Less Is More

Leslie Rego, “Pine Cone Study,” pencil.


Leslie Rego, “Pine Cone Study,” pencil.

I am hiking through a forest strewn with pine cones. Hundreds surround me. In some places they are inches deep.

The forest is quiet, except for the soft crackle of the cones as they shift position. I pick one up. It is from the Douglas fir tree. Sharp three-pointed bracts protrude between the overlapping scales. Each scale makes a half-circle cup. The inside of the cup is sienna in color; the outside, a light brown. The scales spiral diagonally until they reach the tightly coiled tip, where several bracts poke out.

Nature can be like a Japanese haiku poem. Less can be perfect. Beauty need not be on a large scale.

There are majestic views on top of a mountain and also of small treasures one can hold in the palm of the hand. The cone in my palm has burn marks on its tip, which tells me it has been lying on the ground for many years, since a fire in 2001.

I wrap my fingers around the perimeter and make my way to the top of the ridge. I am standing with a 360-degree view and yet the pine cone holds my attention. I glance up and see eight overlapping mountain ridges receding into the distance. They appear like the overlapping scales on the cone. Nature repeats itself.

Looking around some more, I see the withered leaves of arrowleaf balsamroot. The edges of the leaves curl inwards, some so tightly they spiral around the center vein of the leaf. Nature is repeating itself. On the ground by my feet is a sagebrush root. The root twists, spiraling around a center axis. Nature, again, is repeating itself.

I return to the conifer forest. Scores of cones stretch before me. I am not sure why I chose this particular one, but I am sure I will place it in my treasure box of natural items. The little gem speaks to me of bygone times.

I think of Pete Seeger, an American folk singer. “Shhh,” he whispered. “Listen to the sounds that surround you. Notice the pitches, the volume, the timbre, the many lines of counterpoint. As light taught Monet to paint, the earth may be teaching you music.”


Leslie Rego is an Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist, artist and Blaine County resident. To view more of Regos art, visit www.leslierego.com.