Sunday, April 13, 2014


Yesterday, finally, we had our first warm spring day in Philadelphia (most of the day, at least; the first dog walk was still chilly).  

It practically brought tears to my eyes as Jane and I toured around the Main Line and other sections of Chester County in the car.  Jane’s earning her learner’s permit driving hours so that she can graduate to full driver’s license status as soon as possible.  I’m being a supportive dad and biting my nails most of the time.

I spent part of the day remembering this winter’s terrible destruction, much of which is still visible on our property and throughout the region in the form of massive numbers of large fallen tree limbs, prominent everywhere, heavy and becoming sappy for the last time.  Now that the season has changed, but the grass and plants aren’t yet growing in earnest, the arborists and gardeners are going to make a killing restoring order to the place.

Browsing in my computer’s image library during the morning, I came across the picture displayed above of the pretty woman crossing in front of Gustave Courbet’s Le Chêne de Flagey (The Flagey Oak Tree).  From small things big things certainly one day come and Courbet’s elemental oak tree, which he painted in 1864 near Ornans, where the picture is now permanently displayed in the Courbet Museum, really cemented the spring-is-here feeling for me.  

I read something wacky written by a person who interpreted the oak tree as a kind of animistic self-portrait of the artist, providing various crazy details.  Artworks are, of course, always self-portraits, in approximately the same way that handwriting is, but I really couldn’t see the author’s point.

Certainly, like all of Courbet’s work, Le Chêne de Flagey  evinces life, blood, sinew, brains, and exponentially explosive helical, natural forces, but like other intense art, concentrating hard can also cause your mind to wander, survey and reconsider past, related, sometimes opposite experiences.  

For me, the fundamental painted tree standing alone made me think about Tuxedo Park and the way our Frankenstein-villager-mob element relentlessly pursued the extermination of our ancient deer community.  The “fraud in the factum” pretext they used was saving oak saplings that never ever seemed in need of rescue, and they justified their bloodthirsty desires by purchasing, in the usual manner, the clearly off-the-shelf, “insert the name of your town here”, one-size-fits-all infinitely adaptable Cornell University study supporting their position.  The mayhem, as it usually is, seems to have been carried out surreptitiously. 
Nature used to balance nicely in Tuxedo Park, clear-cutting episodes and domestic cat dumpings and poisonings notwithstanding.  There were always people around to right some of the major wrongs.  Now things are antiseptic (but disordered) and uninteresting, rather than wild and quietly vital.   Oh well.

Free: Fire and Water (Link) 

Fleetwood Mac: Oh Well (Link)

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