BY ANNE BELOV
May 13, 2015
I’ve been thinking about trees recently. I moved into my house almost 15 years ago and—like many garden-obsessed Northwesterners—immediately started planting things, especially trees.
“I own the dirt! I can plant trees!” (…trees being a long-term investment, of course).
Since I didn’t have much money to invest in my trees, most of them were very small when I planted them. Some were hardly bigger around than a pencil. During a rather flush financial period, I bought some birches that were as big as I could (barely) wrestle into the ground.
Most of my trees, but not all, survived. Some were unidentified hand-me-downs from friends who had gotten them from other friends. One of those turned out to be a tree on my most-wanted list, a multicolored peeling bark Heritage River Birch, which—in the 14 years since I planted it—has gone from just about one foot tall to over 30 feet. I sure hope I put it in the right place, because if I didn’t, I’m in big trouble now.
One of the things that has led my thoughts into all things arboreal is that my Davidia Involucrata (known as a Dove Tree or Handkerchief Tree to those of you who don’t speak horticultural Latin) has bloomed for the first time, having been in the ground for 14 years.
Yep, planting trees is not for those seeking instant gratification. Kind of like choosing to be a painter, don’t cha know? (You knew I was going to work that in somehow, didn’t you?) But on a recent trip, I saw that I am a mere neophyte in the “planting for the future” arena.
One of the most wonderful things about visiting the English countryside is seeing trees that are hundreds of years old. We visited an old manor house and gardens once owned by someone who probably wouldn’t have let me through the front door. Now it’s a very upscale hotel and conference center with the grounds and gardens open to the public.
At the top border of a sunken garden—big enough to fit most of downtown Langley into it—was a row of Spanish Chestnuts that are more than 500 years old. (Even more impressive is that whoever planted them knew enough to space them so they would look majestic and not crowded 500 years later.) I can barely contemplate the idea that not only would I, as the person causing these trees to be planted, never see them reach maturity, but it would be many generations before someone—Ha! Me, a mere serf to the lord of the manor—would get to see how truly majestic these trees would become.
And this is what makes me think so much about the decision to make art, to make art-making the focal point for my life. I have spent more than half a century working on becoming the artist that I am now, and I’m quite sure that I am not done growing and developing as an artist. I don’t know that in 500 years (give or take a decade or a century) people will still be looking at my paintings, but I hope so.
Choosing to make art forces you to take the long view. Tastes of the art buying and book reading public will change like wind and tides but, as an artist, my vision and focus can’t blow around like a field of grass. And, if today, what I am painting and writing are not fashionable or desired, then I shall be unfashionable.
I choose to be a tree, planted for the future. It’s not a bad thing to take the long view.
Anne Belov blogs about visual art and how it influences her view of the world. She is also the mistress of all-things-panda satire via her blog, The Panda Chronicles. When not chained to her easel or drawing table, you can find her contemplating the mysteries of life in her garden or…um…watching panda videos. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. www.yourbrainonpandas.com.
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