A Tree Grows in Grayslake

Bur Oak Silhouette (1)     Bur Oak Silhouette

 

There is something so deeply satisfying about a grand old open-growth bur oak tree, standing there against the horizon. I see this one nearly every day as I drive past it, and thank God and the forest preserve district that it didn’t fall victim to developers. I’ve wanted to paint it for some time, and probably will do another from a closer vantage point. But when I saw this sky, I though the two would work perfectly to convey the power and spaciousness of nature. Often my paintings take weeks to months to complete, but this one came together in just a few sessions over the course of a week.

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Belonging

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I just finished this painting this afternoon and am pretty excited about it. This is my very first memory. It took place shortly after my mom married my step-dad, and he took us out to the redwood forest that grew behind his little cottage. I will never forget how I felt, standing before that spongy, felty red log sprouting  ferns and moss. I felt a Presence there, enveloping me and claiming me. I was flooded with a sense of belonging. Even though that stand of redwoods has been clearcut, never to return, it lives on in my heart. The Presence I felt there has been my guiding light ever since.

Big Bluestem at Illinois Beach State Park

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I meant to be painting snow, but when I was glancing through some photos I took in the fall I was struck anew by the play of colors and texture along this stretch of trail. Late afternoon sunlight was slanting through, picking out the stems of this this fine tall grass.  Besides, we’ve hardly had any snow this year, and I don’t want to tempt fate!

Shimmering Sumac

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For several years the Lake County Forest Preserve District has been working to complete a green corridor that would run from Cook County to the south to the Wisconsin border to the north. This summer saw this project completed! An entire series of preserves has been linked together along the Des Plaines River, so that species aren’t trapped in isolated islands of habitat. A wonderful trail system reaches the entire length~some 30 miles, I believe. It was along this trail that I came across this patch of sumac last fall. I was enchanted by how they seemed to be tumbling down the hill like playful children, dressed warmly in their colorful fall sweaters.

Spangled Fritillary

Fritillary

Great spangled fritillaries are the cheetahs of the butterfly world~orange streaks of energy flashing past as you walk along. As you can see here, they do stop to fuel up at monarda blossoms, and that gave me my chance for a photograph.

Twenty years ago, if you drove for any distance in Illinois your radiator and windshield would be fairly covered with, I’m sorry to say, dead bugs. Today, you’ll have almost none. I’m seeing very few butterflies of any species when I go for walks now. They re still there, thankfully, just in reduced numbers. They could come back, if we have the will to change. What will we choose to do? Will we stand up to Monsanto in time? Do we need a new book, this time about Roundup and the chemical soup we create when we apply pesticides? Yes, it is farms. But it is municipal agencies doing mosquito abatement. It is homeowners, spraying for grubs and dandelions. You can’t see chemicals, so it is easy to forget they are there. But they, or their break-down residues, linger far longer than the companies want you to know.  And they combine with other chemicals to create ever more toxic brews in our soils and water. It would be one thing if it even worked but guess what-it doesn’t! We still have dandelions and mosquitoes. But we are losing so much else.

What do you choose?

Polka-Dot Meadow

Polka-dot Meadow

This is a work in progress, but I wanted to share it with you. I rather like the polka-dot flowers against the bands of color in the foreground but am not sure about the egrets. The one in the water I painted out, then sort of put back in. Anyhow, it is that sort of day.

Recently I saw a bumper-sticker that I liked. It read, “I would rather be here right now.” I love that, because it seems to me a lot of the problems in our world stem from people wishing they were somewhere else and so neglecting the place where they are. The ecosystem, the community. Of course as I type this, the wind outside is howling, it is bitterly cold, and there is a bunch of snow on top of ice and I dearly wish I lived somewhere else. Like I said, it is that kind of day. Anyhow, this is where I am right now so I’ll do my best to embrace it.