As I prepared to scrap yet another work-in-progress, I glanced out my window and saw the oak tree in my back yard. This little oak is an odd looking tree, and it has an interesting story. A few years after it was planted, Orlando had three back-to-back hurricanes in a six week period. Hurricane Charley arrived at night. He came through fast and furious, and in the morning, we found our little oak partially uprooted. We replanted it, but after Hurricane Frances blew through, it was uprooted again. This time, we staked our little oak to the ground. The third storm, Hurricane Jeanne, hung around for days. Her strong winds and driving rain did the most damage to our neighborhood. She took our pool screen, and once again, our oak tree. We replanted it a third time, but when spring was breathing new life into the other trees on our property, it was clear that our oak was not healthy. Our gardener told us the tree needed to be removed, but I refused, insisting that it could be saved. By the following fall, I relented and let him cut down our oak. He wanted to grind the stump, but we left it as a reminder of our tough little tree. By spring, I noticed tiny leaves sprouting from the stump. Over the years, that stump grew into an awkward looking bush, but eventually became what most would call a ‘tree’. It’s small, as oaks go, but it’s large enough to house birds and squirrels, and provide shade for the Sandhill Cranes that nap beneath its branches on hot summer afternoons. That oak is a survivor. It didn’t give up. It grew up—even after being cut down. I love our little oak and I admire its persistence in the face of adversity. It reminds me that I’m often too quick to give up on a painting. If I have a little patience and spend more time with my paint brush, I can probably make it work, and I can be a survivor, too.
“Survivor”–ink pen–a study of my little oak’s odd roots–from my sketchbook