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Into the Woods

Updated: May 24, 2022


I part the out thrusting branches

and come in beneath

the blessed and the blessing trees.

Though I am silent

there is singing around me.

Though I am dark

there is vision around me.

Though I am heavy

there is flight around me.

Wendell Berry

There is a whisper of spring is in the air, and such days are to be eagerly seized. It is weeks since I have been able to walk out onto the fen and draw. Seemingly endless days of dark and cold and rain have made it forbidding, but today’s bright light was not to be missed.

At the far end of the fen, there is a stand of oaks on high, well drained ground surrounded by silver birches and alders, that lead on to the reed beds. The area is open and their muscular branches seem incongruous amongst their watery companions. The ground has recently been cleared of bramble and bracken and I was able to set up my chair in the sunshine, sheltered from the cruel wind by a thicket of gorse behind me.

When I go out sketching, my ambitions always exceed the results. It takes me a little while to settle my mind before I can start to look. Today, mindful of how little time I had, I decided to draw a group of trees that were ahead of me and accept that one small drawing was probably all I had time to accomplish.

When drawing, it is very easy to let the mind slip and draw what you believe is there. I constantly have to make myself refocus, look again and adjust what I have done, but there are always moments, particularly as time draws on, where I slip back again. I often wish that I could start afresh, learn from what I have already drawn and make the drawing better and more confident, but there is rarely time for this and I have to try to be content with what I have achieved.

I saw no-one there today, so luckily there were no interruptions. I managed a pencil drawing within about an hour and decided that, as the light was lowering, that I needed to pack away my kit and make my way back to the car.

Walking back along the tree lined lane, I could hear the Great Tit’s “Tee-cher” and the song of a robin, high up in the branches. The oak limbs created long shadows and I stopped again, and looked, wishing I had time to stop and stare a little longer, and draw again.

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