I began this cut paper collage piece a few springs ago, during a Tree PLAYshop held here at Kerry Farm. I finally returned to it this spring.
As I was cutting and gluing tiny willow leaves, I thought of all the different tree PLAYshops I have enjoyed through the years. Some have been wild and free (well, only one!) with the others being more contemplative. All have involved spending time in and amongst trees. Most have involved creating an art piece. Each has celebrated the unique bonds between humans and trees.
The first tree PLAYshop had a curious origin. I was deeply disturbed by the bulldozing of an aspen bluff I had come to know well. Well enough to search for the yellow lady slippers that appeared beneath the aspen each spring, well enough to remember the doe and fawn I surprised one morning, well enough to remember the suspended moments a red tailed hawk and I were held each other’s gaze. I was so upset I phoned the landowner. He was respectful for the most part. At the end of the call, though, he said, “I think it’s good you got this off your chest.” Little does he know, but it’s been on and in my chest/heart ever since.
The destruction of those trees was the reason for the first tree PLAYshop. I mourned those lost trees actively but wondered if I appreciated the live trees in my midst as much as I might. I set out to actively cultivate more intentional friendships with trees, to learn more about them. If I could entice others to join me, we could have a tree PLAYshop. This continued exploration of trees has enlivened my world, affected reading choices, made me the happy recipient of articles, art, and books about trees, and allowed me to continue to exercise my tree climbing muscles. It has inspired me to create art about my relationship with trees. “Willow Dreaming” is the fifth tree inspired piece, and I will share the previous four at the bottom of this post.
I am a willow dreamer from way back. We had a stately weeping willow in our backyard by the Rideau River. I climbed her often, loving the seeming curtains of leaves and branches. A hide away. Once at the top, you could see for a long ways. This willow was the site of the Foxy Five’s Tree House. The Foxy Five was a club we girls made up when we were nine or ten. We enjoyed many adventures in the willow and beyond.
When I moved to Kerry Farm, there was a large willow by the dugout. She was a popular hangout for our daughters. They would canoe across the dug out with a picnic. They built a fort, hung a tire from a branch, and had many adventures in this grand willow. I tried to stay clear as I recognized this tree as a “kid’s only” kind of place. Once the girls left home, however, I often visited the willow tree. Over the years and as I shared her with others, she became known as Grandmother Willow.
My children built a (very dangerous) perch on a branch hanging low over the water. During one tree PLAYshop, I watched a young girl nimbly climb to the end of the branch, and sit, precariously and happily, in this spot. My heart was in my throat the entire time, but I couldn’t resist spirit of the dare devil. Although the girl in my collage is quite safe in the tree, it was the dare devil girl who originally inspired this collage.
Lying comfortably on this willow, looking down at the water, completely at one with all of the elements, noticing the dance of ripples on the water, the movement of willow leaves all around, feeling absolutely safe and held is some of what I hoped to capture in this piece. I have a question: Does the willow dream of the girl? Or does the girl dream of the willow? Or, perhaps, both.