The Weight of Our Surroundings


Before Ken and I moved from Los Angeles, we vacationed up north with his parents to see the redwood forests – a memorable vacation that would be our last with my father-in-law, “Papa Bill”, who passed away a few short years later. Bill loved trees – a hobby he’d passed down to Ken – and before we left, he gathered several redwood seeds to grow in our dense Midwestern soil. The seeds didn’t take, but it didn’t matter: a year later, Ken and I found our forever home back in the Midwest and were amazed to discover that the lone tree living in our newly-acquired backyard was, surprisingly, a century-year-old redwood.


Since then, trees have held a special place in my heart as a symbol of life cycles, purpose and meaning. Sometimes my husband and I will be driving to dinner or a family outing and he’ll point out the trees that line our road, commenting on their beauty or how much they’ve changed since he’s last taken a peek. It’s a marvelous trait of his, the ability to focus on the simplicity of nature while I’m busy chattering about to do lists and errands and responsibilities.


It’s that same simplicity that caught my eye in Temporary Trees, a video installation from Raw Color and studio Maarten Kolk & Guus Kusters for Dutch Design Week. Startled by the realization that Netherland trees typically reach only one tenth of the age they are meant to, the artists created the project to encourage others to stop seeing trees as little more than objects in our landscape – and instead personalize them as living, breathing symbols that “determine how we experience light, shade, wind and changes of the seasons.”


And I suppose that’s what art does – it teaches us how to view the world through a different lens – a lens that spotlights the beauty in the everyday, the weight of our surroundings. The lens I see in a botany-inspired husband driving down the road, or a father-in-law planting seeds in an attempt to leave a legacy larger than his own.


The lens that, perhaps, we should have been using all along.

Image Credits: Studio Maarten Kolk & Guus Kusters

p.s. Just for fun: A blogger’s tree carving, a poetic tree installation, and “striped” trees.

  • your words make this come alive for me. very poetic, erin. i see trees the same as your husband. they are magical creatures. i am forever amazed by them. i can’t wait to have a yard to call a few my own.

    • @Vanessa – Ah, I love that! I have a theory that people who stop to notice trees are the best of people. :)

  • “And I suppose that’s what art does – it teaches us how to view the world through a different lens – a lens that spotlights the beauty in the everyday, the weight of our surroundings” (so true, Erin!)

    i have to admit to be a big-time tree fan. Whenever I take a trip about 80% of my pictures are tree-related. I suppose my reasoning for so many real-good tree pics is the comforting contrast trees provide in urban settings. they really can profoundly impact our manmade environment (if we let them) which is usually anything but the things that trees stand (hehe) for: quiet, comfort, ad-free, etc.

    i love this installation for Dutch Design Week. I would love to see projects like this stateside!

  • Yes, it is true that trees are a source of inspiration and it is certainly a “mysterious way” that you would end up with a redwood in your backyard! Give God the glory and then sit down to read “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. It is one of my favorite books!

  • Erin, this is such a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing (I may be a bit teary eyed because I am sap like that). :)

  • This is beautiful, Erin. I love the idea of focusing more on nature and less on the busyness of the everyday, some people are so good at this! I also love your post on slow blogging :)

  • Beautiful art project, lovely thoughts and words. There is nothing more peaceful than lying on your back and gazing up into the trees!

  • dear erin,
    i’ve very much been enjoying your slow blogging ways in 2013. i admire your imagination and your expression. thanks for thinking more deeply and giving more meaning to art, design, connection, and life.


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