There is beauty all around including in the details of the various plants in the under-story of the West Coast woods. For example, here is the shiny green of salal leaves and the brilliant red of the Oregon grape leaves at this time of year. I had fun painting this – such bold, natural complementary colours!
Tom’s wonderful poem puts this tiny detail into a much bigger context of space and time.
The tangled under-story dwells
above dark earth, the ground’s foundation:
listen to the tale it tells
while the wind’s damp susurration
passes by on raven’s wings.
All around us voices sing
of elder days, when on this ground
no human footprint could be found.
The under-story still remembers
life alone beneath the trees
where forest gods might bend their knees
and coax new shoots from winter’s embers.
Ready always with the flame
of spring they leap to life again.
It was a very fine West coast winter day – quite mild and with sunshine! Our walk took us through the woods and out the other side towards farmland and pasture. This view is looking back towards the path to the woods. I like the feeling of this painting. It captures the cool winter sun and the mystery of the path.
You are reading “If On a Winter’s Day a Traveller”,
perhaps online, or on your phone,
during your commute. The train, the bus,
the streetcar is quite crowded,
jostling and rattling around
as you get your head into the poem.
What lies ahead? The curve of road or track
leads on to darkness, mystery, confused
deep tunnels, full of dusty lights,
or intersections where the traffic snarls
into a knot. There’s no way out
but forward, so you go,
The screen is dark, you’ve been distracted,
and now the poem is done.
It doesn’t quite look that wintery here yet since there isn’t any snow on the ground. But I was in the mood to paint snow so I found a photo I took last year where the snow was bending the ferns along the path and a low winter sun shone through the trees.
Crooked branches, beams of light
scatter through the cold wet air
as fleeting day yields to the night:
sun slipping back to winter’s lair.
The slushy snow beneath my boots…
they mire in mud, they skid on roots,
as cold seeps in beneath my coat
while the daylight dims, a mote
of yellow, distant, glimmering light
is all that’s left of this short day
while long before me lies the way
with miles to go before the night
has gripped the forest, cold and deep,
so I walk on, and do not sleep.