Painting the Woods: Nature, Memory, and Metaphor
When first-time author and artist Deborah Paris stepped into Lennox Woods, an old-growth southern hardwood forest in northeast Texas, she felt a disruption that was both spatial and temporal. Walking the remnants of an old wagon trail past ancient stands of pine, white oak, elm, hickory, sweetgum, maple, hornbeam, and red oak, she felt drawn into a reverie that took her back to “the beginning, both physically and metaphorically.”
Painting the Woods: Nature, Memory and Metaphor explores the experience of landscape through the lens of art and art-making. It is a place-based meditation on nature, art, memory, and time, grounded in Paris’s experiences over the course of a year in Lennox Woods. Her account unfolds through the twin arcs of the changing seasons and her creative process as a landscape painter. In the tradition of Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, narrative passages interweave with observations about the natural history of Lennox Woods, its flora and fauna, art history, the science of memory, Transcendentalist philosophy, the role of metaphor in creative work, and even loop quantum gravity theory.
Each chapter explores a different aspect of the forest and a different step in the art-making process, illuminating our connection to the natural world through language, comprehension of time, and visual depictions of the landscape. The complex layers of the forest and Paris’s journey through it emerge as metaphors for the larger themes of the book, just as the natural world underpins the art-making drawn from it. Like the trail that winds through Lennox Woods, memory and time intertwine to provide a path for understanding nature, art, and our relationship to both.