Among the Trees

Her Place Among the Trees, ©Patricia Steele Raible 2020, 39.5″ x 29″, Mixed media on deep wood panel

“When I am among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.”

From Mary Oliver’s When I Am Among the Trees

Trees are not cute. We don’t post pictures of them on Facebook or Instagram like we do cats and dogs and rabbits. Probably in conservation networks they don’t elicit as much donations as lion cubs or even bees. Yet we fall in love with neighborhoods or parks or cities because of their large tree canopies. I wouldn’t think of buying a house without trees in the yard. Obviously, many of you are like me: you feel that trees have a special quality—that they are somehow connected to us. Why else when we walk into the woods would we feel such familiarity, such calm, such simple joy.

I was fascinated to learn recently (Doesn’t everyone read a headline and start googling.) that scientist believe trees “talk” to each other via their root network. Scientists reason that they may use “chemical conversation starters” that might allow them to maintain a type of social distance called crown shyness, helping them avoid spreading pests and disease. There was also the discovery by the National Geographic Society of a tree on an island on the southern tip of South America. They believe the tree may be important to explaining where we are in terms of climate change, acting as a sort of “living laboratory” as they track how it changes and adapts in the years to come.

Artist have always painted trees. Emily Carr, a Canadian artist and writer, involved in the St. Ives group, painted “Tree Trunk.” Van Gogh has many famous tree paintings including “Cypresses, or “Olive Trees with the Alpilles in the Background”or “Olive Trees With Yellow Sky.” Egon Schiele’s “Four Trees” were painted in autumn as well as Paul Gauguin’s “The Tree-Lined Road.” And the once again popular Bob Ross’ first episode was “Happy Little Trees.” Perhaps artists paint trees just because they are there, but I don’t believe that. Humans have always been intertwined with trees, whether for fuel, housing, food, shade, or comfort. I think artists just recognize their importance.

On the other hand, artists are probably more like the late poet Oliver. They may have always painted trees because “they give off such hints of gladness.” And on so many days, especially recently, they save me as well.

The Warmup

“Pre-game Warmup”, © Patricia Steele Raible, Mixed Media on Board, 36″ x 12″

Baseball is still on the brain as well as the color purple. You see we are moving. What’s the connection you may wonder. Well, renovation, and buying and selling houses has gotten to be too much. So, of course, I turn to art to soothe my mind and purple because it’s a diversion. And baseball comes in because  I am warming up for the big game—the move—and I want to be sure I’m ready.

Are We Ever Ready

Warming up is very important to both baseball and moving because you use muscles and joints in forward-backward movements. You may be jumping, twisting, or making forward lateral movements (hopefully), and according to the experts, it is important that your body be prepared.

Experts also advise arriving early, familiarizing yourself with the field and the equipment. Then they suggest stretching since your muscles will really get a workout. A few sprints (can I skip this one) they say will increase blood flow in the muscles. Okay, okay I’ll do a few.

It’s Always the Hip Flexors

Then there are the knee lifts which loosen the legs and hip flexors for better motion and movement. Squats (please no) they tell us will loosen up your ham strings, quads, and glutes. They even want you to add a few arm crosses. Finally, they suggest playing catch and fielding. Now they say you are ready for the game. I’m ready for a nap.

Soon But Not Yet

Luckily the move is not yet, but they keep telling me it’s just a few weeks away. I’ve had to pack up the brushes and paint (a bummer.) I am telling myself that collage in my journal will be perfect—just what I need, planning time.

“Pre-Game Warmup” is the last one on the easel for now, a companion to “Home Run.” When I first stood back and looked at it hard, I couldn’t tell if the game had started. Perhaps the bases were all loaded, and we desperately needed a hit. Or, did we need the third out?

Oh, well. You decide. You’re playing too aren’t you?

Creativity and Performance

Leap of Faith, 30″ x 30″

Creativity is what drives all of us—whether we are involved in art, science, or business.  This research is again affirming the connection between creativity and performance in the workplace. You might want to check it out.

Memory, Emotion, and Art

In my exploration on memory and its affects on self-identity, I have discovered that researchers believe that the most profound brain-altering communication is triggered by those mental and physical (and sometimes nonverbal) responses in relationships.

A Current In the Mind, 16″ x 16″ x 3″, Mixed media collage

 In The Developing Mind, Daniel Siegel uses the phrase “ the feeling of being felt.” The bottom line is that through our relationships, beginning with one primary person at birth, the mental circuits responsible for memory, emotion, and self-awareness are altered. They are triggered by deep emotions through facial expression, physical touch, posture, pace, tone of voice. So what begins at birth becomes a life-long pattern.