I made a tree rubbing yesterday, one of the firsts in a very long time. It’s a rubbing of the word love inscribed into a tree along the Burbank Trail at Olivia’s Overlook in Lenox, MA. I don’t remember how I first found this tree. It’s written in a notebook somewhere, but today is not about that.
Love is up the hill from another tree that has the word eternity on it. The eternity tree is right on the path, placed in such a way that if you are really paying attention, you can spot it. I haven’t walked this trail in a very long time, and was amazed at how much healing the eternity tree has generated. The word eternity is barely recognizable. If you did not know it existed in the past, you would miss it. I felt a little sad at the end of eternity. The story I made up based on the dates and names carved into at least six of the surrounding trees was that two lovers in the 1970s pledged their love for all eternity. Maybe eternity is just as fragile as we are.
Regardless, Olivia’s Overlook is a lovely place to declare your love. This trail is where Doug and I first hiked together, which is why I was there making the tree rubbing. The rubbing is going to be part of something related to my upcoming marriage (think invite, thank you card, give-aways) While I have made many rubbings of it in the past, I don’t seem to have any record of them either digitally or as an original. (How IS that possible?) So I packed my trusty Stanol crayon and some Rives Lightweight and hit the trail.
When I make a tree rubbing (set type, ride my mountain bike, make little dots) I drop into Mihály Csíkszentmihályi‘s concept of flow nearly immediately. There is nothing like this single-minded focused attention. And even though I am out of practice, it happened: I dropped into that fabulous state of focus while coaxing the nuances of the rubbing out of the paper.
Flow is one of those things that you don’t share with someone else. It is one of the perks of cultivating solitude in your life. This reminds me of a quote I just read by Louise Bourgeois,
Solitude, a rest from responsibilities, and peace of mind, will do you more good than the atmosphere of the studio and the conversations which, generally speaking, are a waste of time.
In many ways this quote defines what my life has been like for the past five months. I lamented at one point that there weren’t enough people at my residencies, and struggled with loneliness more times than I care to admit during my travels in Italy. My dear friend Andrea pointed out that if there had been more people, maybe I wouldn’t have made as much progress, which is exactly Bourgeois’ point. I have made friends with that loneliness now, and the stillness that I crave and give myself regularly at this point. Stillness can be being alone with a piece of paper, a stanol crayon and a tree in the middle of the woods; traditional meditation/prayer, walking alone or countless other things. Being still in the mind and heart can happen even when the body is moving.
Can one be still and dance and be filled with laughter? I think so. Do you?