Art, Poetry, Music, and Nature for the New Year
Wednesday, January 13 2021
The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. 1 Corinthians 12:7–11
Too large to carry outdoors, this dark oil painting of the Forest Fontainebleau is more than eight feet wide and was worked on by Théodore Rousseau for over two decades, being left unfinished when he died. It is true to its title—The Forest in Winter at Sunset—and reveals Rousseau’s deep love for the woods. Whether you go over to the Skokie Lagoon to hike in the winter, or the Botanic Garden, or Harms Woods just west of the mall, if you find yourself face to face with the woods at sunset, you know the leafless trees can in fact take on this shadowy quality as the red-orange glow of the setting sun fades dark from view.
In 1849, the newly completed French railway extended out beyond the cities carrying day-travelers out to the forests in search of the rich proximity to the immense, dense old growth trees. But the railway brought logging as well, and so Theodore Rousseau—in love with the woods—took it upon himself to petition Napoleon III, saying, “I ask you for protection for these old trees, which for artists, are the source so much. They derive their inspiration, their joy, and their future, which are for all visitors, venerable souvenirs of ages past.” Surprisingly Napoleon III said yes to this request and Fontainebleau became the world’s first nature preserve. I guess, here’s the point: do not take our forest preserves for granted. Put on your wool socks, hiking boots, warmest scarf, and take a hike.
O God of ancient forest and setting sun, open us to the gift of the winter woods. Amen.