Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jefferson Valley

I keep playing with this picture.  It began its life as an experiment in texture - a layer of black gesso on illustration board, followed by a layer of white gesso, textured with plastic wrap.  The results suggested trees to me, but it took months before I got to trying to tease birch trees out of the shadows.  The image here is better than the original because I cropped it and deepened the hues, something I'm having difficulty doing on the actual painting.  Perhaps it's time to dip into the acrylics, or maybe just try again, bigger the next time.  None of my paintings caught the wonder of the real trees, which appear ready to burst into flame on the streets around my house.

I finally finished my book of American sonnets, and am ready to walk it back to the library. Here's a final sample, one that speaks at least somewhat to the problem of really seeing darks and greens in nature.  Here is a writer who really sees.   It's Jefferson Valley, by John Hollander (b. 1929).

The tops of the spruces here have always done
Ragged things to the skies arranged behind them
Like slates at twilight; and the morning sun
Has marked out trees and hedgerows, and defined them
In various greens, until, toward night, they blur
Back into one rough palisade again,
Furred thick with dusk. No wind we know can stir
This olive blackness that surrounds us when
It becomes the boundary of what we know
By limiting the edge of what we see.
When sunlight shows several spruces in a row,
To know the green of a particular tree
Means disbelief in darkness; and the lack
Of singular green is what we mean by black.

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