Woodland Queens

edition of 28
39″ h x 12″ w

woodland queensIn your lengthy, delicate strength
you race straight for the heavens,
your thin, pale skin
a glowing banner of your invisible shield
protecting and calling you
as you stretch for the Light.

Wounds here and there – wounds everywhere
ancient ones say a bird flew through never to return,
others evidence of claws marking strength and power,
I wonder if not wounds proudly worn
like a badge of honor marking you as you,  calling you
as you stretch for the Light.

Catastrophe brings you simply pure, ripe opportunity
To freshly grow and wrap your arms
around kindred spirits and potent soil.
Nourishing and encouraging one another,
you give attention simply and fully to growing
as you stretch for the Light.

detail of Woodland Queens, a bronze sculpture by Carol Alleman

Without reserve, you share your drink
With the thirsty near and far.
Your wise, ancient roots, reaching and sprouting,
seeding and blessing well beyond
the sacred ground upon which you grow,
as you stretch for the Light.

“Pando” your common clone
means  “I spread” and indeed you do
and with your spreading over and over
you sway and glimmer while asking of me,
“What is it this day, this second, that you spread
as you stretch for the Light?”

Ah, Aspen – flexible, graceful, Woodland Queen
moved by even the gentlest sacred breeze,
you call all the children together
to weave their fingers and caress the world
with their golden, quaking whispers,
reminding them of the Light

The piece was inspired during a family holiday in Jackson, Wyoming. It was summertime so the glimmering, golden leaves of the aspen trees that typically capture everyone’s heart, were not what pulled me to them. It was their grace.  I immediately began asking questions, and my research lead to a much deeper affinity and appreciation. Their gifts are diverse, profound and beautiful, filled with the richest of symbolisms.  Aspens became the sweetest sculpting companion I could imagine.

I learned that aspens grow as fast as possible without any regard to their visible wounds. This led me to reflect upon how I carry my life wounds and how much attention I give my wounds.

Following a fire, they are the first to reappear and grow faster than most – giving attention to little other than simply growing as fast as they can. This too, became an effortless reflection on how much attention I give to ‘simply growing’ each day, exactly where I stand that particular day. And I asked myself, “am I able to survive the large and small ‘fires’ in my life by receiving them purely as ripe opportunities to grow and to grow quickly?”

Allowed by its unique leaf/stem structure with a flat petiole (attached at right angles to the plane of the leaf), the leaves are able to flutter with the very slightest breeze, and survive severe storms simply by huddling together.  In high winds, the leaves clump together reducing air drag (which can easily break trunks) helping them survive violent storms despite their delicate structure.  I effortlessly felt the rich truth in this survival tool. In catastrophes and challenges, we find ourselves best armored with friends, neighbors and family; and with their hands tenderly interlocked in ours. On the other side, we recognize the gift of oneness and unity in a way words defy. Again, I personally reflected on the times many hands, clasped together, kept dear ones and myself breathing and moving forward in the most challenging of times. This same flexible, leaf structure gives voice to their familiar ‘quaking’ as it enables them to bend and twist with the gentlest breeze resulting in a sweet, quaking lullaby. And I asked myself: “am I flexible with the rhythm of others, that we might bend and twist together and create our own soothing melody?” I chose twelve tall delicate aspens to grace her belly – a tribal/elder number – to reflect her message of collaborative, community power.

Aspens share drink with others unable to reach a water source. Once more, I was moved by their inherent generosity and wisdom and the intricacy of their cloned, shared root system.  I reflected upon ‘our’ total connectivity and how naturally aspens live this truth we so often deny or neglect.

Then I sculpted the root system into a delicate tapestry of intertwined life support.

Their white bark holds a natural sunscreen, protecting their ultra-thin outer bark. I wonder if we too, hold a ‘natural protection’ inherent in our being, that perhaps we disregard simply because our eyes do not see it.

The most common clone is called ‘Pando’ which means ‘I spread.’  Hours and hours passed quickly as I sculpted pondering what it is ‘I’ spread while sculpting their delicate branches, talking to my children, shopping for groceries, walking through each ordinary day. And so, I found them to be marvelous, wise, rich and soulful teachers. Their way of living and growing is a beautiful blueprint of generosity, forgiveness, tenacity, community, leadership and strength. While putting pen to paper during the sculpting process, Woodland Queens seemed to appear from another world.  And so it is, our Woodland Queens are honored here.

*commissions welcome on enlargements up to eight feet