I’ve mentioned my grandmother before. She was an outdoorsy young person, even though she grew up poor on the Lower East Side. Dealing with life, I think she found her comfort in Nature. In the pictures I have of her as a young woman, she’s wearing a bathing suit with stockings, or hiking shorts and hat atop a mountain.
A story I consider central to my life is the one she often told of the friend who said to her dismissively, “You see one tree, you’ve seen them all.” And that, Gram would always finish, was the Saddest Thing she had ever heard anybody say. I have a passion the sight of trees, in all seasons. Because I’ve just never known otherwise; I’m fortunate in that way.
So this week I was listening to the On Being interview with artist Maira Kalman. She and host Krista Tippett had this exchange:
Ms. Tippett: Here’s another line of yours I love: “We see trees. What more do we need?”
Ms. Kalman: That’s really true….And so walking and looking at trees really is one of the glories of the world, and we say, “Rejoice,” when we see these things.
But a Buddhist teacher I once read explained that we don’t actually look at a tree. We look at ourselves looking at a tree. I bristled at that statement because, hell, I knew how to Look at Trees. But when I really got that he was right, experienced that as true, and my ego died one more death, I learned a lot.
I take many pictures of trees, even though they are surely still pictures of my own Looking: my sense of, and Need for, the world’s Creativity. That is OK. Trees are patient, and waiting, and I’m taking one human step at a time with the intention to see them.
My image is from Dec 24, 2018, on Boston Common.