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