Judy Spahn is a remarkable maker of fine quilts, all hand pieced and quilted. She lives on a large acreage in the lake country of Arkansas and finds peace and delight in her environment. I’m always enchanted by the significance she finds in the small elements of her surroundings. I'm honored to be her friend and delighted to share this writing from her.
Today, while returning from taking a few pine seedlings to my neighbor to plant, I stopped along a piece of land that will soon be mine, inherited from my mother, who only recently passed away. This fence row has been neglected for a long time and has grown up with cedars, sumac, Greenbriar and every other assortment of roadside abandonment.
I was only pondering how hard it would be to clean all this out when I noticed one tree in particular had huge, nasty thorn spikes. The locust, while admired in some instances, is NOT a tree that should be allowed to grow just anywhere. The thorns can injure animals and poke holes in tires. So, I decided that the moment was right to start my fence clearing, even if it was just this one tree.
I waded into the tall grass, knowing it contained ticks and chiggers, which I abhor, for I was determined. With only hand clippers and a small chain saw, I proceeded to dive into the task at hand, neatly stacking the limbs with single thorns, into a pile. Only after I had removed a covering of greenbriar was I able to reach the trunk of this tree where I noticed the thorns were multi-spiked and dark red in color. They were gorgeous and nasty looking, simultaneously.
I clipped them off, thinking I'll save these and also keep them from injuring me, inadvertently, as well.Then on to sawing the tree down and clearing out all the debris. Returning home and putting away my tools, I stashed my new thorns into the china cupboard, atop the robin’s eggs and nest that were inside my mother's antique bowl, and next to the deceased butterflies and the dried mushrooms I'm often finding and saving. All my treasures, both natural and man-made seem to be quite happy together in this glass fronted cupboard.
Only several days later, when I was taking photos, did I think to bring out my thorns so I could save their image. The bowl with the nest of eggs seemed, somehow, to work perfectly with the thorns, so that is how I photographed them. Even later, after looking at the resulting photo did the composition strike me as having a bigger meaning...a message almost....that was saying something to me.
I felt that somehow, the photo with the eggs and the thorns, cuddled into the nest, captured the way life is a two edged sword. Life is so amazingly full of blessings and new life, but also fraught with dark, pain, disappointment, illness....the dangers, the fears. But, as with these thorns, being so beautiful in their undisturbed state, there is still something that dark and sad events bring to our lives that make it important. I think we all know this, but it is not always acknowledged....or even felt until some tragedy happens and we have to work our way through it.
The thorns remind me of the pain of my mother's passing....sharp and acute. But, the beauty of the thorns was also there, reminding me that in life, there is balance of joy and beauty along with pain.
Here in this photo were these tangible objects that reflected my own turbulent emotions. Loss of someone I so dearly loved and my own new feelings of returning to the joys of life,....the "thorns" amongst the "eggs".....the difficult mingled with the joys.....all of this is LIFE.