Up in the mountains, looking down

I've been in the French Alps for a week. One day when my friend and I were snowshoeing, we stopped and looked down. In the snow-covered fields below we could see skeletal trees standing in a line, and, further across, trees clumped together forming a small wood. The two of us had quite different stories about how the trees had come to be there.


My story was of human intervention. I was intrigued to imagine a person deliberately and carefully planting those trees in a line, here, high up in the mountains. What an imagination to see how the landscape might look in the future; what tough work to make it happen!

My friend's story was of chance and accidents. For her, the trees had grown there after the wind had blown seeds across the landscape. Some of the seeds landed, or were caught, managed to survive and flourish. Once some of the seedlings established themselves, others found shelter and grew close by. Many of the young trees will have perished in the harsh winters, and the little wood that we saw was the result of both growth and failure to thrive, absence as well as presence.

Both stories explain something. Both offer metaphors for the process of making art - the deliberate envisioning and action, and the push-pull dynamic of flourishing and removing.