"The sacred tree, the sacred stone are not adored as stone or tree; they are worshipped precisely because they are hierophanies, because they show something that is no longer stone or tree but the sacred, the "ganz andere."
Mircae Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane
This tree in Shelter Island, NY stopped me on my tracks as I took a meditative walk in March of 2020. I had come to Shelter Island seeking shelter from the pandemic in NYC. I took so many walks during my three month stay, each walk inspiring new pastel artworks.
What I immediately saw in this image was a Virgin and a kneeling beggar. I believe trees have souls, or maybe they hold souls. Maybe we become trees when we die, or maybe, we come from The Tree and so, like we carry star particles, we carry tree bark in our DNA which links us back to our soul. Some souls live long lives before they disappear, or maybe, regenerate back into the earth.
I firmly believe in the spiritual nature of trees. They hold stories we will never be able to read. All I can do, is try to tell a story. The one which appears to me.
And so, this is the story I captured. I imagined a kneeling beggar from some time ago asking for mercy. I see the Virgin's hand blessing this beggar. Their souls captured in time, transcending time-space, living, breathing.
I eventually moved to Shelter Island and took a walk to visit this tree. To see if I still saw what I had seen. I was saddened to see a large circle of black dirt where it had been. The tree had been removed, and only a large patch of dirt was left behind. I stopped and took a picture and thought, how blessed to have been able to tell its story before its transformation.
This painting lives in a private collection and so does this tree story.
Ana Martinez Orizondo
Artist and culture creative.