Old Soldiers

Awed by the great American Chestnut tree, my mother felt strongly that her children should be aware of their terribly sad story. We frequently were led deep into the forest to find the ancient, abandoned husks. She called them the “Old Soldiers” and would not allow too much play around them, despite their looking like castles to us. Easily ten feet around, we wanted to use them as forts. The fact that they were to be honored was vaguely impressed upon us, but we didn’t know much about what a blight was. Millions of trees died, and the eastern half of the country changed enormously. The paintings I’ve done are from those memories in the woods, and the emotions brought up when I think of that great loss. My husband and I have two saplings planted on our property. We are ever hopeful that the blight’s horrible impact can someday be reversed.

Janet Stoeke

Photo by Suz Redfearn

Things keep changing.

So far, I think that what looks like a backward step (painting somewhat realistically again) might really be a breakthrough for me. I paint things again (trees, sky, snow on leaves) but without the “copy-what-you-see” feel. I go out, walk around, and bring home some hopeful colors, using my memory, and my phone if I …


It’s a worry, for someone like me, to have boatloads of time. When the pandemic hit, I was very uneasy. But for some reason, I have been lucky. I’ve channeled it into 48 paintings so far. I think of this windfall as a fairly magical occurrence. I am well aware of the many possibilities, and …