Bonnie Peterson, Greg Pape
Bitter Root
mixed media
42" x 40"
(Photo: Tom Van Endye)

for interview with Bonnie,
click here

For The Traveling Tree From the Bitterroot

In Montana or far away in Washington D.C.
what is a tree but a witness to time
and wind with its own way of weathering?

We cut them down and turn them into walls
to keep out wind, something to hang our hopes on
in Montana or far away in Washington D.C.

Once a year we bring one inside
to smell the fragrance of the mountains
and remember the forest’s way of weathering.

We hang our hopes on the tree,
sing to it, pray to it, and it almost seems to listen
in Washington D.C. or far away in Montana.

At night by the lights we hung on the tree
someone will look long at bells, stars, glass
ornaments glittering, and remember ways of weathering,

how the year waits to be reborn,
how our hopes sometimes shine in the dark
like frost or snow on tree limbs weathering
in Washington D.C. or far away in Montana.

                                                -- Greg Pape
                                                                 COLLABORATIVE STATEMENT
                                                           excerpts from correspondence between
                                                        Artist Bonnie Peterson and Poet Greg Pape

Peterson:  “I got your book American Flamingo from the library and enjoyed your references to the
outdoors & children…”

Pape: “The national or capitol Christmas tree will be selected and cut from the Bitterroot National Forest,
here in Montana, not far from my home.  As Montana Poet Laureate I’ve been asked to write a poem for
the occasion.  After looking at your marvelous work, I noticed several elements that might lead to a more
collaborative work.  I’m thinking about your use of maps and photographic transfers, your interest in wild
places, and I thought we might work up something around the subject of the national Christmas tree.  This
tree will be part of a national Christmas celebration just as G. W. Bush is on his way out as a lame duck,
and some new president is about to take office—the first black man, or the first woman, I hope.  I see that
you’ve done work that focuses on Iraq and other politically charged subjects.  Maybe we could do
something that honors the tree, the place where it grew, and the place and moment in history toward
which it’s headed?  I have written a short poem, a villanelle entitled ‘For the Traveling Tree from the
Bitterroot.’  I could send you maps, photos, etc.”

Peterson:  “Usually I would criticize cutting down a mighty tree . . . a mighty tree . . . could carry the hopes
of so many, so far.”