Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Friend Paints; and Watch Out for That Tree

Greetings, Dear Hearts and Gentle People ~
Above you see a painting of a scene down at Tramp Harbor here on Vashon Island. You can see the mainland and a few pale peaks of the Cascades in the distance, off to the east. What's extraordinary about this painting to me is that it was painted by Susan Bardwell, my writer friend down in Texas, who has never been to Vashon Island, as far as I know. A couple of weeks ago when my friend Sonya was here to take care of me (us) when I had surgery, we went down to Tramp Harbor one day to commune with the water and the shore, and Sonya said, "Take some pictures to send to Susan to paint." So I did. I didn't know she'd paint something right away, but she did, and sent me the digital file, which you see here.
I really like it. A lot. Susan has started painting in the last few months, kind of to her own surprise. To hear her tell it she woke up one morning and decided it was time to do something different that was for her and for fun, and painting was it. She's been sharing some of her efforts since then.
In the foreground, the bottom left corner as you look at the painting, you can see the gabion cages, which are hefty wire netting that hold large rocks together to protect the beach and the road from erosion. That's one of the details of this painting that blows my mind. And one of the things you might look at and say, "What IS that?"
It's exciting to me. I am not a visual artist, but I love visual arts. When I try to draw, I can do okay, sorta - my best subjects have been sleeping dogs and cats, and chickens - but I've never been able to bring color into the mix. It is foreign territory. I'm a pencil and ink sketcher, and only every third or fourth year or so.
So watching Susan learn to use space and color and perspective the way she does - Rick says, "I wish I could paint like her. She's fearless!" - is an honor and a great pleasure.
And I'm hoping if I praise this painting highly enough she might send it to me for Christmas.

Watch out for that tree: It's a windy afternoon here on the island. I went out into the yard to whack a few weeds, and then sat in one of the old plastic Adirondack chairs that ornament our yard, and watched the tall trees that surround our house tossing in the gusts as they came and went. I like to sit out in the yard; it's peaceful, and because we are surrounded by trees and there is a circle of sky overhead, I can lay my head back and look at the clouds whizzing by and think about not much of anything.
That's what I was doing until I heard a crack. It was the crack of something in a tree breaking, some part of a large limb or trunk. When a tree goes down, or a big part of a tree, it starts with such a crack and then proceeds to make a lot of cracks which gather and multiply and crescendo until it sounds, I am told, like a barrage of small arms fire, and the noise goes on until the piece that is struggling lets go and falls free, plowing through the undergrowth with a sigh and a whoosh, taking a lot of smaller trees and bushes down with it.
In that undergrowth is exactly where you don't want to be when a tree lets go. Now, I am as foolish as the next person. I sometimes plan what I would do if I heard a tree begin to fall in my vicinity. My plan is to get to my feet and head for the house as fast as possible, on the assumption, perhaps mistaken, that the house would shelter me from the force of the blow. Unfortunately I have lived long enough to know that what I'd probably do is sit there frozen and hope that tree didn't fall on me. A tree went down about twenty feet from our bedroom during a night storm some years ago, and as I heard it go I did not move, just froze there in bed and waited for it to be over. It fell the other way, into the ravine. Lucky.
That is why when I heard that crack I decided to come inside. So I did. And that brings us up to date.

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