It was our last day together. He said to me: “I have a present for you.”
Present! I love presents! I carefully opened the envelope because the contents seemed fragile.
Every time I get a present, the size or value makes no difference, it’s always special.
I feel a little tingle in my stomach and all over.
I love everything about the surprise, checking out the size, shape and weight of the package. And asking, “What is ittt?” It’s possible to learn a lot about a person by analyzing how they answer this question.
From Alaska to the middle of the United States I fell in love with a type of tree of the Betula family that is commonly known as “birch bark”. The bark of these trees has hundreds of popular uses dating from prehistory times due to its ability to repel and resist water.
They are also lovely and the trunk shines like silk.
A Birch tree with its bark being removed to make baskets. (Photo from this website)
While in Alaska, a park ranger said to me, “They’re very useful, they catch fire very easily! They’re great to light a fire.”
In the north of Montana, in Kalispell, Bob, the volunteer guide at the city museum, said that, in the past, because of the lack of paper it was very common for people to write small notes and letters on the bark of these trees.
Bob, a volunteer at the Kalispell museum who explained everything about traditional uses of Birch Bark.
He also sent me a note written on Birch Bark! Just like in the old times!
In Glacier National Park I saw dozens on the shore of MacDonald Lake and I kept a piece of “birch bark” for days because of how beautiful the markings and colors were. When it peels off the tree naturally, the strips fall to the ground in large coils.
Back to my present, when I opened the envelope I couldn’t believe it!
It was a group of the trees from the middle of summer painted on a piece of “birch bark”
My heart beat faster! What a beautiful thing!
I was still speechless when he said: “But you can’t keep it.”
“What do you mean?!?!” I responded, indignant and already attached to my new treasure.
“It’s yours but you can’t keep it…”
I got really confused. Was it that he was going to keep it for me?
My expression must have given me away and he continued: “I want you to attach not to the art but to the artist. You can always have as many as you want…”
“…But my present… What am I going to do with it…” and I held my treasure even more tightly.
“You’re going to leave it in the desert,” he stated.
It took me weeks to digest this idea and reluctantly, I agreed.
To detach from something that no longer serves us is easy. You see the benefit of letting go of something that doesn’t serve you any longer and that will go to someone who will make better use of it.
But letting go of something you like, use and hold dear, is a difficult exercise.
And it wasn’t easy leaving my treasure behind. First I tried to leave it at the feet of the sculpture “Seven Magic Mountains” in the desert of Nevada. There were people around and I felt unsure.
Seven Magic Mountains, a sculpture by Ugo Rondidone, south of Las Vegas, the first place I thought I’d leave my treasure…
Seven Magic Mountains, (Ugo Rondidone)
Further along, in the Mojave desert, I wanted to leave it under a beautiful cactus, but the Mojave was giving me such a hard time that I didn’t want to leave my treasure there.
Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert (Mojave National Preserve)
…but the Mojave was being so hard and complicated for me that I didn’t want to leave the envelope there.
In Joshua Tree National Park I ended up leaving it under a Joshua tree right at the top of the highest point of the road, but later I went back and got it.
Joshua Tree National Park, again I left the envelope at the foot of the plant, but I went back and got it. It still wasn’t the perfect place.
Days later I was riding through the Missions hills, already in Mexico, and I saw an abandoned chapel. That was it!
I decided to write a note for whoever would find the envelope. It was really hard to leave that really beautiful present but after I did, I felt the artist was closer to me.
Finally, already in Mexico, around a curve in the road, Baja California, I saw the perfect place!
An abandoned chapel, it was there I left my treasure.