree on a stick and it held white christmas lights proudly and felt like a celebration.

this year we drove past the christmas tree farm to see if it was still there. the land is for sale – 34 acres of oasis in town – but it is still there for all who want to have an adventure and find their ‘perfect’ tree. we didn’t stop right then; we planned on coming back another time. we laughed, pondering what this year’s tree would look like. it was likely we would pick out something even more ummm….artsy….than last year. we knew the boy would be thrilled. ha.

one morning, a few days after that, we took a walk. as we approached our home there was a big branch in the street that had somehow been knocked off the big tree in our front yard, a tree that has been there forever. this tree has been in so many pictures through the years. it has towered over the girl and the boy as they grew. it has been the base of snow forts, the shade for the summer, the harbinger of budding spring coming, the last tree to lose leaves in the fall. when i rocked the girl and boy as babies in the nursery, it was this tree i could see out the window, this tree that i see in my mind’s eye, this tree marking the changing of the seasons, the growing of children, the movement of time. i looked over at the branch in the street and then ran to get it. looking at d.dot i said,”what about this? this could be the perfect christmas tree for us this year.” we laughed and brought it inside so that it could dry out a bit. a couple of days ago, we placed it in the christmas tree stand, wrapped burlap around the bottom, aphoto-3nd stood back to look.   this branch, this piece of history, this year’s christmas tree – is holding white christmas lights -and a little metal star- proudly and is a celebration.

sometimes it is the simplest things.

 

 

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