Thursday, July 30, 2009


I quickly forgot about the interior of the Biltmore Estate when I stepped outside and made my way toward the gardens. How can a house compete with plants? This is a tree or vine that helps form the living roof over one of the outdoor patios. Quite tall and gnarled with age, it arrested my attention. I think I stood and stared at it and its companions for ten minutes.

It looks like water or stone frozen in time. Water is ever-moving, yet still. Stone remains inert, yet subtly transforms as the centuries pass. The tree embraces this tension. Taut as an instrument newly tuned, the dynamics of energy and slowness gives the tree a dimensional beauty. You can't perceive all of the dimensions by looking straight at it. Instead, you must stay a while. Look at it, look away from it, use your peripheral vision. What you see changes every time; what you see remains the same. Movement and stillness. Work and rest.

My meditation on this juxtaposition was interrupted by folks pushing a stroller. A couple out of a J. Crew catalog sauntered by. A passel of kids rushed around me, scattering and regrouping like a flock of birds. I looked at the tree again, wondering about when it was first planted (nineteenth century? early twentieth century?). Such age, even just a century, leaves me breathless, and I looked at the children again with new eyes. How many trees planted the year they were born will be allowed to live as long at this venerable peer?

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