I have a very good friend in Seattle whose life was forever changed by a tree. He and his sons were walking home on a tree-lined path on a windy day when an ominous crack sent a giant tree crashing down on them. Fortunately, they all survived, but one child was severely injured and they all were traumatized.
Now, every time the wind blows and the trees sway like music fans at a concert, I think of my friend. Not unreasonably so, as trees in our neighborhood have come down with regularity in windstorms. Afterwards, you have the challenge of what to do with the fallen soldier: limb, buck, split, chip, burn. It’s a big job, no matter how you cut it. The big stump and root ball oftentimes remain entrenched in mother earth due to the need for heavy equipment to yank them out.
On the other hand, our valley trees create the beauty and ambiance that we all love. Throughout the fall, cameras snap repeatedly, capturing the vibrant colors that emerge as the temperatures drop. Quaking aspen never fail to represent and the curious Western larch/tamarack, a deciduous conifer, lights up like a torch.
However, then the trees turn on us. A wind comes along and now the once copious, beautiful leaves and needles are all over the lawn, roof, and flowerbeds. You see neighbors’ houses that you didn’t know were there all summer. The bare naked trees forebode the lengthy winter that is on the horizon. In Mazama, it is a long time before those little spring green leaves start to dress the trees and the cycle begins again. At the same time the long-awaited little leaves appear, the pine trees start hurling pinecones like hand grenades.
No conversation about our trees would be complete without mentioning the historical trees that inhabit the Mazama corridor. Heading west on Highway 20 just past Woodstone Pizzeria, there is a gnarled apple tree in the field on the right that stood beside the long-since gone McKinley Schoolhouse.
Across the road, behind the historical red house featured in a recent column, is a giant willow tree that was started from a slip from the Frank and Roy Kumm place up what is now called Kumm Road. Not long ago, a giant limb snapped off that long-lived willow tree, leaving a sizeable mess to clean up.
During the month of October, trees captured the attention David Oliver, an artist and son of Mazama residents Doug Oliver and Isobel Kameros. David’s life journey has been unusual. At age 21, he joined a Hindu monastery in Seattle to lead an idealistic lifestyle. He lived and served there for over 16 years before unexpected events led to a life change last year; one where his artwork became a priority.
David was inspired by Utah illustrator Jake Parker to take his “Inktober” challenge. Jake coined Inktober in October 2009 with a personal challenge to make one ink drawing a day for a month to improve his skills and drawing habits. Thousands of artists like David now take the challenge every year.
David added a couple of twists to the challenge; he chose to color his ink drawings with watercolor and to maintain a tree theme. He has had an affinity for trees since early childhood where he grew up in a house on the edge of an alluring wooded ravine. Jake offers an optional prompt list of single words that David used to give direction to his drawing for each day.
David’s goal was to create a new tree drawing for each of the 31 days of October.
Each drawing is unique, creative, provocative and prompted by words such as “treasure,” “ancient,” “tread,” “misfit” and “legend.” With each new tree that he shared on social media, I was reminded of the power of a creative mind and a talented hand! You, too, can see the drawings on David’s Instagram feed @david.oliver.art or on facebook.
I have decided that trees, in the end, are friends to be respected for their own vulnerability.
Next up: Mazama has a string band?