Fiery Beginnings: Germination by Katherine McDaniel

Some trees require fire to germinate their seeds and begin their life. Is there a metaphor here for human creativity?

Public Domain Image via Pixabay
Public Domain Image via Pixabay

For much of the last century, Americans sought to prevent forest fires, unaware that the seeds of many forest trees require fire to germinate. The result is that, in most places, the great trees have not reproduced, but the forest floor has filled in with smaller plants and scrub, as well as the skeletons of old trees as they grow old and fall. In protecting the forest ecosystem from adversity, we were creating a weak forest. In addition to being old and sickly, these forests burn uncontrollably when they do catch fire, because fire takes out the undergrowth first, using the the dry wood of dead trees as kindling.

This picture, Germination, is my first canvas. The photo is a decent representation, although I don’t have the technology to capture the texture and shading properly. It’s a different experience using brushes and colored paints rather than pencil, but it was fun to explore. I paint the same way I draw, automatically, just following what my hand does with my eye. I chose the colors I would use, prepped the canvas and started with nothing in my head. Experimenting with brushes was fascinating, and the process of blending colors was eye opening and wonderful, allowing tone and shading. The paint used here is acrylic and the canvas was something I found in a closet from a project that didn’t turn out. From small beginnings come new things.

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Germination,  © Katherine McDaniel, synkronciti, 2014

One of things that impressed me about painting was that, often I would get an edge or a combination that pleased me, only to have that element deleted as I added another color. In the end I was pleased with the piece overall, and I realized that those tiny touches that I had so exulted in were actually holding back the entire painting. I know have done this in life–been so pleased with the way that I sang or performed some detail that I missed the wholeness of what I was doing. Have you ever felt that?

After I paint I try to decipher what I have made. If you look at the left side of Germination, you will see order, featuring seedpods and flowers, while the right is chaotic, featuring fire. There is a shape angling out from the three ovoid seedpods that reminds me of a woman wearing a skirt, with a large seed pod on that skirt. Hugging her body are the roots of a tree, which lies between the ordered and disordered zones of the painting. The tree is burning, holding back a spectacular firestorm from the seedpods. In the right hand corner is something that looks like an animal made of flame. The skirt and the seedpod have caught fire from the head or the tail of this beast, but the conflagration quietly peters out into a gentle hue as it reaches the flowers on the left side of the picture.

To me, this picture speaks of the unity of human beings with nature and the necessity of fire and death. Sometimes we want happiness so desperately that we insulate ourselves and our children from the pain of being human. Remind yourself and those you love that it is okay to be unhappy, to hurt, to experience death. When we hold it all together for others, we invite the wildfire to consume us and take those around us too.

It is the fiery chaos that makes the ordered life possible, and the ordered life that gives the fiery chaos meaning. Beginnings do not just happen. Space has to be cleared and heat applied for new life to begin.

What do you see? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.



1 thought on “Fiery Beginnings: Germination by Katherine McDaniel

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