LEAVES / GRASS
Glory be to God for dappled things-
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal, chestnut-falls, finches wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced–fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
In our climate, leaves present themselves almost anywhere. Their life cycles pass from tiny buds to full-grown presences. They can turn into strange shapes, colourful and curled. Seasons pass, and they change. So, too with grasses, but they tend to be more subtle as they grow and wither. If we ignore the tended lawn, tall sword-like clusters can appear. A whole field of grass – or weeds – growing or dying, changes colours and passes from stage to stage.
Drawings or paintings are not ‘snapshots’ of things which nature ‘does’. They are meant to release to the viewer, like music, sensations of energy, delight or even piety. They do not need to be named. To draw them again and again, sometimes like dancers, sometimes sober or silent presences, sometimes as almost chaotic carriers of visceral energy can become a preoccupation for weeks or months. Their spirit, I hope, has been ‘digested’ rather than copied.
My childhood took place in North Dakota, a state with a flat topography – where often nothing except perhaps a water tower can be seen on the horizon. We played in nearby fields among tall grasses – and could hide in them. Perhaps that is one of the sources of my delight at their shapes. And leaves? Scarce or plentiful they speak of birth and life and often of elegant disintegration. Gerard Manley Hopkins points to this sort of beauty in the poem above.