Hiking in the beautiful rolling hills of Boulder’s has become a true love of mine. Like any passion or pastime, one develops favorite spots that draw you back again and again. It seems no matter how much something may seem familiar, and how many times you walk a path, there is always something you see that was previously unnoticed. Once while hiking a dead and burned tree caught my eye, I had seen it many times before without truly taking it in. But this time it not only caught my eye it caught me. There was something so majestic and commanding about the way it stood against the sky, its shadow clawing against the earth. I so wanted to sit down and paint its beauty but I did not pack my little plain air painting set. I stood there rejoicing in and with this tree. I knew I had to come back and paint its many needle-less branches as they reached out almost to as if to say, “I am here, I am still standing”. My camera was in my pocket so I pulled it out and caught the tree in all its strength. “I will be back to paint you,” I said as I journeyed back down the path. I don’t know why I said that out loud but I did.
It might have been a week or two before I hiked back to find my tree with all my painting supplies. When I arrived on the hilltop I was stunned to see this rugged and sturdy tree in a million pieces on the ground. I stood there wishing I could see it just one more time standing proudly so I could sit looking up and carefully paint its beautiful portrait. But it was down, the fire had ravaged the tree years ago and now the wind took it to the ground. Quietly and alone I walked around this once tall tree and picked up a few tiny branches and held them gently in my hand. I was sad as I walked away with the lyrics by Bruce Cockburn “If a tree falls in the forest does anybody hear” loudly playing in my head. Will anyone remember this tree, will they notice it fell, will it be missed. Upon returning home I looked at the photo I had taken on my previous visit. I painted the tree from the photo and from the memory of how it stirred my heart. I painted the tree feeling its strength and feeling the years it stood overlooking Boulder. I painted this tree so that I would always be able to remember this once durable sentinel that nature called back to the earth.
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