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Still Life With Moving Woods

February 4, 2013

Credit: Sharon Harvell
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Winter’s favorite game is the painter’s, covering surfaces, funneling the light, dividing things from their shadows.

He paints with awfully broad strokes, that’s true, but he knows what he’s up to. The apple tree out my window, under new snow, does its best to hold a pose while the artist works. He’s got his theme, he’s got his style—still lifes, mostly, very sparing in the use of color—and he’s dogged, you have to give him that: Study in White, Study in Gray & White, Study in Mostly White. (Evening is his blue period.) The critic is tempted to dismiss them as “repetitive,” “lacking in expressive power,” or just “cold,” but it’s easy to see that each canvas is only a small part of one massive oeuvre, as yet unfinished, for which the Louvre will need to add a new wing one of these days.

Apple tree daytime grayscale finalBut unlike the painter’s, winter’s game is one you can walk into, and around—a piece of architecture with no fixed entrance or exit, no sharp divisions between one room and the next. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a good house, or at least a mouse-ridden cabin, which the wind blows through with gusto, as through a favorite, moth-eaten sweater. I’m half outdoors already. But, like any cave, whatever pictures a person scratches onto the walls, a house has its limits. A person ends up saying, “I’ve got to turn this place inside out, and myself with it!” (A person also ends up speaking to himself this way.)

Inside out: here are living quarters, here is real habitation! The whole woods—red maple, white ash, paper birch, beech, hemlock—is a mazy warren of pillars and collonades, one gallery after another, like a museum that broke loose and ran off from the city. Here and there a huge, white-pine caryatid breaks the canopy, hoists the ceiling even higher. Scramble up a hill to the east or west: here are your terraces, your balconies, and below you, the far-and-wide. Your eyes go trotting off into it as if they owned the
[Apple Tree, Midday & Evening]                         place.                        


If so, it’s not theirs alone. The snow up here, just a few hours old, already reads like a well-thumbed map of tracks and traces: here is the porcupine’s pigeon-toed waddle, the coyote’s jogging meander, the red squirrel’s bound, hind feet leading the front. The freshest tracks show every last detail of toe and claw, while those from last night are already somewhat rounded and blurred. Evidence of snowshoe hares is here, the huge pads of the back feet angled out from each other like ears, as if its ears had left their shadows behind in the snow. The whole surface of the planet, turned to a blueprint. What would a draftsman say? (So many tenants, so many winding hallways, so many hidden corridors...) The painter steps back to consider his subject: too late! He too has put his own feet smack in the middle of it.



                                          [Still Life with Moving Woods]


Henry Walters is a naturalist, a teacher, and a falconer. He lives and writes in a cabin in southern New Hampshire on a 1,700-acre tract of conservation land, of which he acts as steward. His poems, essays, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of print publications, including The Old Farmer's Almanac. He is the co-founder of the Harriers, a club for young birders throughout New Hampshire (nhyoungbirders.org), and as a seasonal naturalist for the New Hampshire Audubon during the fall hawk migration, his writing appears on the blog (www.hawkcount.org) for Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory. A book of poems, Field Guide A Tempo, will be published in the fall of 2014.

Comments

YOU WRITE AS ELOQUENTLY AS

By Mari from Great Hill

YOU WRITE AS ELOQUENTLY AS THE LIGHT FALLS THROUGH THE WINDOW IN THE PHOTO "STILL LIFE WITH MOVING WOODS." THANK YOU, HENRY.

another reminder to look at

By bren m.

another reminder to look at the world with a new set of eyes.

Thank you for sharing. Look

By Tim Haubry

Thank you for sharing. Look forward to much more!

So eager for more from a

By Francie Von Mertens

So eager for more
from a cabin in the woods
of wild New Hampshire

LOVE IT, LOVE IT LOVE IT....

By YVONNE STEPHENS

LOVE IT, LOVE IT LOVE IT.... I'M SO JEALOUS,
I LIVE ON THE GREAT PLAINS.....
MANY MOONS AGO... I HAD ROOTS IN THAT AREA OF THE WORLD... THE ONLY AREA OF THE USA THAT I HAVE NOT VISITED...IT'S ON MY BUCKET LIST...THANK YOU ....KEEP WRITING - I WRITE FAMILY HISTORY, PHOTOGRAPHY IS ANOTHER HOBBY THAT I LOVE....YVONNE STEPHENS....RED CLOUD NE.

Having lived in mountain

By Lynne Humphries-Russ

Having lived in mountain woods and heard and felt this "canvas", it was a joy to return this morning, as I sit in my office in the city. Thank you.

Wonderful mini vacation this

By Eli's Mimi

Wonderful mini vacation this morning. We don't have a lot of trees out here in the panhandle of Texas. It was so nice to be invited into your woods. I love it there.

Thank you, thank you, thank

By Sil in Corea

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Your words and pictures bring back my youth on the farm. Spent a lot of time in the woods all year round.

This was a fantastic 5 minute

By Wendy C.

This was a fantastic 5 minute vacation. And I didn't have to pack my tooth brush!!

Really like this

By nann

Really like this blog......will read as often as you post!

Beautiful post in the blog. I

By Andy SC

Beautiful post in the blog. I am a nature lover too. But since Spring is my favorite, I feel so good to see new buds and signs of the warm weather ahead. Yesterday I saw the Cherry tree blossoms. They are usually the first to do so in normal weather patterns. Here in Charlotte, NC. They are appearing. I would like to share how beautiful they are. And they are for me a sign of hope to stay strong, winter well be over soon. :)

Yes, a great addition to the

By Fernseeds

Yes, a great addition to the website.
Looking forward to the next installment!
jeff.

excellent, a good additon

By David Ragion

excellent, a good additon

Your passion for nature soars

By Lifesart

Your passion for nature soars through your words, Henry. They are always welcome in my heart.

I don't use the word often

By Linda Strode

I don't use the word often but in this instance it is most fitting Awesome! truly awesome, thank you for sharing your incredible writing abilities to paint such a marvelous word portrait. I look foward to many more.

Falconry is indeed one thing

By Rebecca Haughn

Falconry is indeed one thing I hope to read more about in this blog. Creatures are a definite plus while writing. I had a wooded area on the last property and hope to own a property once again with the silent wood.

Beautifully written. Thanks

By John Costello

Beautifully written. Thanks Henry.

Ah, you have a way with

By Jan Carter

Ah, you have a way with words! Thanks for taking me into your woods this morning - a most enjoyable way to start my day!

It sounds beautiful where you

By Lydia Marshall

It sounds beautiful where you are! The older I get the more I appreciate winter.

You always create a new

By Sarah Doenmez

You always create a new perspective on the world that surrounds us, and with gifts in your beautiful language.

What an enjoyable blog post.

By Sarah Perreault

What an enjoyable blog post. The pictures are lovely.

As always, Henry, beautiful

By Bill Horton

As always, Henry, beautiful and insightful language. The photos of the trees in snow remind me of a painting in our home, done by an artist who once lived in the same cabin.

A wonderful addition. Henry's

By Sherin Pierce

A wonderful addition. Henry's blog is a welcome respite from the harried schedules of our daily lives. I look forward to further posts.

So excited that you have Mr.

By Bradford Bates

So excited that you have Mr. Walters writing for you! Please keep the great posts coming Henry!

What a great blog. I enjoy

By rachelk@yankeep...

What a great blog. I enjoy winter activities such as snowshoeing and looking at the different animals tracks. It's an adventure to discover an old snow-covered well, deep in the woods near an old stone wall. I would love to hear more nature stories.

Thoughtfully and creatively

By Heidi Stonehill

Thoughtfully and creatively written. Great job, Henry!

I love nature and happy to

By Catherine Boeckmann

I love nature and happy to see this new blog! Nicely written imagery. Looking forward to your posts, Henry.

I really enjoyed reading

By Andy Fox

I really enjoyed reading this. A bit poetic, I like that. And I love that you're a falconer.

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