For a weekly challenge in the New Haven area, visit "Picture This" on Wednesdays in the New Haven Independent.
If you recognize the spot and visit the location I have inked or painted, snap a photo of it and send it to me. I will mail you a print, or hide it in the woods, with clues for you to find it!
GALLERY IN THE WOODS
(EAST ROCK, NEW HAVEN, CT)
I'm not sure what compels me to draw these particular trees - most of them in a state of decay and regrowth, and not necessarily pretty. It all started with "Swamp Thing" a tree that changed its mind so many times it is deformed to the point of madness. I could hardly contain my excitement the first time I saw it.
A friend came to visit and as we walked through East Rock Park together, I gave her the "Tree Tour,” pulling up my site on my phone and showing the drawings of each tree as we went along. From "Whale of the Woods," a decaying log sprouting a wild beard of roots from its rot, to "Enter Here," the beloved tree once a curved arch over the path (now chopped into pieces), we paused to compare the renderings to their current reality. We mused over the decayed stump barely hanging on in the background of one drawing, which has since tumbled over and is now lost in the flower patch. My friend got such a kick out of the tour, an idea struck me...why not tack up some prints? A dollar a copy seemed a reasonable investment. I printed up four or five and took them along with a box of thumb tacks on my next walk. For a hammer, I used a rock I found on the path.
As I tacked up my first print "View from the Covered Bridge" I worried I might be reprimanded by a ranger or even a passerby. I wasn't sure if my display would be appreciated or viewed as pollution. It took me about twenty minutes to build up the courage and to make certain the path was clear. I tacked the first one up quickly, and ran off like a naughty child.
On the first path to the right after the covered bridge comes "Surprise in the Woods" which is one of my favorite specimens. It is a large rotting tree collapsed on its side along the path, with a kind of surrealistic wing formation sprouting growth and three new branches struggling for continuation. I tacked a print there.
"DIGITAL VS. ON-A-LOG"
The next day, I found the print missing, and to my surprise a note was waiting for me in its place. I was touched that someone I will likely never meet took a moment to thank me for the print they'd taken. I left them a note in return, signing it with a "Z" along with another print. This particular tree has become the go-to "log of communication." A kind of slow-speed dialog has developed which contrasts with the instantaneous communication of social media. Notes and cards find me there regularly, which have far more significance than any instant, digital message. People share little snippets of their lives in some of these notes. One of my favorites was a "Cosmic Message" waiting for me at "Wispy Tree.” I adore these notes and always make the effort to leave one in return, often with another print.
It feels like I have been transported to a previous century, when communication was slow, not sure to find its intended recipient, but greatly rewarding when it was untampered with. I refer to it as "Digital vs. On-A-Log." It's become a playful, ongoing treasure hunt for me - and hopefully for the others who join in the exchange.
More recently, I have been presenting birds, frogs and other woodsy creatures along with an occasional environmental piece.
I haven't had any trouble or received any complaints so I probably don't need to be quite so stealthy - but then it wouldn't be half as fun.