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I have loved this little tree for many years. Madrones are beautiful trees with red, exfoliating bark, elegant twisting branches, and bright green foliage. They are truly wild things: difficult to cultivate, they resent being transplanted and will sicken when watered with treated city water. Madrones have to be appreciated as and where encountered, on their own terms.
This particular madrone inhabited the edge of a scenic pull-out in Big Bend National Park. I always looked forward to sighting my old friend as I neared the end of my 10 hour drive from Austin to Big Bend. Because I only make it to the park every year or two I was not there to witness its final struggle as another victim of the Texas drought.
Its dead remains, still standing in the spot by the pull-out, were a shock to me when I visited in the fall of 2012. Even in death the tree was an elegant natural sculpture, standing as a decaying witness to the losses of drought and climate change. Friends who have recently visited the park tell me it is still standing there, quietly disintegrating into the landscape.
The image of the Dead Madrone finally made its way into a painting in the fall of 2013. Recently, I have finished a second Dead Madrone, and a third is in progress.
Update: the third painting , "The Dead Madrone III" has been completed.
Marsha Reeves is a watercolor painter living in Kerrville, Texas