A soft morning rain has left the island damp. The water is dark, murky green, its surface still and impenetrable – a mask reflecting the dull, grey sky. The mist, a shadow left by the rain, holds on wet and clinging. Thick clouds hang low, their imposing weight holds the air and lake in stillness, muffling and distorting sounds. The air carries the smell of damp pine needles and wet rock. The trees whisper a timeless tale carried from branch to branch, almost within reach. Understanding fettered by thought. My eye wanders from the green, feathery ferns to the dark, glistening tree bark. Rusty pine needles cover the forest floor and cushion each step – a carpet of moist smells meander a trail through the trees. Birch logs lie scattered and broken as if thrown and discarded by an angry child. I look at Mother Nature’s yard and want to pick up the rotting logs, to pile the dead wood neatly to one side. I wonder if this human desire for order might harm the forest by taking away its natural layer of waste. I don’t want to disturb the cycle of life. But how do I fit into it? I remember my aunt’s stone farmhouse. I first saw it about 30 years ago as a child, just before her husband passed away. I remember the huge maple trees that provided shade over the well-clipped lawn that surrounded most of the house. Overflowing flowerbeds were scattered around the edges. Behind the house stood the barn, rickety with a few boards missing here and there. Beyond it were cornfields as far as the eye could see. Over the years, as my aunt grew older and less active, nature claimed back her farm. The old barn boards disappeared into the weeds and vines that grew over them. The rubble foundations cracked and stones tumbled down year after year leaving a grassy mound where the old barn once stood. The clipped lawn grew into a field of wildflowers. The bushes and trees that once provided shade around the house went from lush to smothering. Long branches grew thick and heavy, reaching for any sliver of light available. The sun that once filtered through the tree leaves, splashing in puddles that moved across the living room floor, no longer came in the windows. Gradually the house grew dark, buried beneath a cave of vegetation. My aunt stopped using the large living room, confining herself to the back bedroom and kitchen where electric heat provided more warmth. Mice moved in, burrowing in the settee and moths made dust of the books that filled the shelves. Time began to erode the house from within. It was easy to feel the world living and breathing around you in that house, but it was also easy to feel conquered by Mother Nature. After my aunt passed away, the old house was levelled to make room for more cornfields. The beauty that was once there, the home that she and my uncle had shaped, existed only because they cared enough to create it, to build it with their own hands. The ease with which that beauty came undone gnaws at my mind. Can human endeavors have permanence? I know that straightening a crooked picture frame will last until the next time I walk past, that the flowers I planted this spring will be gone in the fall, but I can’t help doing it. Last month Barry Allen wrote about art, about turning possibilities into reality. When I breathe in the smell of damp earth, of sunlight on the warm dock, so many possibilities arise almost within reach, just an arm’s length away; possibilities that could slip away as easily as they appear. Simple forms, wood, grass, leaves I can shape. The flat smooth surface of stones become in my mind a stepping path to the new cottage. Bits of wood spin out a host of possibilities, it’s as if the very life that was once there inspires creativity. The smooth surface of driftwood calls to be polished, the rough bark on a broken tree branch demands peeling. Possibilities abound. But can I create or add beauty to the world that will last? Beauty that will outlive me? That’s the question of many artists. Perhaps after I’ve edited and perfected every article and advertisement in this issue of the paper, after I type and re-type the words on this page, after I finish straightening the picture frames. The afternoon sun has burned off the layer of mist that crept through the forest surrounding the cottage. Slowly the wind, free from its damp morning weight, rustles the leaves, shaking off the wetness. The sounds of summer fill the breeze. Boats in the distance, children laughing and splashing, waves lapping against the dock. So many possibilities sit within reach, ideas given by nature, full and waiting to be taken. But is there enough time? That’s the thing about Mother Nature; she sits patiently waiting, at times it seems like she’s mocking. Her winds blow against the pyramids, her weather crumbles Stonehenge. The trace of a human life disappears. She destroys without compassion, but still we live on. Surviving with the hope that somehow, if even for the moment, we can shape her bounty into forms that comfort us in this cold harsh world.


Write A Comment