Even more interesting than the trunk of this tree, called a Dawn Redwood or Metasequoia, is its history.
I suppose it could even be considered native to Pennsylvania since fossils prove it once thrived here on the continent of North America back in the Miocene Era. (Yep, that's over 5 million years ago when global temperatures were a lot warmer than they are today.) However, this tree's seed comes from China.
In 1947, a Harvard scholar brought to the U. S. and Europe about 4 pounds of seeds from a single tree, called "Shui-sa" or Water Fir, that was discovered in south western China. When discovered, this tree was already revered by the local rural population with a shrine and botanists dubbed it a "living fossil" since the tree was believed to be long extinct.
This tree that I painted today at Morris Arboretum was planted in 1948. It's about to turn 70 and I am pretty sure that its seed was among that first batch that came to the United States and was distributed to arboretums and other institutions. It made lovely shade to sit in as I worked.
This chance encounter exhibits many personal layers.
The first one is the choice I made to climb very high in this tree at four years old. I recently found a photo dated AUG 1979 and it shocked me how young I was way up there (though the bowl cut should have given that away!) Today, as a parent this makes me very nervous, but back then I had no fear and apparently some strong climbing skills.
My choice to have that cute (huge) little bee in the image has more to do with a fascination I honestly developed as an adult. As a child I was as freaked out as the next kid about yellow jackets, but I wonder if I would have warmed up to a nice chunky, slow-flying bumble bee.
The two together fit a prompt that I decided to follow for a monthly online gallery hosted by SCBWI, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, called Draw This. (The link currently shows last month's gallery which I am in.) This month's prompt is "surprise."
Hey! It's spring break here in my township so school is out... all week. Needless to say, my studio time has taken a hit but it's been replaced by some time with my kids where I have really had a chance to see how they've grown!
Part of the secret to our success has admittedly been the amazing weather we have been having. This first painting is of our new favorite spot at Morris Arboretum...next to the stream and under the weeping cherry trees. We spent an hour there on Monday. The weather has also brought many customers to my son's lemonade and sweet tea stand that he has been managing everyday all week from about 4-5pm.
Notably, I also got a new pen, a Pentel color brush, which I bought at the new art store in Chestnut Hill that I finally found last Saturday. It's pretty awesome, both the pen and the store. (And if you are looking for the store, it's called Artist & Craftsman Supply and it is on Germantown Ave, a bit south of Willow Grove Ave, down an alley and in a courtyard.)
I've never posted two images in one week, but due to the split vote from my children I am including both paintings I finished today.
This second painting features my daughter's terrarium, named Hobette, and three mini figures from my imagination. It is agreed among the kids that Caitlyn is the figure on the left, Dylan is hanging from the rope, and the third figure is Dylan's friend Barry who spent the day at our house today. I can't say that I consciously intended this connection to our day, but I do know that the idea of small people inhabiting these terrariums that I love has been floating in my mind for quite a while. Maybe it is the beginning of something...
Back in the 1900s, my husband and I lived in Washington, DC. Not together. In fact we hadn't met yet.
A little over a week ago, we took our kids to see the Cherry Blossoms there. (This lovely sparrow came so close to us!) It may have been the first time either my husband or I made it to the Tidal Basin in time to see them at the height of their bloom.
Inevitable whining aside, isn't it crazy how thrilling it is to (re)discover the world with our children?