The original Hope and the 3 Children in 1993.
Once upon a time, there was a huge tree, supposedly 57 years old, at the corner of my front yard.
I later learned that it actually came from three red oaks, grown together with conjoined roots. The tree offered lovely shade, but became overgrown with the passing years. I could hardly grow any flowering plants. Several attempts to trim the branches, which turned out to be quite costly, only made the tree grow more vigorously, with deep roots damaging the foundation of the house.
Constantly fighting a losing battle with oak drops and fallen leaves in the spring and fall, I finally decided to have it cut down, but left the trunk about 12 feet high, with the hope that it could be made into some kind of a sculpture. Searching for a tree artist proved almost impossible. One artist said it would require a scaffolding. I thought cutting the trunk to half its height might improve the chance of finding someone to work on it.
It took almost 3 years before I found Frank Reedy, who has a woodworking shop in Scituate that's on my way to work. He knew a Korean Tree Artist, Sang In Kim, and together they started working on the tree stump. That was October, 1993.
Working with children for most of my professional life (I'm a child psychiatrist), I wanted the sculpture to have the theme of children at play. The 3-trees-in-1 allowed the two artists to create 3 children standing, with linked arms. There was enough room to add one more figure, hence the kneeling girl with her hands clasped, depicting a Thai greeting. We eventually named her Hope, to signify optimistic anticipation, plus we are just off Hope Street.
The three standing children represented my three children, now 41, 38 and 35. They were frozen in time and would remain children, playing in a unified fashion.
Providence Journal reporter Thomas J. Morgan wrote a nice article about the sculpture that appeared on Friday, October 8, 1993. Here's how it begins, with the lines from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:
Tree stump's metamorphosis proves a street show supreme
Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the Gods
Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds
They are emerging gradually and gleefully from a stump on Eighth Street, these four wood sprites whose sudden transmogrification startles passers-by and causes vehicles to jack up.
Yet another car halted. Its driver gawked. "The neighbors say this is better than a speed bump," said a grinning Frank Reedy, one of the two magicians cutting the life-size figures free from their prison of red oak. His associate, Sang In Kim, cloaked himself in concentration as he chiseled wafer-thin curls from around the eyes of one figure... (more at that headline link)
Now, almost 14 years later, the carved tree stump has gone through several makeovers with varnishes, paints and even "surgeries" to replace the feet with steel and the tree root with concrete. The sun, rain, snow and the number of years caused irreparable damages, although we still hope it will stand there for years to come.
Many people came to expect me to accessorize them with hats, scarves and shawls, according to the changing season. One year I received a phone message from an elderly gentleman from Philadelphia. Visiting relatives in Providence around Thanksgiving, he said, he noticed that I had not put on their winter gear like I usually did and he was afraid that I had neglected them.
How wonderful it is that people come to care about an inanimate object that adds such personalized feelings and grace to my little garden!