17 August finds me sitting in the woods beside the Canada Creek Trail in the Caledonia Gorge Protected Natural Area, New Brunswick, painting a natural totem pole. A dead Fir tree, knobby with burls, some larger than a person's head, tells the story of its life-long struggle to overcome… something. We don't know what causes these woody swellings in the trunks of trees - fungus, virus, insect, or some other parasite - but the living cambium beneath the bark becomes overactive at certain points and grows more woody tissue there, swelling the trunk out into a ball.
The burly tree and its healthy neighbours are standing beside a seepage that is tributary to Canada Creek, marked by the bright green balls of mossy stones, and beyond that, the forest floor rises like a wall of leaf litter under Sugar Maples and Yellow Birches.
I pitched my little painting shelter today for the first time, and it protected my painting fromperiods of light rain and spatters of drops from the branches above me.
First I scratched a drawing into my fresh dull purplish underpainting, and then laid in layers and layers of forest - tree trunks, branches, and foliage, leaving space for the burly snag - and then I painted it in last. Don't ask me why.
I wonder how the painting would look if I'd painted the snag in first.....