There’s a really wonderful feeling you get on coming across someone else’s art, especially in a place where you never expected to see it.
I am deeply inspired by nature – by woods, prairie and the rapidly vanishing farmland around my home, by the deserts and rugged terrain I saw in the West, by the green mountains of my wife’s former home in the South. Since exercise is another great method of finding inspiration for me, I find that walking through a landscape does wonders for my mental health.
We spent part of Christmas Day walking though a local city park – Veteran’s Acres. I grew up across the street from this park and spent many days in the pine woods and prairies, fishing in the stocked pond or sledding down the hills. It’s full of nostalgia for me, and while it naturally seems smaller than it used to, it’s still capable of surprising me.
Back in the pine woods area of the park, we stumbled across this installation of fallen trees and branches. It’s difficult to put into words just how silent the pine forest is – how like a cathedral it seems, especially in winter, when few other visitors arrive and the birds are silenced or away to warmer climes.
Spotting this gave the forest a more primitive feel. Less of a cathedral now than some hidden, ruined temple; a place where someone found something meaningful and erected a memorial, knowing it would not last but putting forth the energy to create and build regardless. The sunlight washed out the
deciduous woods beyond, and the snow which lay on the ground was barely enough to cover the needles which had fallen, both verdant and maddish.
The pines are sickly – make no mistake. Half of them are dead, as you can see from the broken branches running up the trunks, and that added an even greater sense of solemnity to the joy you have to feel on coming across them. Is this the meaning of the installation – a gateway through which the spirits of departed trees must travel? You can’t say, and neither can I.
Even without ascribing any greater meaning to it, the installation spoke to me. The center pole’s height sets it apart, giving a human feeling to the entire piece. The angled piece running from the bottom right to upper left mirrors and contrasts the shadows on the ground, though that’s obviously dependent on the time at which I found it. The unnaturally straight rows in which the pines themselves have been planted created a canvas of empty space for this unknown artist to work with, and the placement of the center pole creates an even more striking feel to it.
The artist’s no Andy Goldsworthy, not unless things were much more ornate before I came across them. Seeing it in the middle of nowhere, though … a piece that isn’t trumpeted, isn’t signed, is located where only the lucky few might come across it?
To me, that’s inspirational.
Well, the holiday has passed us by and I think we did a pretty good job of it. I’ve updated the Flickr account with all the necessary photographic evidence, and probably some that was unnecessary.
There was a perfectly fried turkey, my first experience with that method of cooking; and vegetarian lasagne for that side of the troupe. Spiral cut ham and squash casserole, mashed potatoes and plenty of stuffing, beer and wine and Maker’s Mark for the after-dinner conversation. I saw almost the whole crew from Evolve and made some new friends, from Arlington Heights to Poland and a few steps in between.
As usual, most of the actual party conversation has fled with the coming of dawn; but I remember talking about prison and sickness, about health and hope. I remember discussing families and friends and all the wonderful ways those two can intersect one another. I remember talking about plans and dreams and regrets and challenges, about great moments in history and Guitar Hero strategies.
Mostly, though, I remember the fun that I had, the warmth of a friend’s hearth and home on a chilly night and a short ride back to my own comfortable bed. This is the way I’d like to see the holidays: close at hand and light of heart.