The gift of shade and moreWhen I was a kid my parents had a comfy green living room chair, like a throne, that had arms so fat I could set an 8 1/2-by-11 inch tablet on it and draw for hours on end. That chair was not only my personal art studio; it was also my little world.
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
When I was a kid my parents had a comfy green living room chair, like a throne, that had arms so fat I could set an 8 1/2-by-11 inch tablet on it and draw for hours on end. That chair was not only my personal art studio; it was also my little world.
You see, a typical living room scene at my house featured me, the youngest, in his green throne with big sis stretched out on the couch, other sis lying on the floor, Dad in his Lazy Boy in the corner sucking on Old Gold’s and Mom sitting on some dining room chair that’d been pulled away from the table.
Everyone, except me and Pops, who was probably reading or working a crossword puzzle, was glued to the tube. It was a typical American scene with Beaver Cleaver, Lassie and crackling logs in a fireplace being the only things missing.
In fact, I filled enough tablets with drawings to lay them back to back from here to Boston, down to Miami and back again through Kansas City, simply because if I saw something, I had to draw it, whether it was a high school football or basketball game or Little Joe Cartwright rolling in the dirt and coming up firing.
It helped me to be part of the scene, experience it more fully and taught me to look for and remember tiny details plus shadowing, colors, interesting expressions, centering and fitting things into a limited space.
I longed for those little art classes in grade school, cartooned for my high school and college newspapers and I’m still cartooning for you today. Character after character stacked on top of each other, all coming from somewhere in the world, going through my brain, slipping down to my fingertips and then on to you.
Of course, the green chair wasn’t the only place where I drew. Sometimes I’d draw in a tree, just across the alley, with our dog, cat and neighbors looking up at me, wondering what I was doing, sitting on a couple of boards hammered across two big outstretched branches, just doodling away, filling tablet after tablet, and loving it, especially when I got to start over again with a new one.
Actually I spent a lot of my youth sitting in trees simply because, in my little hometown, located just a stone’s throw from the Montana and Canadian borders, there were a lot of trees to climb, thanks to the insight of Mix who published “The Mixer,” the local newspaper, and who also ran a nursery business, was one of three people in town who played tennis on our sand court, could punch five punching bags at one time and was basically a friend to all.
Cottonwoods lined every street plus our front yard, always ready for me to climb high up into and rock back and forth on the thinner branches, way at the top, listening to the leaves rattle in the wind.
It made me love trees, long for places that had lots of them, respect the people who took the time to plant them, understand the time it took to grow them and hate the moment when one of them had to come tumbling down, knowing full well that if some of them didn’t tumble I’d never have a tablet to draw on, a big fat green chair to sit in or living room to live in.
You see, I’m thinking about trees because I helped plant a few this weekend, little sticks really, with a beard of moist roots on one end, that were dropped into a hole, packed in dirt and given the mission to grow high and wide, big and tall, produce oxygen, block the wind, provide shade, and maybe rent out a sturdy perch for a singing bird’s nest; a precious commodity here on the prairie where only some grow naturally and none grows easily.
Because, believe it or not, this weekend’s work gave me a bit of an epiphany, sprung me to a slightly higher level of maturity and made me realize that it’s when a man understands the importance of a tree that he begins to understand the meaning of life.
Or as Elton Trueblood, the noted 20th century author, theologian and former chaplain to both Harvard and Stanford universities once said, “A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.”
So plant some trees. You’ll be giving the gift of shade, and so much more.
Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.