Thursday, August 13, 2009

When I stand by the windows in the back of my apartment, the view isn't much to look at.

I see the back of a building, a tall fence surrounding the outdoor eating area of a restaurant (the "garden" I think they call it, but it's really just an area between two apartment buildings), cement and more cement. If I twist my neck to the left and lean toward the window, I can see a bit of sky and even some sunlight if it's early afternoon.

It used to be that when I was in bed looking up through the window, I could see a tree of heaven. Those are the scrappy trees that thrive in urban areas, breaking their way through cracks in sidewalks. The view from bed was beautiful with the leaves against the wall of the building behind mine.

When my daughter was little, I pretended the tree talked to her. The tree had a low, slow way of speaking that calmed her at night and lulled her to sleep.

The tree of heaven told her that all the trees in the city communicated with each other, spreading news treetop to treetop with their rustling leaves in the wind. He told her he knew what she did all day because the other trees saw her and told him everything. She fell asleep to the tree of heaven narrating her day back to her.

A few years later, when she was old enough to know that the tree's voice was mine, we had to spend a particular day indoors. I don't remember why we had to stay home that day, but I remember the noise from outside. We heard a power saw and the sound of a tree being cut down and chopped up. I looked out the window and gasped. My daughter cried.

The business around the corner was expanding and needed more storage space, more office space, more space that was behind our building. They didn't need the tree.

My daughter had a new diary at the time, and on the first page she drew a picture of her tree of heaven and a picture of herself crying. The caption read, "Today is a sad day." There are no other entries in that diary, though she has filled plenty of books with her stories and pictures. She doesn't want that diary anymore with the sad story in it, but I keep it.

My drawing in this post is of seed pods from a tree of heaven. It might look like a dried-up twig, but to me the seed pods look like the possibility of green leaves against a cement wall and of a little girl falling asleep feeling cozy and looked after.

When I stand next to my back windows now, I see the roof of the storage space of the expanded business below me. And, I see a couple of trees of heaven breaking through the cracks in the cement.

A shadow study with two light sources. Colored pencil in Moleskine sketchbook.


  1. Resi, I just saw your comment on EDM and visited your blog for the first time. I've thoroughly enjoyed my visit! You have such a lovely touch- your artwork is delicate and beautiful. It's a joy to see!

  2. I love the seed pods, they are amazing little works of sculptures aren't they? When I was in France I told the other ladies I was not there to create art, I was there to capture the experience, the moment. Sometimes that is all we can do. Cherish the moments.

  3. Leslie and Deborah, thanks for stopping by. It's fun to know someone is looking.

  4. Wonderful story and lovely tree branch. I truthfully am so shadow-challenged that I can't tell that you had two light sources.

  5. You have a glorious sense of color! And a poet's soul as well, it seems. I'd like to encourage you to try writing a children's book about the Tree of Heaven and your daughter -- it's delightful, though sad.

  6. Another beautiful work of art, and I absolutely love the colors. These are very inspiring and made me want to venture a bit more into floral art too. I love doing faces of people, but these are just so marvelous ^^

  7. I whole heartedly second the suggestion of vicylw - your story would make an absolutely delightful children's story! I may be saying what you already know, but when writing for children (as opposed to "telling" the story) it is important to allow for discovery and "Ahah" moments. If you'd like to drop me an e-mail, I'd be pleased to answer questions or make some suggestions.
    Good luck! Bob

  8. Wow...this is just stunning. And a wonderful story. I'm glad you kept your daughter's diary.

  9. I agree with others, your story would make a great childrens book! Sorry that you have so much concrete for a view. I live out in the country and would really miss my trees, sunrises, sunsets, clouds, etc. On my drive to and from work, there was one lone tree on a hill that I passed each day. I had to have a little conversation with that tree. Once, when I was young, the tree had a friend, but lightning struck it and there was only a stump left. I did some paintings of that tree. Now, they have built some kind of truck yard, across the highway from it, which spoils the view.
    My family always pointed out "Grandpa's Tree", when they would travel north. It was a spot where my great-grandfather insisted on taking a rest spot. A couple of years ago, they widened the highway and all the trees are gone. So sad!
    Enjoyed your story and drawing. Brought back memories. And, I just cut off a seed pod from a flower, to plant!

  10. It's a lovely story and a lovely drawing. Very well done! nancy

  11. Shirley, I'm glad you said that. I thought I was the only one who can't see shadows! I have to shine a bright light and really concentrate. I hope it gets easier with some practice.

    Vickylw and Bob, thanks for the encouragement with the writing. I always appreciate feedback on my words (and drawings).

    Alex, flowers are usually, but not always, are cooperative subjects to draw. And you get to play with some crazy colors.

    Kate, one of the joys of adulthood is to see a child's interest develop.

    Cecelia, love your tree stories! I think many people have at least one favorite tree. I'll save my favorite tree story for another post. I often wonder about the stories the trees themselves could tell.

    Nanke's Stuff, Thank you!

    Thank you, all, for stopping by. Come again! (And I'll be visiting your blogs, too).

  12. What a beautiful story and so tender. I always find it very sad when trees are chopped down, only to make way for commercial space or more hideous and souless housing.

    The drawing is very beautiful - I love that you used 2 light sources on the drawing, and love the shadowing. I too could never get to grips with shadows but it does get much easier with study. I read that the Old Masters made their own shadows, and that it's a beginners mistake to copy all the shadow exactly as you see them as they can ruin an image. I have a long way to go then!

  13. Heather, Made their own shadows? Ack, my head is hurting just thinking about it. Someday we will be able to do that, right?!

  14. I hope so! They understood completely how shadows fell on their subjects, and largely drew from their mind. Sometimes if we (us beginners) copy say a face and there is shadow of the nose over the top of the lip, then it can look like the person has a moustache when drawn. So they created their own shadows and omitted others to stop it from ruining their drawings. Check out Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters. It's a great book!