By DANIELLE REYNOLDS
This post was written as an assignment for Professor Cindy Shearer’s CIA 7091: MFA Interdisciplinary Arts Workshop. As part of a community of artists working across art perspectives, students in this course get the chance to present their work and teach each other about their art form(s), practice, lineage and influences, and are challenged to inquire into the interdisciplinary arts as well as forms new to them.
There was always a branch hanging down over me, hovering almost. I felt cradled and protected.
In my backyard growing up there was this great pine tree where I would often go. It was perfectly positioned between a lilac bush and a mulberry bush. It stood like a temple between the two. Its lower branches hung down and nearly always played with my hair when I crawled underneath. It smelled of musty earth, of pine, and sweet sap. I would sit on a soft bed of needles and just breathe in the tree's smell for a good long while.
I snapped small twigs and dried up needles as I scanned the property. I went to this nest for peace above all, for a break from noise. From this spot I would listen to my neighbors greet each other from across the street. I watched the Combine methodically go through the cornfield in interesting patterns. I watched my neighbor’s dog frolic with joy along the fence line between our properties. It was my meditation.
Flat cornfields surrounded my house. I was able to see the horizon for miles. I watched countless bright orange, salmon, gold, purple, and blue sunsets from that cradle underneath the old Pine. In the springtime I breathed in the lilac's perfume that danced in the air and into that space. And I can still hear the ripened apricots hitting the ground declaring, "I'm ready!" I snacked on sweet berry treats in the summer. In the fall I watched leaves float silently, in a surrender to the earth. It always made me a little sad to watch them fall. It was a sign of winter's beginning—an entire season of mostly being indoors.
One time, my best friend and I tied this rope to the lower branches. There were two pieces tied together in the middle with a huge knot. We said it symbolized our friendship. It stayed up until high school when one Saturday morning my dad decided to trim all the lower branches off the tree.
That tree was a cradle where I received my first life lessons. I saw life's natural processes, I watched animals building nests and scavenging for food, hunting, and hiding, resting and waiting, loving and warming, giving and taking.
One day, while I was ritually climbing the tree after school I got about twelve feet up in the branches when my ascension came to a halt. There staring into my eyes, six inches from my nose, was a Screech owl. Its beautiful green eyes just returned my gaze. His feathers were brown, tan, and white with playful spots. I didn't want to touch it, but I wanted to keep looking at it. I didn't, though. I got scared and nearly fell out of the tree instead.
Nature is always speaking, teaching, directing, and guiding. Back then I knew the secret to tapping into this wisdom: I sat still more often. My mind wasn't locked into the past or anxious about the future. It was just there, moving within the moment with the rest of life.
Now, as I try to develop as an artist, I return to the image of the cradle underneath the tree that was my first teacher. It grounded and comforted me. It shaped and is still shaping the expression of my art.