Seeing the Forest in the Trees


Trees.  I like trees.  Well, except when I’m mowing the lawn and I have to go over the roots.   And sometimes when I’m raking the leaves and the trees seem to have an inexhaustible supply that just keep coming.  But on the whole, I like trees.

Now, if you’ve known any art therapists, you might know that in art therapy one of the first things the art therapists have people draw is a tree.  The tree is a representation of ourselves.  So what do trees say about you?

I actually did draw a tree once that was absolutely a self-portrait.  My middle name is Eve – Chava in Hebrew. A good translation is “mother of all living.”  I love that, because I’ve always been maternal.  Last spring I was in a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” – and since we had many more women and girls than men and boys, Joseph and almost all the brothers were played by women and girls.  Including me.  The cast gave me a paper plate award “most maternal brother.”  I love that!  So Chava, then.  And my first name means “tower of strength,” so I’m a strong mother, too.  Well, cool.  With all that’s gone on in my life, I need that strength.

Anyway, several years ago, I drew a self portrait in the form of a tree.  It remains one of my favorite drawings, and one day, if I have enough patience, I might commit it to stained glass.  A lot of patience.  It’s full of leaves.  It has hearty, somewhat gnarly roots.  It stands by water. A bit like the tree that I imagine in Psalm:1.  Connected to the earth.  Spreading out to the heavens.

I only started learning stained glass in January.  I took a stained glass studio art class at my seminary in the spring.  I fell in love with it immediately.  I kept working in it.  I did projects over the summer.  I have projects going now.

While I was working in the studio in my new-found love, I was watching my friend, Amy Gray, work on a project of her own.  Amy is an artist who works at my seminary. She had a gallery show coming up (my seminary – Wesley Theological Seminary – has an art gallery – how cool is that?) in October, and she was preparing for it.  She was creating….trees.

So every day that I walked into the art studio, I got to see what Amy had done on her trees.  There are three large silverpoint drawings.  Silverpoint is drawing or writing with a fine silver pencil – like what happens if you run your silver ring against the wall and leave a mark – only intentional, and with a finer point.  Three large silverpoint drawings and four paper lace trees from the floor to the ceiling.

Now, these pieces, they were beautiful individually in the studio.  I loved watching them come together.  I loved seeing how they changed.  I loved watching how the silver tarnished as it was exposed to air, and how that changed the drawings.  They’re beautiful pieces.

Today, however, I got to see the installation in the art gallery.  Seven trees.  Oh my.  Seven trees that I could walk among.  So beautiful.  Each tells a story.  Strong, barren trees.  Graceful trees.  But all together, one beautiful forest.  A peaceful place to rest.  To contemplate.

Of course, trees don’t have to be in forests.  There are trees that stand alone.  Trees in gardens.  Small arbors.  But there’s more shade, more fruit, more cross-pollination in a forest.  Kind of like us, I guess.  I mean, we can survive individually, but we do better in community.

LIke the trees, we are beautiful individually.  In community, we have the capacity to be magnificent.

Read more about Amy’s exhibit, The Extravagant Gift, here:



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