Nuala’s Painting

In my essay, Angel Wing; An Illustrated Meditation on Nature Immersion, I mentioned Morris Mountain, with a picture of part of it.

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve heard of Nuala, the non-resident Balsamean. She has been learning watercolor painting. She liked Morris Mountain enough to invest in it. Below is the photo, and her painted rendition, which is framed under glass in my bathroom with two old favorite photos. Thanks again, Nuala.

I’m glad to have another original piece in this little house.  I have a massive collection of photos of art in all media throughout the ages on my computer, but very little original art in the house.  There are a few nice prints that my parents gave me ages ago.  There are some framed photos, all mine except one forest scene from a friend.

The dominant piece is a painting by another watercolor student, Vivian Smithwick, that she framed and gave me as a gift 43 years ago in Portsmouth, Virginia.  Still in the same frame.  I doubt she’s still painting.  If she is, she would have to be well over a hundred years old.  She left me better than she found me.

Untitled Watercolor by Vivian Smithwick, 1976

Now I have a second original painting, from the early works of the only person who can ever be a non-resident Balsamean.  If she made the picture with crayons and the skill of a three year old, I’d cherish it as much or more.  (No offense to three year olds.)

You may think a bathroom is an odd home for a cherished watercolor, but think more.  It hangs in the most conspicuous place of all the walls in the house.  It is above the primary bath towel bar, across from the toilet, beside the shower.  It gets a lot of viewer “hits.”  No, bathroom moisture won’t hurt it.  It’s sealed under glass.

I’ll insert the picture below as intensive practice for learning not to care what people think of me, for Nuala’s sake:

Nuala’s picture is the one on the left. I’m patting myself on the back for getting a shot in such a small room that includes everything I included in my description of the picture’s location.

I am not jaded by all the years of looking at these two other pictures, old photos.  They are more than pictures.  They are moments, situations, experiences, people.

The new painting is all of that plus relationships with nature and with a person, the longest sustained, continually positive and productive human relationship of any kind I’ve had in my adult life.

Australia Black Summer Untold? And Slicing Songs.

I promise that if you stay with this post to the end, you won’t be sorry.  If you start feeling sorry, feel free to just jump to the end!

I want to follow-up on my post of January 3, 2020, I Am Australian Today.  I’m concerned that it will be forgotten because the news media have moved on to the latest crises.  I’m not letting go of it.  I want to remember that we ARE STILL all burning together.  Watch what happens when Antarctica starts dropping whole worlds of ice into the ocean, which is coming soon to a planet near you.  Have you heard?  Greenland is pouring ice melt water into the ocean at a rate equivalent to the mass of 2,000 elephants per second!  No kidding.  I saw an ice expert who studies Greenland say it.

I owe it to myself to not let rapacious news feeds — including the best of them on public broadcast services — feed on my attention as though it were theirs to consume, not mine to apply.  And there is no more important news than the planet’s ability to sustain life (as we know it and depend on it).

I’m not certain that humanity really should continue to exist.  Maybe it’s time we went the way of the dinosaurs (although they did not kill their own world).  Fine.  But we don’t have the right to destroy the world for all the other species.

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I am Australian today

I thought of a hundred things to write here, and still have not come up with something to say that does not feel like feeble gibberish, but I’ll try to pass along some reflection and information.  My thoughts are almost soulless compared with the pulse-pounding call of Australian soul today.

Fire scene in Blue Mountains. Photo by Ben Pearse

Fire refugees on the beach at Batemans Bay NSW. Photo by Alastair Prior.

Gospers Mt Firefighter. Photo by Dan Himbrechts.

Just not cricket.

I’m just an American typical nobody, mostly ignorant of Australia like most of us.  It’s a horrid way to wake up to her, burning.

I live in the Adirondack Park of far northern New York, in a sort of box between Canada, Vermont/Lake Champlain and Lake Ontario.  This “park,” a combination of public and private land, they like to  call “six million acres of wilderness.”  Since retirement, my whole world is here.  I never go anywhere else these days.

Sharnie Moran & daughter. Photo by Dan Peled.

Kangaroo. Photo by James Ross.

Devastation on Great Alpine Road at Sarsfield.
Photo by Jason Edwards.

Photo by Mike Bowers.

As of this morning (Friday, January 3, 2020), far, far more than six million acres is gone, burned up in Australia’s fires.  In Australia, about 5,800,000 hectares (about 14,300,000 acres) have burned or are burning.  That’s much more than double my entire 6 million acre world.  Unfathomable to me, but my heart knows what my mind can’t grasp or say.

Kangaroo fleeing in North Black Range. Photo by Mike Bowers.

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Halloween Wind Storm

It scattered seventy trees across or into Balsamea’s 2.5 miles of trails.   It’s seventy-give-or-take; I lost count a couple of times while stopping to think about how to deal with some of the fallen trees.  Thinking never has been a reliably good idea.  It often interferes with nobler processes, even vital ones.

The big winds came on Thursday and Friday, October 31 & November 1, 2019.  It is the biggest such storm tree impact in Balsamea’s 14.5-year history.  Before now, the biggest one was the “717 Storm” of July 17, 2012.

I’ll never forget the way my heart sank into my stomach when I found 33 trees on the trails on July 18, 2012.  Working on clearing them and rerouting paths around some of them — never with a chainsaw, which violates Balsamea law — I learned that it was good for me and good for the trails.  Often when I addressed a change that Nature threw onto a trail, the result was a better trail or connection to another trail.  I’m sure I don’t have to explain why it’s good for me to go work in the woods, for mind and body and whatever else I may be.

My little Cadivus story of September 7, 2018 explains the immersive experience of co-creating trails with Nature.  Handy excerpts if you don’t want to read the Cadivus post (I don’t blame you):

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Concordia’s Arbor Lane

Arbor Lane is the west boundary of Concordia.  This is the approach to the Y, where Balsamea Way goes right and Arbor Lane goes left:

June 10, 2009. Meet Foley, young beech in center.

Notice the little beech tree near bottom right center.  In June 2009 the trunk was about the size of a broom handle.  It is at the south entrance to Arbor Lane.  For easy reference, I’ve just now (really, right now!) named this tree Foley (from Fagus grandifolia, American beech).

June 10, 2009. Foley with Grandmother Pometa standing over Arbor Lane.

Another view, looking north into Arbor Lane.  The big beech at center is hereby now named Pometa, the Slovenian word for sweep or sweeping (tapping a bit of my maternal heritage).

I’ve never been big on naming individual trees because there are so many I’d like to name.  So I generalize.  I look up at any spruce and say, “Hey there, Cousin Sprucie.  How are ya?”  Playing on Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow.  He’s done lots of things, but I remember him as the legendary radio disk jockey on WABC (AM 770) competing with “Murray the K” on WINS (AM 1010) in NY City during one of my former lifetimes.

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Starring Nuala’s Maple Tree

(continued from Nuala’s Tree and Concordia post)

Nuala’s Tree is a red maple (Acer rubrum) with four partly intertwining trunks rooted at the edge of a big old pine stump.  I dedicated the tree to Nuala in 2009 or earlier.  The oldest picture I have is from 2009, below.

June 6, 2009. Viewed from south.

September 13, 2019

The brighter background is because of the logging next door. It changes the habitat of Balsamea forever in several ways.  I try not to think about it anymore.

Concordia is a park-like area of about 0.3 acre surrounding Nuala’s Tree.  Almost all of the development of Concordia occurred in August-September 2019.  Before that, there was just some minor maintenance to keep the tree from being overgrown by pines and balsam firs.

I don’t need to give special attention to a tree for it to have personal meaning, nor need I seek personal meaning in a tree.  However, sometimes a tree seeks it in me, like a contemplative interaction probing the soul.  That’s Nuala’s Tree.
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Nuala’s Tree and Concordia

There are about 45 pictures on this page, including a few maps.  It may load slowly.  You can optionally open/download a PDF copy (6.24Mb) to read offline.

This is the only long post in this series on Concordia.  The rest have narrower topics and are mostly pictures and links.

Dear Nuala (NOO-lah),

I have less than two weeks before your visit, and too many other things to do, including figuring out how to fix the refrigerator that turned itself into a freezer today (M-m-m, frozen pickles), but I want to document something going on in the Balsamea woods that is about you, or because of you.  I want it to be on record, forever.  I also want to make sure you know about it, just in case your tour here doesn’t do this topic justice.

I’ve given you the pseudonym Nuala to protect you from the stigma of  associating with me, and to protect your privacy.  Even though only three or four other people will read this, if anybody, everybody on the Internet is a close neighbor with a fence to gossip over.

It’s a nice Irish name.  It came from Fionnuala (or Finnguala), notable in the popular Irish myth, The Children of Lir (PDF).  This presentation of the myth, with the art I added to it, a Thomas Moore poem, and extensive end-notes, may be the best treatment of the topic you’ll find.  Especially since you’re probably not looking anyway.  But seriously, it was a pile of work putting it together, and worth it.  It’s probably the best part of this post.  (It even has a naked picture of Nuala.)


Nuala (/ˈnuːlə/; Irish: [ˈn̪ˠuəl̪ˠə]) is an Irish female given name, derived from Irish mythology – being either a diminutive form of Fionnuala [or Fionnghuala] (“fair shoulder”), the daughter of Lir, or an alternate name for Úna (perhaps meaning “lamb”), wife of Finvarra, king of the fairies.  — from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuala


Fionnuala – In Irish mythology, Finnguala (modern spellings: Fionnghuala or Fionnuala; literally fionn-ghuala meaning “fair shoulder”) was the daughter of Lir of the Tuatha Dé Danann. In the legend of the Children of Lir, she was changed into a swan and cursed by her stepmother, Aoife, to wander the lakes and rivers of Ireland, with her brothers Fiachra, Conn and Aodh, for 900 years until saved by the marriage of Lairgren, son of Colman, son of Cobthach, and Deoch, daughter of Finghin, whose union broke the curse.[1] ‘The Song of Albion’, with lyrics by Thomas Moore[2] speaks of her wanderings.

The name is anglicized as Fenella. The shortened version Nuala is commonly used as a first name in contemporary Ireland.  — from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fionnuala


 

As you know, about ten years ago (maybe more, I’m not sure … the earliest photo I have is 2009), I dedicated a special maple tree to you, with your name.  Nuala’s tree (or just “Nuala Tree”) is now the centerpiece of a forest retreat with unique natural features and special relationships with many components of Balsamea’s trail network.

The place is called Concordia Park, or, as I’ll normally put it, just Concordia.

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You get 61 trees for life

 

Nalini M. Nadkarni (photo source Univ. of Washington article)


In her 2008 book, Between Earth and Sky; Our Intimate Connections to Trees, Nalini M. Nadkarni wrote on page 43,
 
I calculated that the world supports sixty-one trees for each person on Earth [in 2005]. … When I told my husband […] he reflected for a moment and then voiced wonder that the ratio was so small.  “Each person gets sixty-one trees in a lifetime?  That seems hardly enough to supply just the firewood we’ll use in our woodstove for the next few winter seasons, let alone the lumber that’s in our house and the paper I put through my printer.”  His reflections […] reinforced the sense that I need to think about ways to look after my sixty-one trees, wherever they might be growing in the world.
 
To see how she arrived at 61 trees for each of us, see the two scanned images of her text below.

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Aranyaka – Part 4 (The End)

Continued from Aranyaka Part 3

Aranyani is a member of a family of forest goddesses and legends around the world.  Among many ways that Aranyani-like attributes appear, there is the goddess Abnoba, worshiped in and around the Black Forest

Abnoba by Günter Pollhammer -2016

I respect the way that Pollhammer depicts the goddess as she is in nature, herself, not just personified as a gorgeous naked woman as so many goddesses are.  Most modern artists miss her essence just to make a pretty picture.  Remember though, from the Vedic hymn, that she is elusive.  She doesn’t pose for pictures.

There are not many contemporary forest goddess paintings or digital creations that are more than whimsy.  The ones true to the ancient myths are rare, and it has been that way throughout the ages.  She is not one to be captured in pictures, neither in the Black Forest nor India.

It seems Pollhammer knew this.  How did he approach this elusive subject?

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Thoreau’s Love for the Living Spirit of the Pine Tree 

I will return to this topic with photos when they get done harvesting all the straightest and tallest white pines from the predominantly pine forest on the 50 acre lot adjacent to Balsamea.  Harvesting is one thing.  It’s another thing to kill thousands — maybe millions — of other trees and myriad other things living above and below ground to get that harvest, and leave the forest ugly, sick, and disgraced.  When it’s a forest you knew well, which truly is now no more, an alien thing left in its place, it’s the kind of thing that can almost make you wish your eyesight was now no more, too.

Forest immersion can do that to you, as it must have done to Thoreau:

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