Notes from a Tree/13

From my notes: September 10, 2013.

A family out for a stroll, the day before the elderly lady’s 85th birthday.

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out for a stroll

At 84, going on 85, I don’t suppose you take any prisoners.

When I told her, in answer to her query, that I was a leopard, she said,

“Well, you’re not a very good one.”

I flinched silently, and made my apologies.

She took some photographs of me, anyway – the Not Very Good Leopard – on her compact camera.

Henceforth, I rename my blog:-

Not a Very Good Leopard in Didsbury

The taller man in the middle of the photo came to the rescue, prompting his mother(?) to tell me how, when she was a little girl of eight years old, the circus came to town.  She had watched excitedly as an elephant was led off the train at East Didsbury and down the ramp to the main road.

I have searched on the internet, but was unable to find an image of that remarkable sight.  I wish I had seen it.

Here, instead, is a picture of a circus elephant for you to colour in.

elephant_act

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Notes from a Tree/12

A bud in September (a budding September,

two-thousand and thirteen) –

delicate, yet sturdy

soft, green and furry

tempting

inquisitive

fingertips:

“Touch me.”

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The tree

– like the whole garden –

is a riot of vigorous green

like an orchestra

boisterous

clamouring

bursting towards my camera

willing me to capture it.

I try to.

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a riot of vigorous green

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boisterous, clamouring…

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bursting towards my camera

 

I am obsessed with this tree

obsessed with the shapes of its branches

which I photograph from every angle.

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the shapes of its branches

And the spaces in between its dancer’s gesturing arms

draw me

like Alice’s looking-glass.

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The spaces in between its arms

Notes from a Tree/11

On the third of September last year, I found bird poo on my favourite branch of the magnolia tree.  I wondered who had dared to soil my perch: a magpie? One of the parakeets I’d heard cheeping their way across the sky the day before? Probably a pigeon, by the size of it.  I dabbed at it disgustedly with a tissue, before lying on it.  

Probably a pigeon

Probably a pigeon

Later, I sat in a fork of the tree, watching children cartwheeling and taking faltering, upside-down steps on their hands across a patch of lawn not far from me.

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I sat in a fork of the tree…

When they ran off, disappearing from view, I heard them calling to one another as they climbed the crooked and bent old laburnum. I growled loudly to deter them, but they didn’t hear me.  I need to practise my growling.

 

Notes from a Tree/10

In the absence of my leopard-self, I return to typing up notes from my sketch book:-

On the third of September

from up in my tree

I spied on a woman in a blue jacket reading my sign.

“Hello!” I called, as leopards are wont to do, in these parts.

She looked up,

spotted me through the leaves

and apologised to me several times.

I didn’t know what for.

So I took a photo of her.

Later, I treated it with a watercolour filter in Photoshop

to conceal her identity –

and then another one called ‘Paint Daubs’ –

because I felt as if I wanted to protect her.

Not that I know much about filters in Photoshop.

Nor protecting people, for that matter.

Being a leopard, and all.

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I felt as if I wanted to protect her

Notes from a Tree/09

December it may be

But I still have some catching up to do.

All summer long, my beloved Jolly accompanied to the gardens, and waited – down on the ground – while I did my stint as a leopard in a tree.

I’d get up when I felt like it, have breakfast, take a shower, get dressed. We’d walk to the Parsonage the long way round, along the river.  The sun shone.  A bag swung from my hand.  Inside was some food for me, some food for Jolly, a plastic bowl to put water in for him, and my leopard onesie.  I thought, “This is the life.”

My beloved Jolly

My beloved Jolly

Notes from a Tree/08

A different view

A different view

In August, I climbed higher than I had dared before

and earned myself a different view,

including one or two last

shy

magnolia

flowers

hiding

(out of my reach) – whose

siblings lay in petals

scattered on the ground.

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…petals scattered on the ground

Mid-month, the wind blew strongly

enough to make the boughs sway – and me with them.

It was a distinctly

unnerving

experience, and I clung on for

dear life (as did my new friends, the remaining magnolias).

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An unnerving experience

I  wondered what to do with the photographs I had started taking of the people who passed below.  Perhaps I would put them in a gallery called ‘Human Traffic’

– but what of the dogs and occasional wildlife I snapped?  Hmm.  

‘Non-Leopard Sightings’, or

‘Human Traffic (and Other Beasties)’

maybe.  

Divided into two categories:

‘Those Who Did’ and ‘Those Who Didn’t’ (notice me, that is).

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…notice me, that is.

Notes from a Tree/06

Here’s a drawing I made in my sketchbook during the last days of the exhibition. I’m looking down at the base of the tree, where it forks just above ground level.  It was difficult to convey the perspective.

Looking down at the base of the tree

Looking down at the base of the tree

As the end of the show drew closer, I felt sad at the thought of not being able to climb the magnolia tree any more (I did so, for those two weeks, by special permission).  It had been such a rich and unusual experience.  These are some of the things I gained from my performance:-

It brought me closer to nature.  Literally.  I had to hug the tree and wrap my limbs around it in order not to fall out.  I climbed barefoot, loving the feel of tree bark on the soles of my feet and against the palms of my hands and the tips of my fingers; loving the sensation of climbing, moving all four limbs in harmony, like an animal.

It showed me another perspective: that of an animal, a hunter in repose, watching the movements of others as they passed beneath me, or sat down to rest themselves, not knowing I was there.

It slowed down the pace of my life and my thoughts.  It gave me t-i-m-e to think, have ideas, make notes, draw, write poetree, etc.

It tickled me, it genuinely did.  It made me smile: here I was, putting myself on show in a public place, in such an absurd way – and unless I called out, most people passed by without noticing.  Bizarre!

I had some wonderful conversations with some of the people who did notice me.

A lady called Marguerite in conversation with a Leopard in Didsbury

A lady called Marguerite in conversation with a leopard (in Didsbury)

I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on my life, on the meaning of my performance, on the purposes of art… and on what I might have for dinner.

It brought me into the present moment, with its sunshine/cloud, birdsong, voices, next door’s lawnmower, aeroplanes overhead, summer breezes and so on.

It gave me a welcome break from phone calls, emails, text messages and facebook.  (I don’t do twitter. Whoever heard of a leopard tweeting?)

It was a bit like staging a personal, peaceful, one-woman protest against a world full of noise, technology, and bad news.

It gave me an excuse to do something socially unacceptable without being branded mentally ill.

Last in this list, but not least: it introduced me to some wonderful artists (my fellow exhibitors) and their work.

No wonder I didn’t want it to end.

Notes from a Tree/04

From my notebook, dated 14th July 2013

The hot weather endures.

I endure

Saddle-sore discomfort,

grazed feet and ankles –

the results of my clumsiness when climbing.

Being overlooked (underlooked –  Look Up!  Look Up!) and then:

“Why is she up there, Mummy?”

Little girl bright in a yellow cardigan

with dark brown eyes.

“Why is she up there, Mummy?”

Mummy takes little girl by the hand, bends over her, low

Her voice is hushed –

Mummy probably doesn’t know, either.

A Weimaraner, my best visitor yet,

Jumping up to try and reach my toes and

Falling, rolling over on its back as it lands on the grass

Blue eyes turned up to me, perched on my bough

Its ears falling back

WHAT’S THAT???!!!

Unlike a squirrel, and unlike a cat.

I decide I really ought to have my camera at the ready, at all times.