DAY 299

DAY 299
01.28.08
TREE 134

I went up to the Mount in the morning to climb, see Norm, get online, pick up some money owed to me, and practice my climbing with gear.  First thing I did was to stop in at the pottery studio and see what happened to Norman Saturday night.  He was pretty wasted at the show and I wanted to hear how his night ended.  After trading stories I walked the trail by the Hermitage to the fallen beech tree I climbed on the last day of my tenure at the Mary Anderson Center. 

As I walked on the dormant grass, I looked through the bare trees deep into the woods. 

I recalled the images of bright red leaves and that collection of clover plants where I found so many four-leaf clovers.  It was quite the sentimental stroll.  I searched for grazing deer like I used to and I recalled all those days of sun, heat, and artistic exploration.  I’ve been coming up to the Mount a lot these last few weeks and it’s been nice but I feel like a visitor.  I miss those times of recent past where I felt like the lonely inhabitant of such a magical place.  People would come and go but I and the Friars stayed and watched over these 400 acres. 

 When I arrived at my tree I stepped right up to the ripped trunk and began my crawl.  I forgot how steep the incline was and had to adjust my method. 

I thought I was just going to be able to car crawl up, but I began to slip. 

I lay on mystomach and began the slow and tiresome inching.  Bend the legs, squeeze, reach forward with the arms, grab and pull.  Where the bark had broken and fell in pieces, light brown shapes remained with dark brown lines.  They looked like worn maps where the lines delineated the countries or counties.  My legs began to burn as I neared the bend in the trunk where the grade lessens and where my white ribbon blew in the frigid wind. 

The weatherman said it was going to be in the 50’s, but it was colder than that.  Luckily my exertions were warming me up.  At my stopping place I struggled to pull my camera from my pants pocket.  Once in my hands I did my best to capture the unique perspective of my laying position. 

The tan beech leaves that remained on so many trees in the woods looked so beautiful from here. 

I put my camera away and took the ribbon off the cracking bark. 

Then I lay may head on the massive grey trunk and enjoyed my view.  This tree is special and signifies the ending of my stay here.  I know I’ll continue to come back here, and probably even stay as a resident, but nothing will compare to the seven months as resident coordinator where my life as an artist reawakened and re-focused.  I made some bid decisions and accomplished some big goals.  I am truly grateful for the Mary Anderson Center, and for the trees. 

I considered going higher, but instead just slid down on my belly and got down in a flash.  I took the long way out of the woods and got on with the rest of my day. 

1-28-09:  From the rumors I’ve heard, it sounds like the Mary Anderson Center is no more.  I had thought they were closing the house for renovations.  But now I hear some Friar is moving in to the house.  I guess they plan to keep the clay studio, but not the art residency programs.  It is sad.  Though small and sometimes poorly run, i think it did a lot for artists, writers, and musicians.  It was that special time and space for creating.  It will be missed by many.  But it doesn’t mean I can’t go back there to explore the woods and take walks on the trails, and most importantly, climb the trees. 

Drew kept reminding me all day yesterday that the ice was coming.  I knew it and that is exactly why I was waiting to climb.  All day the sleet fell, then evening came and the freezing rain started.  Everything formed a clear shell.  I was excited and I knew Drew was curious since he worked from home and looked out the windows every few minutes.  Finally around 8 we decided to bundle up and go for a walk to Dog Hill.  I grabbed my dining hall tray for sledding and we went on our way.  All the branches of the trees were covered in a thin layer of ice.

The snow was thick and crunchy.  When our steps went in unison it sounded like an entire army marching.  Underneath the ice and snow were hidden black pools of water.  Shortly after departing I stepped in a deep one and the cold water slowly seeped into my boots.  Luckily the walk took so much effort that my feet actually warmed the water and didn’t bother me too much.  We got the Cherokee Park and could tell the Hill was going to be crowded from all the tire and foot prints in the snow.  We approached from the bottom and just walking to the top was exhausting.  I went down on my tray once and it was really slick.  Drew opted out of the fun ride and I went to find a tree.  I chose a smallish beech right at the top of the Hill.  I wanted to get that shot of the sledders. 

I stood at the base of the tree for a few minutes testing grips and trying methods of entry but was failing.  Not only did the tops of the branches have a solid, smooth later of ice, but many of the sides were icy.  The tips of the limbs were completely covered in ice. 

I eventually figured a way in by hooking my leg over a slightly higher limb then the one I struggled to hold onto with my arms.  When I got to an upright seated position I looked up.  Many strong branches were there to make my climb manageable.  But as I went it was very slippery.  I had to hook my entire arm around the limbs to hold my weight and to keep my bare hands from getting too cold.  The limbs were also to thick and icy for me to hold with just my hands.  My boots also slipped often so I had to press the sides against the trunk where the branches grow out.  I worked my way up the main trunk with relative success.  But I wanted to go higher. 

I transferred to another branch and then tried for 5 minutes to figure out a path to the higher limbs.  Nothing was working.  During my climbing a sledder below me asked if I was ok.  I was totally fine, just frustrated I couldn’t get higher.  I gave up and pulled out my cold camera.  The battery power drained quickly as I took pictures of the sledders on the Hill and the tree itself. 

Soon it was depleted and I set my sights to climbing down. 

I made it down quicker than I went up and found Drew waiting for me.  I went down the Hill one more time, dodged three sledders at the bottom as they whizzed past, then rejoined Drew for a damn long, wet, and tiresome walk home.  The entire time we were out the rain continued to fall and freeze on what ever it touched.  The trees creaked, snapped, and fell to the frozen white shell of the ground.  We also saw bright blue flashes in the sky that we could only assume was lightning but there was no thunder.  We now believe they were transformers flashing.  Either way it was a strange, annoying, and beautiful experience.  We finally reached the house totally sore and exhausted.  I chowed down in dry clothes happy I was inside.  What a storm.

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