Into the Cloud Forest – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
“You ask why I make my home in the mountain forest, and I smile, and am silent, and even my soul remains quiet: it lives in the other world which no one owns.” [Li Po, Tang Dynasty Poet]
These ancient words reflect sentiments of indigenous forest dwellers, whose homes and livelihoods are intricately connected to forests who no one owns. Yet across the world we see the destruction that ownership brings, from deforestation of the Amazon rainforests, to forests destroyed by wildfires across Australia, and loss of the Congo forests. There is loss of home for many species – no longer is there the ‘quiet’ idyll that poets once felt, but a collective ‘disquiet’ of the soul.
In Search for the Lost Mangroves – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
“These black bush-waters, heavy with crusted boughs
Like plumes above dead captains, wake the mind …
Uncounted kissing, unremembered vows,
Nights long forgotten, moons too dark to find..” [From the poem ‘Mangrove’, by Kenneth Slessor 1944]
Mangrove forests are crucially important for ecosystems. Mangrove trees grow in costal saline or brackish water, and occur worldwide in tropical regions in Asia, Africa, North/Central America, Oceania and South America. They are among the planet’s best carbon absorbers as they move carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in greater quantities than other forests. The destruction of these magnificent forests (around 35% of the world’s mangroves have already gone) is both a severe threat to the ecosystem as well as to wellbeing of people and animals.
Mist of Mountain Forest – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
Once home of the Chinese pandas. The Chinese poem by Tang Dynasty poet Du Mu captures the feeling of the forest rain clearing from the mountains as the sage listens to the message of the mountain forest, of difficult truths of a man-made destruction that are hard to bear.
Entering into Mountain Forest I am in misty hue,
Melody of water beneath this bridge flows stream of blue,
In old age old tunes flow to aged ear,
Yet this time I listen to truth I cannot bear to hear*. © Omay Lee 2019
Ode to the Blossom Tree – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
How in these troubled times can we revitalise what has been lost by nourishing the roots and wellspring of grace within ourselves? From such desecration, may the blossom trees bloom once more.
Forest Dusk – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
So silent is the sessile air,
That every cry and call,
Through layered shrub and forest fair,
Again repeats them all.
Beyond the silence, what might one discern from deep listening to the language of the forest and all the wisdom that it might offer?
The Crooked Forest – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
“When you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.” ~ Ram Dass
A Walk in the Woods – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
This painting was inspired by the poem “How I go to the woods” – by Mary Oliver [from Swan: Poems and Prose Poems] :
“Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable. I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of praying, as you no doubt have yours. Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing. If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much – Mary Oliver”
Finding the Breath – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2020
Finding the meditative breath of the forest during troubled times.
The trees are our lungs, the rivers our circulation, the air our breath, and the earth our body ~ Deepak Chopra
Lungs of the Earth – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2020
With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love ~ Rumi
Particulate air pollution in the atmosphere is damaging our health as well as the health of all life on the earth. The lungs of the earth are collapsing. How to restore our capacity to love the earth, and thus breathe and to give life once more?