Tag Archives: Impressionist

Impressions: Trees by the Tracks

Between Shanghai and Beijing, China. April 2013.

I like trees.

Apparently I am also allergic to them, but whatever.

I like the way light falls between them in streaks and patches and flickering shimmers and long shadows like roads to vanishing fairy-lands. How they cut light into shafts that transect the trodden paths and the spaces between. I like how strong trees are and how tall and how even old trees somehow smell new. I like the way they reach up and down at the same time. I like the way they move, bending, swaying without losing ground. I like the way they creak.
I like the way they change the way the air moves, the kind of stillness you feel walking into a stand of trees, like first steps into an invisible temple, the positive presence of negative space. I like their leaves in all the colours and shapes and sizes, the sound of the wind blowing through them just before they fall into fiery fall blankets underfoot. I like the way trees collect snow. I like the patience of trees.

It was a tree in Texas that taught me the value of the smallest patch of shade.

I like the connectedness of trees when they grow together in forests. I like their defiance when they grow by themselves. I like trees that grow, impossibly, through fences and from sheer faces of limestone and granite.
There’s something about a tree that feels sentient. Maybe it’s because they stand up, but it just feels like they know things. The witness trees at Auschwitz kept their silence but made me want to weep. I couldn’t look at them for too long lest I catch their eye and learn the whole story, and I, lacking tree-strength, had as much as I could bear with only the eyes of an hour.

These trees grew in the moments between dust patches on the journey from Shanghai to Beijing. I didn’t catch their story as we sped by, just a vertical impression, a thin stand against the speed of flight and the unsettling of dust.

The Vendor

Bangkok, Thailand. January 2011.

When shown Van Gogh’s Starry Night and asked what they see, some people will catalog the elements: “I see stars, a swirl of wind, a crescent moon, a tree, the buildings of a small town.” Others will tell the story of what’s happening: “I see a warm summer night like the ones of my teenage years when we’d sneak out of a sleeping town and lay down next to a cornfield to watch the August meteor showers. I see a warm south wind sweeping the day’s gossip and rumors away like a gentle broom in a sure hand, while crickets serenade their one true star and bullfrogs bellow their heartache into the hungry dark between huddles of dreaming trees.” I take photographs like this one because often, it’s the story that appeals to me, more than the details. But what about you? When you look at this photograph, what do you see?