I was in need of activity. Days before, my husband had been buying new pairs of trousers. He had been delighted to drop down two waist sizes. I personally think those two waist sizes had somehow crawled across the bed one night and wrapped themselves around me! I thought a walk somewhere might me feel less heavy.
It was not a dry, sunny day. I reminded myself that I had a sketch book to fill and maybe there was something somewhere that was aching to be drawn in pencil. I use the word “drawn” in its loosest sense. I headed for the University of the Highlands and Islands buildings having parked the car a walking distance away.
“An t-Eilean – a fusion of sculpture, building and garden - a unique open air space built into a lochan at Inverness Campus, is a facility for everyone to use for events and performance as well as a unique meeting place.” The words were on a board at the end of a wooden walkway. The performance I was thinking about was an outdoor poetry reading event sometime next summer.
Light might indeed fall through “the spaces within the walls creating an ever changing interior” but I wasn’t looking at the walls and there was no light to fall through the spaces. I wasn’t looking at the walls at all but at the tree in the middle of what was really a very large concrete box. The tree wasn’t planted in its own little oasis of green lawn but surrounded by a patchwork pattern of small wooden or ceramic slats. The floor was pretty. The tree standing in the middle was anything but. Around the sides of the tree, at four compass points were concrete poles, less than the height of the tree. The tree was tied to the concrete poles with metal cords. It reminded me of a scene in King Kong where the monster is subdued and shackled in a strong iron frame. The tree was shackled. OK there might have been some safety issues that needed to be addressed. No one wants a tree falling on them.
If trees could have cried, this one would have been weeping. If there had been an apocalypse and this was the last tree standing on all the earth – I could see the value in protecting it with a fence of concrete slats. But it was not art. It was torture.
The board boasted about natural landscapes and regard for the environment – and they did that to a tree. What were they thinking?
They gave the building a landscaping award. It might not have been that one building, but the whole campus that won the award. Yet again, humankind pats itself on the back for wrenching something away from its natural environment and placing it in a man-made cell. The tree was out of its natural environment. Yes, it had roots and would no doubt grow to a grand old age – but does that mean it will flourish?
A friend and I, over a cup of coffee, talked about how we could liberate the tree. We didn’t come up with an action plan. Dousing it in petrol and setting it alight, bringing its solitary life to swift end seemed plausible after the third cup of coffee.
I thought about natural environments.
I thought about my natural environment. I’m not living in my natural environment. The minute I begin to feel to comfortable with the world, I will have lost something precious. God created me to live in His presence. He is my natural environment, yet sin has twisted things so much that being with God feels, at times, unnatural. Like the tree, I am, perhaps, shackled to a world that doesn’t honour God. I am surrounded by boundaries that are man-made.
The comparison is a little forced, I admit.
Psalm 84:5-7 reminds us that unlike that tree that can do nothing to change the place it finds itself in, I am not so powerless:-
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”