The Sycamore Tree
There is a giant sycamore tree on my street. I can see it from my kitchen window. It was planted the year we moved into our house in a five-gallon bucket. Today it’s the tallest, widest, tree in our neighborhood. In the summer, it’s full of dark green leaves. In the fall, they turn to yellow then bright orange. Winter, magnificent bare branches are exposed where in the spring tiny yellow finches cover the tree. From my window in February the branches still look bare, but when I walk by close I can see tiny little leaves. So many things in my life have changed since that tree was planted. Eight years ago, when I was training for my first Olympic triathlon I would ride my bike up our steep hill until I saw the sycamore tree, sweaty, legs weak, tree still small. The year after that I did my first IVF transfer, followed by disappointments, sadness, infertility treatments. The next year, pregnant I relaxed watching the tree, then my first miscarriage I recovered, watching the sycamore tree. Its leaves reach up into the fog this morning, air cool, a crow in the distance cawing. Clanging of recycling being dropped into the big yellow trucks. Jack and Fiona are still sleeping. When Jack and Fiona were born I set up blankets on the deck where we could see the sycamore. They laid down, two chubby babies, so tiny, compared to the giant tree. My studio downstairs, waiting for me. There are no windows in my studio but I can still feel the presence of the tree. The first fall Jack and Fiona were alive as the sycamore tree started to change I felt like I was missing my cue. I wasn’t registered for any art classes, I wasn’t starting any new programs like I had every year of my adult life. I was a new mom, the tree reminded me of the time passing, fall into winter into spring. Jack and Fiona were growing, the first several months were difficult. I needed my studio, I needed my creativity to grow like the tree. I started to get worn down after nights of constant feedings and diaper changes. I was missing my classes, my painting. I didn’t know how much I was changing and growing, or how much the experience of motherhood would affect my studio time.
The lifespan of Plantanus Occidentalis, the American Sycamore tree is more than 200 years. That tree will be there long after we are gone. I think about that, our short time here. I first started back in my studio after the babies were six months old, it felt like a long time had passed. I started getting very depressed. At first, I tried to get large chunks of time in my studio, like I was used to from my life before becoming a parent. It was difficult to get much time, I was frustrated. It took me several months to develop a new technique that worked. I learned that even if I only had an hour or thirty minutes it was worth it. I started working on my naptime notebooks and paintings. I focused on spontaneity. I left my critical mind out of the studio. I’ve grown as an artist this way, with these restrictions. I shed my leaves and grew back new ones, use what time I do have instead of thinking I don’t have enough time, inspired and grounded by the sycamore tree. Memories are imbedded in that tree, it is a keeper of the past and a beacon of years to come.