When I lived in Gwang Ju, South Korea, Wednesday evenings were art evenings. Each lesson would take place in a tiny room. A single lantern gave the room a cinnamon glow. Books, paints, and inkpots covered every imaginable surface and, while I am sure there was one, there appeared to be no logical coherence to the way it was all set up. This disarray just made me love the place more.
My art teacher would carefully monitor my hand and arm movements. At times, he would (lightly) tap my arm reminding me to keep it level and controlled, once again, a marked contrast to my experience at the university where I was told to “let loose and let go”. We focused on a specific aspect of a tree, each class, the trunk, the leaf, and the branch. There was no moving forward until I had mastered each one.
One evening, I was feeling particularly vulnerable. I missed home and was not as attentive as usual. My art teacher must have sensed something was amiss because when a customer came in, he asked the customer to translate, something he rarely did. While I cannot remember verbatim, my teacher had wanted to express the importance of the stroke used to convey the branch. It needed to illustrate both the beauty and fragility of the branch as well as its flexibility and strength.
In the end, that is what I took away from that moment, feeling so alone and so far away from home. I suppose it is also what I hold on to at times like these and perhaps explains why trees for me, remain a constant inspiration. They are vulnerability and strength embodied. What do trees mean for you?
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