Frozen, then Alive

The freeze we had last week turned the tops of trees black, froze plants where the stood. This week, the roar of chain saws is as loud as after a Connecticut ice storm.

frozenflowerAnd it’s the wrong move. The leaves have died, but most trees are not dead. They are dormant, and while the top two feet are dead, cutting them off now, while it’s still January, will encourage them to start growing while it’s still too cold. Then the tree will suffer the damage, maybe die.

The best thing to do, according to the arborist I spoke to, is to simply let it go till early March. The leaves will turn black, fall off, and it will look ugly, but when trimmed in March, the tree will recover. Maybe not as lush, but it will take a cycle of a year for the damage to heal. Heal. Yes, even trees.

Waiting. Healing. We don’t like to look at damage, so we cut, remove, throw out. And cause more damage.

I’ve done that with my work. Hating to look at a piece I didn’t get right, I will tear it out of the journal and threw it out. Fast, so no one could notice. So fast, that I couldn’t sit with the discomfort of figuring out what I’d done that didn’t work and learn from it. So fast that the fault line would grow and I’d make more mistakes.

Had I left it, learned from it, accepted that I’d messed up (again!), I could have accepted it slowly, become OK with it slowly, and then covered it with paint or gesso and remembered and grown around it.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and art journaler.


20 thoughts on “Frozen, then Alive

  1. Time has a great clarifying effect (like making ghee!). Unpacking my art room after the house move has made it real easy to know what ‘unfinished’ work to keep and what to toss. I can clearly feel a tug of excitement at some pieces – a feeling I want to stop right there and do something with it. If I don’t get that feeling, it goes out. Some have a very definite negative voice – things I’ve overworked, repainted, tried to rescue already. I don’t need them any more and it feels liberating to let them go.

  2. Quinn, I remember one spring in Dallas when we had a late freeze after the trees had budded and leafed out… It was devastating, and the huge elm in our parking lot suffered a lot of damage (all the leaves fell off…) but given no action on our part, the leaves came back and we got to enjoy the full glory and shade of our tree! Hope springs eternal…

  3. Oh, if only I could get back some of the poetry and artwork I threw away…gone forever. Good post. I will at least hide them in a designated folder until I’m ready to play plastic surgeon or do re-writes until I capture what Inspiration had urged me to go after in the first place…

      • Oh! I hadn’t thought of it that way—being such a Virgo perfectionist I didn’t want anyone else to see these “failures”, so I destroyed them. From now on I will “sleep on them”. Actually, when I think about it, loving to create should also foster a desire to not let “failed” creations be lost…they are not unsalvageable! I imagine some of the most beautiful things were formed from the ugly…even *we* were first made from dirt and then a rib bone… 🙂 Thank you.

        • When I think across all the arts–how many dishes taste better the second day, how a turkey carcass can become turkey soup that’s delicious, how a fragment of memory can become a beautiful song (Jason can explain that much better than I ever could). In the olden days, I once double-exposed a whole roll of film and the photos were much more interesting than the rather pedestrian originals–either one. And yes, you are beautiful BECASUSE of your dents and dings!

  4. A friend of mine always says about creativity and art, that you have to work through the ugly stage. There is almost always that point you reach where you don’t like what you have done. Just keep going and let it be ugly for a while. Eventually it will get better. If it doesn’t, you have still learned something from the experience and that should be of value to you as well.

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