A Tree Grows in Boyle Heights
While this image of a tree is not an abstract photo, as many of the images of tree bark that I’ve made over the years are, I was drawn to the shapes, lines and colors of the graffiti. In addition, paying attention to the aged patina led me to thoughts about Wabi Sabi, to the appreciation that everything changes, that nothing lasts. All of which is comforting in my elder years because I realize that I too am part of that natural cycle of change, that I also will pass only to begin a new cycle of birth to passing, an ungoing cycle until I escape the wheel. Momento Mori.
Lately, I am distressed by the number of trees that have been vandalized by humans. I can understand someone carving a heart into the bark, an act of love in an ironic way. I can even understand but not accept the disfiguring of this tree. The area of L. A. where I made this image is one of frustration caused by poverty and limited roots. Graffiti is, after all, is a yellow canary in the mineshaft of social disfunction. Humans are by nature creative and will in the worst of circumstances, create.
But I find it difficult to comprehend the onslaught of violent attacks not only on trees but on nature in general. Senseless attacks such as the scars seen on this tree but also attacks on a larger scale. The deliberate destruction of entire forests and other natural features for what? The love of power, money, nationalism, among others. (The effects of this desire can be seen in photos of human-altered landscapes found in “The New Topographics” movement that had some of its beginnings in L.A., an urban area that has violated nature to an amazing extent.) But even this violation provides a spiritual path to the realization of what death is the death that I can not bear. I suggest a reading of Richard Shelton’s “Requiem for Sonora” would be enlightening. In the cycle of impermanence, everything can be a spiritual teacher, including the truth that often one has little control of events.