Ray's Tree

I think one’s art goes as far and as deep as one’s love goes. – Painter Andrew Wyeth

Ray and my dad shared a love of travel and photography over the course of their 50+ year friendship. At the beaches where they camped they often found washed up pieces of driftwood that made for great photos. Some of the smaller and more interesting pieces they’d sometimes bring home. One of these pieces of driftwood they’d brought home looked like a miniature tree with several intricate branches that split and forked near the top into even smaller branches—as thin as twigs.

Soon after my dad passed away, Ray, a painter and a sculptor as well as a brilliant photographer, started working on that piece in his studio. He treated it with protective varnish to keep it from cracking or splitting, then he mounted it onto a thick slab of black marble for balance and stability. He painstakingly attached a small clear crystal bead to the tip of each delicate branch until the whole tree was covered with them.

I wish you could see this tree sculpture in real life—it’s a gorgeous work of art. It stands about two and a half feet high on my mom’s mantelpiece; the little crystal tips catch light from all over the room and reflect it back in exquisite patterns.

Ray said he wept while attaching the beads; each one was like a treasured memory of my dad. The sculpture was a gift of inexpressible love–for my mom, and for my dad, too I believe. My mom received this gift like grace—an undeserved act of selfless love—and it heals a tiny part of her broken heart whenever she looks at it.

In our creativity, I believe there’s a sacredness—an eternal element—to the things we do that involve pouring out our gifts for others. We give all we have and all we are to the creative work because we know it is our best and deepest expression of love. When we create for the sake of comforting or encouraging or bringing beauty into someone else’s life, the work we do stretches beyond the finite boundaries of what we’d imagined for it.

Excerpted from my book “Flourish” 2014