Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Trees....Poem by Joyce Kilmer....Artist Book by Susan Lenz

I fell madly in love with acorn caps while at the MacNamara Foundation last autumn. Acorn caps were immediately incorporated into my "In Box" series and sewn with beads onto fiber vessels. Basically, I went "nuts" for acorn cups! My mother wanted "something" with acorn cups too. Yet, she already owns a vessel and doesn't really need another framed piece for her walls. She commissioned me to "make something special".

I thought and thought. For several weeks I had no ideas at all. Then, all of the sudden, it hit me! Acorns are part of trees. Trees are special.....really, really special; and they are part of a special memory about my mother.

I attended second grade at an elementary school in Columbus, Ohio. There were two rooms of seven-year-old kids, and we were all to be cast in a production of The Wizard of Oz. The other classroom would provide "Dorothy" and several other characters. My classroom would provide "The Good Witch of the North" the rest of the cast. For each role, two students were selected by the teacher to be sequestered in the cloakroom while the remaining students voted between them.

I couldn't believe my name had been called for "The Good Witch of the North". The other girl, also named Susan, was as thrilled as me. We giggled together, and she said, "Oh, I hope I get picked; my mother has already made the costume". A few moments later, the teacher revealed that she's won the "popular" vote. It seemed odd and confusing. All I really knew was, I lost.

That afternoon, I walked home with my two friends, Jeffrey and Kelly. Kelly was mad at Jeffrey. Although all the students were suppose to have hidden their heads between folded arms on the desk while voting, Kelly peeked....and she was the only person in the room to vote for me. Even Jeffrey hadn't voted for me.

I didn't know what to think, how to feel, or what to say. It took several years for me to develop a vocabulary to express "popularity" and to wonder aloud why I didn't possess this quality. Being popular wasn't a concept I understood....but obviously the teacher did. She knew which girl was the least likely to challenge the daughter of a seamstress making the exotic, fairy-like costume. I was cast as a TREE....not even one of the trees that threw apples at Dorothy....a tree wearing crepe paper that bled excess green dye on my arms....a tree in the background doing nothing at all. Though I didn't understand the notions of popularity, I KNEW I HATED BEING A TREE.

The production, of course, was going to be dreadful. My mother, of course, was coming to see me as an ugly, tree. She wanted to take a photo! How humiliating! Naturally, she noticed how upset I was. I told her I didn't want to be a tree. I hated it. I hated everything about it....

....until she recited a poem....right there on the spot...to me, a tree. It was the most beautiful poem in the world, and she made it sound like being a tree was better than any other role, even Dorothy and the Good Witch. I daydreamed my time on stage away thinking about robins nesting in my hair. From that moment on, I loved trees....the way I love acorn caps.