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Spiritual journeys

cumminslithering3I wanted to get to the Schuylkill Valley Nature Center before the summer heat became unbearable, so I dashed there yesterday between a couple of errands. But as soon as I hit the place, the gravel road forced me to slow down to 15 miles per hour.


Still rushing, I took a look at SVNC artist-in-residence Knox Cummin’s three pieces inside the main building, called “The Dearly Departed Suite.”

These indoor pieces are only up until the 7th, but the outside pieces will remain at least through the summer.

cumminrestingwithguardiansMy favorite in the group was “Resting With Guardians” (left), but all three seemed about spirits departing this life, the roughness of the wood retaining more of life’s juices–and more grief stricken–than if it had been more polished. The pods on long arched sticks seemed to be cracked open and human.


They made me think of Fritz Dietel’s pods (see post on Dietel).

The pieces slowed me down, bringing me to thoughts of my past week with a number of mourning rituals.

Into the woods

Then I ventured into the woods, heading for his bird blind, “Slithering” (could this be a Harry Potter influence?). Because I am directionally challenged, I attended to my instructions and my map and my bearings with infinite care, and for a change I didn’t get lost.

The bird blind (at top, above left and below right), which is set into the side of a ravine, undulated and fit back against the land, with benches inside and scales of bark on the outside.

cumminslitheringThe view of the sky and the land through the grid of wood was spectacular. I saw a wonderful hawk, but I was so excited, I pressed the off button instead of the shutter button on my camera and missed the photo op. The other birds I could only hear.

Nearby in the ravine were some pieces by students who worked with Cummin and their teacher at the Green Woods Charter School at SVNC.

cummin2boatsandbowlCummin had several other pieces outside, including a group of three vessels–two boats and a bowl (from left to right, “Two-Bowed Boat,” “Longboat” and “Bowl”). Like “Resting With the Guardians,” the two boats are made from hurricane cherry. “Bowl” is from hurricane poplar.

cumminblowlandlongboatAgain, the pieces have a life’s or soul’s journey feel about them, partly because of their size, and partly because they are metaphoric vessels, with no real function. The roughness of the work implied an eagerness in their manufacture, a desire to express the feelings immediately and get on with the soul’s journey.

schuylkillvalleywoodsI missed one piece, appropriately called “It Got Away,” but three more boats, “Three Departing Boats,” these with masts, right in front of the main building seemed sad to be leaving, just like me. I do confess that, because one of them had three masts, and because there were three, I did think of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

Returning to civilization (well, the woods seemed more civilized than my life), I once again crossed the gravel at 15 mph, but on the way out, it seemed fast enough for any human.