Half A Million Ways to Love A Tree / by JIllian Marshall

Monday is National #LoveATreeDay. We often take them for granted, but without trees our world would be bland and inhospitable. The sculpture“Middle Fork” was artist John Grade's cure for that ambivalence

In the top room of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, in the Renwick Gallery, an 85' long tree, woven out of a half million segments of reclaimed cedar, hovers in the air, on its side, like fallen Hemlock from another dimension. The hollow sculpture hangs horizontally at waist height, swaying heavily with the slightest movement in the air. “Middle Fork” is an exhibit not to be missed, and its story is as beautiful as its form.

To create this sculpture Grade used the cast of a 140-year-old Hemlock tree that still stands tall in a forest in the Cascade foothills of Washington state. Casting the tree was a two week long process. A team consisting of artisan assistants and trained arborists carefully wrapped the Hemlock in a layer of protective aluminium foil, and then applied paster by hand to the entire tree, all while hanging from a system of pulleys and ropes 80 feet off the ground. Painstaking care was taken to make sure that even the hanging apparatus left no damage to the tree. Although cutting the tree down, or a digitally scanning the tree would have been an infinity faster way to create the cast, Grade wanted the hands on experience to facilitate some time to appreciate the subject of his art.

“That process, although spread out over two weeks, was very rewarding because what it allowed for an opportunity to be intimately engaged with the tree” said Grade in the 'making-of' short film “Middle Fork”.

When the piece has completed its two year museum tour, the sculpture of reclaimed cedar wood will be laid at the base of the the Hemlock Tree is was cast from. The pieces of cedar were never coated in preservatives so that when the exhibit is laid to rest in the forest it will decompose, return to the earth, and be a vessel for new life in the woodland.

Grade mastered the art of tree loving, but not everyone has the time to reconstruct a symbolic representation of tree out of old wooden furniture in honor of Monday's holiday. No shame in that. Here are some small scale ways you can give a close arboreal friend some love:

-Be a pal, buy your friend a drink.

We never think about watering our trees but they would love a little pampering this Monday. The correct way to water a tree is to soak the root area out to the line where the leaf canopy ends (as most root systems can extended even past their our tree's leaf growth). Who doesn't love a cold glass of water on a hot day? The plant contributing to 20% of your planet's breathable oxygen will sure appreciate it.

-Dress Um Up

When someone buys you a gift you can't help but feel loved and there are tons of eco-friendly accessories for your local trees. Bird feeders are always cute, and nothing beats a pine cone rolled in peanut butter and birdseed.

-Hugs not drugs

Many trees can fall victim to herbicide damage as green weed-less lawns become a priority for front yards and gardens. Non-selective herbicides will kill weeds but can also hurt surrounding trees and send them into extended hibernation. When it comes time to prep the yard for garden parties, think twice about weed killers and consider pulling the lawn pests out at the root. On Monday put down the chemicals and give your tree a good old fashion hug instead.

 

Happy Tree Hugging!