A large part of this fall issue, as is our tradition, is devoted to a celebration of the arts.
The In the face of great tragedies, it is often not science but literature that strikes to the heart of the matter. And so, in our choice of headline for the story on the tragedy befalling so many of our native trees, we turned to literature. As many of you will recognize, we appropriated “The Beautiful and Damned” from the title of a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I first wrote the words down, I wanted to add a second “the,” but realized that was the rhythm of another title, Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead – which, as it sadly happens, would also have been an appropriate headline.
Our art director Kim van Oosterom suggested the cover line, the title of a poem by Maya Angelou: “When great trees fall, / rocks on distant hills shudder … When great souls die and / our reality, bound to / them, takes leave of us …”
In his feature on the blights that are felling our ash, beech and butternut trees, Don Scallen recalls the skeletal elms of his childhood. I am older than Don, and my recollection is of those giants in full and noble glory. But I also recall driving in the countryside with my father, a nature lover, who told me that the tall, straight-trunked, umbrella-shaped trees that strode the roadsides with such assurance would soon all disappear. I couldn’t credit it. But disappear they did, and are now for me no more than a misty childhood dreamscape I can no longer describe with confidence. Finding truth in the reality that has taken leave of us is the task of poets.
But literary and other arts serve us not only in tragedy and loss, but also in joy – in all those moments when some greater emotion cannot be expressed by our quotidian vocabulary, or perhaps not by language at all.
And so a large part of this fall issue, as is our tradition, is devoted to a celebration of the arts. There is our annual preview of the Headwaters Arts Festival show, an interview with Gail Prussky whose art fearlessly plumbs the deep recesses of imagination, and a visit to Community Living Dufferin where a progressive arts program is opening exciting new forms of expression for people with disabilities.
Art is long, the saying goes. Trees, too, ought to outlive us – offering, as art does, the comfort of continuance beyond our own brief lives. But these coming months may be one of the last best times in our lifetime to see many of them in full splendour. So take a walk in the woods this fall and, to paraphrase another poet, “Gather ye autumn leaves while ye may.”