trees & displacement

i always remember the trees when i feel i am in trouble. if i feel as though i am in some sort of mid-life mid-life ‘crisis’ – i look to trees for comfort. i have been doing this for almost three years. it all started in Seattle on one rainy drive home from work. i remember looking at some evergreens and feeling an overwhelming sense of calm. trees are so grounded. their roots reach deeply into the soil and hold them up, even against the strongest gusts of wind that grace the pacific northwest from time to time. from there, i learned to look at the sky and its colors and clouds and shapes. living in a city like San Francisco or New York, i am not surrounded by trees like i was back in Seattle, so i have been spending a lot of my time gazing at the sky from my roof. morning, noon, and night. before work. after work. and during the day when i am not at work. but my favorite time is sun down. when the clouds seem to retreat, slowly. and as they retreat, they catch colors from the setting sun :: pink, orange, coral, red, yellow, and purples and blues when dusk really begins to take hold. *sigh*

i made this painting in honor of all of the feelings above. you know that ‘if you could have one super hero power what would it be’ question ? well, my answer has always been, ‘to fly.’ i suppose flying in a helicopter is as close as i have ever gotten to that feeling. i imagine skydiving is the closest i could get – even though you are technically falling when that happens.. but, i’ve heard it ‘feels like flying.’ what a funny expression by the way, no ? because who actually knows what flying feels like ? if you or anyone you know has been born with the gift of flight, please contact me immediately. i need to speak to them.

why flying ? because i can’t imagine a feeling more liberating than just deciding to pick yourself up off the ground and fly to where ever you want to go. i know that i am not the only person to feel this way, but i know that many people say ‘invisibility’ when posed with the super hero question. so, yeah.

before i say anything else, let me say this :: i am not a racist. i care not about the color of your skin or the country in which you were born. i don’t care where people come from or what they look like – we are all human beings deserving of that rather vague concept that is happiness. that said, the longer i live in Chinatown, the more i feel a sense of cultural isolation. i have noticed that if i am in a deli in Chinatown – regardless of whether i am the first in line or in the middle – i am treated as though i were standing dead last. until i am the only caucasian left standing in the room, i will not be served. this happens nine times out of ten. it has reached a point where i have deliberately stopped frequenting most local delis merely because i am irritated at being treated this way. at first, i thought i was imagining things. i’d heard some stories from people that i know, but figured they were over-reacting. i was wrong. i now know that they were being dead serious and to be honest ? it breaks my heart – not just a little, but a lot.

so this feeling of displacement has slowly begun to seep into my sense of self. i know that i am not a bad person. i also know that if i am first in line i should be served first. so, standing in line at a counter where you are treated as though you have been bestowed with that ‘gift’ of invisibility, i am discouraged. i am not trying to blame the Chinese culture as a whole, though. i know that discrimination and ethnic injustice occurs every day in our country – i have just never been the ‘victim’ of it until now. and though my experience is extremely mild compared to most – i have a new found sense of appreciation for those that experience this on a daily basis. on a regular basis. on an at-least-ten-times-a-day basis. that’s not to say that i never felt sympathy for others before, but now i can say i feel empathy for them because in my own small way – i know what they are talking about and it doesn’t feel good. and yes, that is the understatement of the year.

[acrylic on watercolor paper]




Filed under design, illustration (both acrylic and oilt)

6 responses to “trees & displacement

  1. cindy

    Wait until you turn fifty. That’s when I became invisible and it was quite a crush to my sense of self also. p.s. I like the way you write

    • linda tonn

      Cindy and Jessi – totally understand from a different perspective – discrimination and prejudice can be extremely subtle or very far-reaching and smack-you-in-the-face obvious…. it comes in many forms and starts with little kids in kindergarten who have already picked up innuendo and ideas from parents and translates into survival of the “fittest” and acceptance by peers in any way they can – then look at the hierarchy in a dog pack and figuring out the pack leader. It is human/mammal nature to want to belong to a group and feeling isolated is a vulnerable state and not optimal for survival. L

  2. I’m sorry, Cindy. the feeling of one’s self being crushed is … well, it’s just a down right nasty feeling to have and I am sorry that having turned 50 you now experience this… seriously though, my condolences for your ‘sense of self.’ I wish you the best and thank you .. hope you stay tuned. I hate to write on such dark topics, but sometimes it feels unavoidable.. xx with love

  3. k


    I’m Chinese American and I get the same treatment sometimes. I don’t know that it’s straight-out discrimination or rather just a difference in culture. Take it from an employee’s perspective: when the bakery is super crowded and there’s a big crowd of noisy, cranky-sounding people elbowing each other for their turn, are you going to listen to them first, or the quiet person standing politely in line? What I’ve learned is that you have to butt in when you know it’s your turn and speak up loudly because that’s what everyone else does, and when in Rome… right? Otherwise you’re always going to be elbowed out of the way.

    You’ll get the hang of it :)

    • aww, thanks K !

      you make a good point… I better learn to start using my elbows more – good thing their pretty sharp :) it’s very true, though, what you said. so, When In Chinatown…
      thanks again :) yotps

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