Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

2023 The Year of the Tree

2023 The Year of the Tree

After my challenging and invigorating project for 2022, “creating my canvas”, I rummaged through my collection of essays and philosophical meanderings to arrive at an often visited theme – Trees. From discovering their below ground, inter-connectedness and moving through their seasonal changes and upheavals, I landed rather rightly and solidly on this theme for 2023.

The underground, rather miraculous web that runs between trees, transporting food and water to those in need, maintains the diversity and health of the forest. Tree trunks deeply rooted over the years, provide a firm foundation for the branches that take on the worst of wind and ice and snow. But also give us shade and provide us with spectacular color in the fall. Their slow but perpetual growth cycles through budding, leafing, shedding, dormancy and then re-blooming are nothing short of miraculous.

My first sense of this connection, between humans and trees, came a few winters ago as I contemplated the outer dreary landscape from the warmth and coziness of my home. What appeared stark initially, gradually transformed into a layered vision of greys, struck through with crisp lines of naked branches, their true identity revealed in this unfettered, crisp, clean design. Suddenly the rare beauty of their true image no longer hidden under leaves, was made manifest to my eye.

Like trees, people need an underlying connected-ness to each other in order to overcome personal hurdles and to be sustained throughout all stages of life. The give and take between humans is continuous, also maintaining a diverse community so that like the forest, more than one type of culture flourishes. Those with stronger roots, roots that have survived time and troubles, provide support to the younger, fledgling ones, supplying them with what they need to grow and blossom. We explore through our “branches”, but are anchored by our connection to nature, to others and to ourselves. We too go through seasons, settling into a sort of hibernation-retreat (winter) to a resurgence of ideas and energy (spring).

This theme felt just right now because I am entering a new “season”, feeling like a transplant, struggling to adapt to new soil. My bare branches sport new buds and I wonder this time, what they will sprout when they shed their outer protective covering. In Katherine May’s book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat, she writes of her own experience of an unasked for Wintering, resulting from ill health. Rather than deny it, she decided to choose how she would face it. And even though I choose to “winter”, I’ve reflected and thought through why I need this season in my life.                                                                                                                         

Trees are supreme alchemists. They cease their production of chlorophyll at autumn time, letting the green fade revealing the true colors underneath, colors that have always been there. A glorious array we come to anticipate every fall. Eventually, even the leaves are starved of their food and drop to the ground, re-enforcing the annual survival strategy-crowd-sourcing of all their energy to get through the lean months of winter. I feel a little like a tree this winter, casting off an old life, shedding routines and priorities, re-imagining my days. I am on a quest to winter, relishing the qentle slowness and mental relief. Soaking up the deep discoveries that now can have my attention. Moments of serene being that seem to blend flawlessly into all life. Nick Cave believes we spend our youth building our sense of self as we get rocked and broken by life but somehow we get reassembled in our older years. We spend less time looking in, trying to find out who we are, and more time allowing our interests to become “wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit, the walls of the ego recede, and our life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life”. We no longer give such a large thought allotment to what others think of us. We learn to say no to demands that do not benefit our presence. We delight growing into our fullness as an individual among the rest of humanity. We let go of our past persona, merging into the current evolution of our passions and needs.

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