The Holy Tree, by D. M. Norsworthy



"The Holy Tree" (mandala) by D. M. Norsworthy.  $350.00

16" diameter 2-dimensional wall piece. Mixed media: mosaic paper collage, scrap metal, twig, bonded to substrate of discarded cds, finished with polyurethane varnish. Hanger fixed on back. Price: $350.00.


“Beloved, gaze in thine own heart/The holy tree is growing there.”   These lines, the first two from William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Two Trees,” appear handwritten on the face of the mandala. It is fitting, and not at all accidental, that I should incorporate these words into a piece of art, for ever since I discovered this poem in 1993, its wisdom has mentored me as an artist and human being. The mandala itself, in its process of becoming, was an exercise in “gazing in my own heart” and trusting what would come of that endeavor.

I created the central part of the mandala during a trip to New Orleans, using only materials I found there during my stay. Thus, the central part of the mandala incorporates a piece of metal I found on Julia Street, a twig, paper cut from a promotional brochure (including a programming grid), and even parts of a hotel napkin. A year later I incorporated the completed “New Orleans” collage into the larger mandala setting. The rays of the mandala stem from a center that is off-center.

People sometimes ask if I plan out a piece before executing it. Although I do often lay down some structure, such as the off-centerpoint from which the lines radiate in this mandala, when I create a piece of art I am involved from start to finish in a dialogue in which I frequently pull back, look at what I have already laid down, and decide how to proceed in response to that. Thus each piece of artwork evolves, but no two pieces in exactly the same way. Sometimes a piece turns out quite differently than I had expected or hoped, and it takes me awhile to get used to it. The balance of “The Holy Tree” is very informal compared to some of my other mandalas. But it is balanced, and I have come to appreciate its unexpectedness, the juxtapositions of its odd materials, and the quietness of its earth-color scheme enlivened by interjections of strong colors. There is something of my own personality that has come through in “The Holy Tree” and although I was initially surprised by it, I have grown to recognize the truth and validity of what it presents.

Below is the first stanza of “The Two Trees,” by William Butler Yeats:

“Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.
The changing colours of its fruit
Have dowered the stars with merry light;
The surety of its hidden root
Has planted quiet in the night;
The shaking of its leafy head
Has given the waves their melody,
And made my lips and music wed,
Murmuring a wizard song for thee.
There the Loves a circle go,
The flaming circle of our days,
Gyring, spiring to and fro
In those great ignorant leafy ways;
Remembering all the shaken hair
And how the winged sandals dart,
Thine eyes grow full of tender care:
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.”

Yeats goes on, in the second of the two stanzas, to offer the cautionary part of the poem, the negative of what he presented in the first stanza. Here, the first five lines of that stanza well-communicate the warning:

“Gaze no more in the bitter glass
The demons, with their subtle guile,
Lift up before us when they pass,
Or only gaze a little while;
For there a fatal image grows. . . .”

Here I have shared words that have helped me to live with increased peace, fulfillment, integrity, and creativity.

Yeats excerpts taken from The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats: A New Edition. Edited by Richard J. Finneran. (New York: Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1989), pp. 48, 49.


1 Comment

  1. Hmmmmm….
    I once wrote a paper on this stanza of Yeats’s “Vacillation.”

    A tree there is that from its topmost bough
    Is half all glittering flame and half all green
    Abounding foliage moistened with the dew;
    And half is half and yet is all the scene;
    And half and half consume what they renew,
    And he that Attis’ image hangs between
    That staring fury and the blind lush leaf
    May know not what he knows, but knows not grief

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