Monday, March 1, 2010

American Holly (Ilex americana)

Yesterday, a sunny and cool Sunday afternoon, I wandered down to the woods near Lawson's Fork where it runs under the old iron bridge on what used to be Old Thompson Road. No longer a road, it alternates between a red clay gully, a flat walkable path, and a barely discernible rut through young trees. Goldfinch, Chickadees and Titmice sang in the trees nearby, and crows called to each other in the distance beyond the river. Radu had disappeared on his usual adventure. Daisy was beside me, as well as Cookie, our skinny little calico cat who, at 12 years old, still enjoys hiking with us.

I had only two hours to draw because we were going to see the matinee showing of Avatar, so my goal was to find something simple to draw. Naturally, it wasn't long before my eye fell on a beautiful, old American Holly tree whose thick, gray trunk was knobbed, wrinkled, and rich with mosses and lichen. This is not simple, I thought. I inspected it closely. Not simple. Oh well, what could I do? I wanted to draw that tree.

I settled in the leaves at a distance so I could see the leaf canopy, but then realized the beauty of the trunk was lost at a distance. When I moved closer I realized that I would not be able to include both the trunk details and the canopy. A choice had to be made. Well, not really. It was the trunk that first attracted me anyway. Once I sat, the canopy was so far above my head I had to lean back to see it. Settling was complicated by Daisy, who drooled on my knee as she sat in front of me, hoping for a treat, as well as by Cookie, who made it clear she would like the drawing part better if I'd let her sit in my lap, on top of the journal. This is the usual pattern of things, so I dealt with my pets (got them interested in things other than me) and then went to work sketching the trunk.

Getting to this point had taken thirty minutes or more, but I finally relaxed and did my best to get lost in the tree for the time I had left. Birds continued to sing nearby. Various woodpeckers chirred and pecked in some of the old dead pines that had been killed by the pine beetle yet are still standing. The crow calls had become lazy - or at least not as insistent as they'd been earlier. Breezes stirred the tree tops and squirrels rattled the leaf litter in the distance - but no human-made sounds were heard while I was drawing.

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