No, I'm not speaking of the classic soul singing of Marvin Gaye. Instead, my reference is about witness trees.
This past summer and fall, I visited Fredericksburg, Virginia. Fredericksburg is filled with history. Visiting Chatham, in Fredericksburg was a must in my quest for finding historic and amazing trees.
Chatham Manor is the only private home visited by both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Clara Barton and Walt Whitman also visited when Chatham was used as a civil war hospital.
Many trees on the land surrounding the home are designated as witness trees. Witness trees are trees that were living during the Civil War. None are quite as interesting as the catalpa trees at Chatham. At least 200 years old, they are located in the yard facing the Rappahannock River, very close to the home. Legend has it that when doctors were amputating limbs from soldiers, there was no time to waste, and the arms and legs were thrown out the window of the home onto the lawn. The Catalpa trees seem to have captured in their trunks the horrible pain that the soldiers endured.
For my next painting of historic and amazing trees, I have begun Catalpa-1810 to remember the pain of our Civil War, and to celebrate the survival of the country and the survival of some magnificent witnesses. I am also celebrating my love for trees.
Catalpa Tree at Chatham Manor in Fredericksburg, Virginia
A leaf of the catalpa tree. It looks like a heart, doesn't it?
The start of my painting.