Something always comes before… Before I picked up a pencil or a brush, before I began calling myself an artist, before I really knew what the world was like, I had my Woods. These trees were the green security blanket cast upon the landscape of my childhood. I grew up in “the country”. Woods were broken only by
driveways and roads, highways and farmland. Thousands of Oaks and Elms populated these Woods . As close to a forest I would walk in until I was in my early twenties. I first Learned about Creativity from The Quintessential Teacher… Nature.
The Woods started on the other side of our gravel driveway. A tractor path wound through the trees to 20 acres my dad farmed. He rented the land from Old Lady Dey. A barbed wire fence ran the length of the path. On either side were acres and acres of trees. A playground Extraordinaire. A living breathing always changing adventure land. This was the ultimate classroom. This 100 acre woods was my sanctuary and my greatest Mentor.
I was a tree climbing connoisseur. To the extent that my father’s nickname for me was; Tarzan. I was always climbing the trees in my woods or in our yard often to get away from haircuts or from going to church. Strangely and miraculously I never was hurt, not that I never fell, I always seemed to land well.
I knew where all the best and easiest trees to climb were located in my Woods. I spent a lot of time climbing, sitting, swinging and lounging in those trees. There were also the Impossibles; the unclimbable trees with branches high off the ground far out of reach.
I knew just the trees where you could climb high and lay on the branches and sway while soaking in the sunlight. I knew the trees to avoid, the ones with rough barks, spikes or raccoon poop. Some trees became pirate ships or space craft, others became exotic houses or castles, sometimes they were giants, yet mostly they were my Friends.
Those Tree Beings were my guides and rooted angels. They protected me from the onslaught of a home life that was fraught with neglect and alcoholism. Growing up with five people in a tiny house was nothing like the great expanse of my Woods. The house was tight and cold with layers of unexpressed anger ricocheting through the small doorless rooms. I slept on a couch until I was thirteen. At the age of ten I graduated to a pull out bed; basically a couch that turned into something that looked like a bed but was not really a bed. You can see why the Woods were my sanctuary.
When I was about ten the devastation began. My innocence was ripped from me as my Woods was destroyed. Bulldozers uprooted my trees. Then these majestic beings were pushed into heaps. Tangled masses of broken trunks, mangled branches, and eerily, limbs upon limbs with green leaves. Then, unceremoniously they were set on fire. Their corpses formed their own pyres.
I remember taking my mother, pregnant sister and her two year old son back into what had been my haven. The fires had been burning for about a week. The piles were smoldering. We stood and stared. We cried.
That was an accumulation of Death I never want to witness again. I have lived through both my parents, other family members, friends, my precious 19 year old cat dying. All of which are painful and heart wrenching. Yet, we are each realistically prepared for those deaths. I was not prepared for what I witnessed. I was not prepared to see thousands of trees uprooted and burned. I was not prepared for the immensity of that horrific shock.
I did not abandon their memories or the barren landscape that was once their thriving biosphere. I continued to visit the survivors and play and Learn in the groves that were left. There were trees on either side of the building site. A copse near our house and many more on the north side of what would become I680. The trees were “removed” to construct a auxiliary interstate. I never really cared for the adults rationales of “progress” and “necessity”; my trees were still dead.
The Greatest Teachings concerning Creativity that I have received in my Life reside within the Woodlands of my childhood. The gifts to my future artistic self were numinous. I learned how to be in my Body. A skill so important to artistic expression yet so neglected. All too often artists work solely from their heads, not including their bodies. I Learned how to Listen. No artist can progress if they are unable to truly hear what is being said to them. I Learned how to be in solitude. Each artist must attain relationship with themselves; undisturbed, or they are forever on the outside of authentic Creativity. And, I discovered my courage. I Learned to go into the“Unsafe” and trek, headlong, into the Realm of the Dangerous. An Artist and especially an Artist of Excellence must be willing to enter areas of thoughts, emotions, stories, and narratives that are potentially perilous. There are no rewards, personally or culturally that result from secure, cautious, or guarded art. The Artist of Excellence, without hesitation must embark on journeys deep into the Domains of Risk, Uncertainty, and Menace.
Something always comes before… Before I picked up a pencil or a brush, before I began calling myself an artist, before I really knew what the world was like, I had my Woods taken from me…
The Planetary Ambassador for Creativity