Under the Clootie tree

When I visited London earlier this year I went to see the 2015 BP Portrait Award Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It is the UK equivalent of Australia’s Archibald Prize Exhibition. The portraits on show were of an exceptional quality, as one would expect from an exhibition at this level.

One of the portraits that particularly caught my eye is called “Under the Clootie tree”, by a young female artist, Lyndsey Jameson. The painting depicts a glum-looking young girl sitting by the trunk of a tree. Colourful strips of material which are tied to the tree’s lower branches are blowing in the breeze.

The artist’s statement reads:

 The portrait is of the artist’s niece … ‘Clootie’ is a Scottish term for a strip or rag of cloth. Here, each once brightly coloured strip represents a particular wish that will fade over time … The portrait considers the hopefulness of youth and subsequent disappointment.

This painting got me thinking about my own childhood. Unlike the girl under the Clootie tree, I do not think that I had any specific hopes or wishes which had faded over the years through disappointment. What strikes me now, though, is that at her age I was in such blissful ignorance of what lie ahead for me over the next six decades.

It is just as well that one’s life unfolds day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to visit a fortune teller because they are keen to know what the future holds for them. It is hard enough to deal with life on a day by day basis without knowing what lies ahead.

Looking back over the sixty-nine years of my life I can recall a great many happy and enjoyable times, but there were also occasions of intense physical and emotional suffering, depression and unbearable stress. Such really bad times are sprinkled through virtually every person’s life. On occasion I have found life so unbearable that I have simply longed for sweet oblivion. Then I had to force myself to take life one day at a time and to look no further ahead than to the end of each day, knowing that all things must pass.

This morning there were some children in the playground that I pass on my daily walk along the Diamond Creek. None of these littlies have any idea of what lies ahead for them in the years to come, I thought, nor do they have any inkling that there will inevitably be some very bitter times, along with the good.

I did the only thing that I could in these circumstances. I silently wished them well on their journey through the years.

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