If ever an image could illustrate how all of this sudden emphasis on social distancing feels to me.. and although I fall more on the introvert end of the spectrum, I much prefer hibernating on my own terms.

How quaint it seems now, looking back on the month of January when I took 4 weeks away from the rest of society- on purpose- in an effort to focus on writing the first draft of my first novel. How quaint it all seems, having a glass of wine at a crowded bar, accepting a hug from a friend, taking a flight or a train ride to a bustling city for a photo shoot, going to a live concert, a hair appointment, a diner, on a date.

I’ve been photographing this tree for nine and a half years now and even though it is Tree v2.0, the scene never fails me, either serving to uplift, inspire, mystify, or reflect the weather within.

EDIT: a dear friend just sent this raw John Lennon demo of “Isolation” to me in response to this post and I wanted to include it here:



couple snapshots from early this morning outside of the studio…

sunrise! 645 am Octobertime

if I had to awaken on a bed of yellow mums, I’d be in the shape of a smile too. : )

We really got doused last night!

funny things one sees outside of the studio (DD!)

Tree update

Snow began to fall in Chester County, PA this afternoon causing a poetic hush over the land so I decided to grab my gloves and go see The New Tree. The landowner apparently had a new tree air lifted and planted right where the infamous one was before lightning brought it down in June. I was told that when he bought the property he was just as enamored with the tree as were many of us in the region and he made (obviously) heroic efforts to reestablish the alluring landscape it created.

Today was the first time I saw this replacement tree… and true, it still makes a great a picture, but it’s really not quite the same– and it’s not because I’m sentimental or a purist. The shape of this tree is different on the bottom; the branches do not create the same special aesthetic as the original Tree. This new tree will still get some face, lens, and paintbrush time out of me despite the differing nuance in silhouette but it does not possess the same level of captivation for me.

I had also deep down hoped they would plant a sapling and we would all get to enjoy seeing it grow year after year into something of it’s own. I didn’t expect a whole mature tree to be uprooted and transplanted in it’s place.

The spell has been broken! and in my peripheral I will be scanning horizons for a new Tree muse. My “This Little Girl / The Tree Grows” project will be paying homage to the original Tree up on the Hill that provided the catalyst to a literary transformation in me and my creative work. (More on that in the coming New Year!)

See the original Requiem for a Tree blog post HERE.


For Anita

I lost a friend and an irreplaceable, impeccably kindred spirit just before Thanksgiving suddenly and much sooner than I ever, ever expected. She was just 31. Beyond that, I really have no words for it.

Turning down a lane behind Barnard Orchards in Chester County, PA this foggy misty morning I drank in this tranquility, and wept.




I read a quote online recently that I can’t seem to relocate but the essence of it was something like this:

Who will regard your dying as beautiful?

Those of us in love with the season of Autumn as much as I must on some level regard aging and letting go as a beautiful process; a glorious celebration in bursts of colour, sexy textures, smokey scents. Summer’s tantrum is through and the following season is an eloquent, sensual eulogy before a snowy funeral, really; at least if you live in an area that experiences four proper seasons.

Where else in life do we regard the aging and dying process as such a gorgeous one? What if we were to embrace it in each other with such revelry, presence, appreciation as well?


Requiem for a Tree


West Chester and Chadds Ford Life magazine, Fall 2013 edition

It was early October in 2010 that found this little girl pensively navigating the as-yet uncharted territory that was Chester County, Pennsylvania in her black 5 speed VW, sunroof open, heat full blast on the floor while the sun dipped below the horizon. I do my very best thinking while driving as it’s a practice handed down to me from my father; wander lusting, on new-to-me roads and I headed north from Delaware on rt. 52 past Winterthur and just kept going.

I knew from art history and regional celebration that I was in N.C. and Andrew Wyeth territory and I knew that the serenity of those rolling hills and curving roads called to me. I had just completed two of the biggest photography assignments I’d been invited to do up in New York City and thirsted for solace, a recharge, from the fight and fury of having spent so much time steeped in such a frenetic, frenzied metropolis. My cells required it of me. And, after the completion of those assignments, I felt a bit empty. I needed to suss out a new direction for myself.

Enormous farms, unadulterated fields, roaming horses, the road weaving through with meandering abandon; I felt a great exhale.

Somewhere in between the surreal dusk and the beginning tendrils of starlight I rounded a curve and magically, poetically, a tree standing lone on the top of a steep hill emerged. It was a perfect unassuming silhouette against a navy nakedness so true. I pulled over to admire it and to snap a quick image of it with my iPhone so that I could do a watercolor of it later back at home. It stood, isolated, beautiful in it’s inaccessibility. A painting in real life.

I sat alert and gazed up at that tree until it was barely detectable in the night and the autumn chill became uncomfortable. Inexplicably affected, I climbed back into my car and drove away.

I had no idea where I was or it was or how to find it again.

Over the course of the next six months, I made regular trips to explore the rustic beauty of Chester County, hoping to happen upon that tree. I was so inspired by it that I wrote journals-full of prose about it. I even began to sketch it out for use with a fable I had written years ago that I unearthed and have expanded upon as a major and dear-to-me project. It became a profound visual metaphor for the very beginning of a special story about a journey and the evolving understanding of the Universe, and the backbone of a lot of the creative work I’ve done since which I’ve umbrellaed under the moniker “The Tree Grows”.


It wasn’t until I had posted the only evidence I had: a terrible, grainy, rude iPhone image to my Facebook six months later that someone took notice of it, and (miraculously- seriously) knowing exactly the tree it was, contacted me about it. I had just begun doing a lot of tree research and was looking for two particular styles of trees for my project. A few days later I was whisked away by motorcycle (!) for a Grand Tree Research Journey with a guide who knew the County all too well. We observed trees at Loch Nairn, we looked at trees around Unionville, north of Kennett Square, and eastward toward West Chester.

On this brisk Sunday afternoon tour I met my great wise friend that many in my close circle have become acquainted with as “Mr. Quercus Alba”, an enormous oak older than the state of Pennsylvania itself that sits next to a Quaker meeting house just off of Newark Rd. As a vast old tree with so many branches it dominates the sky when standing nearby. Mr. Quercus was perfect for the end of my story about the journey. I have returned religiously to sit with, sketch, storyboard about, evolve my story around, visit when I’m celebrating and when I’m mourning, and introduce to those closest in my heart as if he’s a member of my human family.

The very next tree I was taken to on the motorcycle tour emerged just as it did the very first time I experienced it. We rounded a lazy curve and there it came to be, up on the horizon, lone, perfect. In wonderful spring daylight. At last!

The Tree Up On the

All in one Sunday I had met both the Alpha and the Omega for “This Little Girl” (

Since that re-discovery of the Tree Up On the Hill, I’ve learned that it’s been a regional favorite for years and has been photographed countless times by professional and leisure photographers alike. It is a stone’s throw from The Whip, and just around the corner from Blowhorn.

Since that re-disovery, a whole new corner of the world has opened up to me and embraced my heart and captured my soul. I sometimes wish I could drive along the roads of Chester County like the Robert Frost poem with new eyes. Both Quercas and The Tree Up On the Hill have given me countless gifts of inspiration and love. For instance, in November of 2011 I was hungering for the inspiration of Chester County and took a drive from Chestertown, Maryland where I had been hibernating for ten delicious days on a writing retreat. After visiting “my” trees, I ended up decompressing with a glass of wine at my most favorite restaurant in the region, Sovana Bistro. It was here by absolute kismet that I was introduced via a mutual friend to two beautiful people, one of which is my incredible beau whom I consider the best birthday present I’ve ever been given as it was just a handful of days before our shared day that we met!

Many lazy-sunny Sundays since then my guy and I have languished in a drive past the hilltop tree and stopped for an early supper at the Whip. Each time I carried away from it some little spark that would fuel me (or haunt me, if I was procrastinating) creatively through the following days and weeks. At the suggestion of my significant other I began a photography project about that tree, a sort of long term study in film.

Unfortunately, it will go unfinished.

If you’re in the region or if you’ve been watching the US Open then you certainly know about the unexpectedly intense weather situations with which southeastern Pennsylvania contended the past seven days. A tropical storm pelted the 95 corridor last Friday. Northern Delaware experienced a small tornado touchdown and Chester County, PA grappled with flash flooding along the Brandywine and ancillary waterways as close to 3 inches of rain came out of the sky in just sixteen hours Monday. Monday’s rains brought comparisons amongst friends to the climactic frog scene at the end of the film Magnolia. I personally am enthralled by extreme weather- the electricity and erotic drama of it- so I was perfectly happy to batten down the hatches and feel it unfold around us.

The electricity held on faithfully as the basement’s sump pump ran constantly from Monday through a rainless and sunshiny Tuesday clearing water out and it seemed like the worst was in the past. Oh but it was not.

Yesterday morning at about 9am the Chester County skies turned black. Small flecks of hail pelted the roof and violent lightning jutted from thick rolling clouds and stabbed at the land. I was at the studio with friends around lunch time when I got a call from another photographer about our beloved Tree Up On the Hill.

The tree was down! It didn’t really occur to me until a few hours later that this was very sad news. I don’t think I was ready to process it until later in the day. I took a drive up to it early in the evening to see it for myself. It was sad, mournfully sad.


I stayed until sunset contemplating the tree and the beautiful adventure it gave me these past few years. Then I went over to the Whip where I had the bartender pull a draught for me and I raised a proper pint to the tree. Several surrounding acquaintances commiserated. It was a favorite; the landscape just isn’t the same now.

I’ve never grieved a tree before. On the outside it may seem rather silly to do so- that’s of no concern to me.

I’d really like to see them plant another one in it’s place.

The Reflecting Pool

I grabbed tickets for my boyfriend and I to see the Barnes Foundation’s new location in Philadelphia last weekend for the first time. This view greeted us as we rounded the corner to enter the museum.


© Alessandra Nicole, 2012 | All Rights Reserved

I personally had been putting a visit off because I had seen “The Art of the Steal” (a documentary that follows the struggle for control of Albert Barnes’ 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art) but curiosity and an obsession for seeing masterworks in person won out.

The Barnes collection was truly a feast for the eyes for the likes of me- walls crammed with Cézannes, Monets, Manets, Picassos, more. A beautifully produced and user-friendly free app was available to download from iTunes directly to our iPhones so we were able to embark on individual listening tours. The venue itself is marvelous for the prime piece of real estate the Foundation was able to obtain in Philly; the architecture is sleek, respectful, stylish, yet simple and intimate.

Definitely worth a trip though the consensus on museums is that such art should not be boxed up in a lump in pretty buildings but rather should be in homes and around, accessible, living amongst the people.

If you go:

a career of Nows

“Chaos often breeds life when order breeds habit.” -Henry Adams
Part of living and loving in this life is learning how to allow and appreciate each ever-unfolding moment just as it is, without judgment or resistance. Getting into the natural flow of what our experience brings our way and becoming alert and fully alive to what’s Now will breathe light and life into the images we capture, and the preservation of such a moment when in that modality of openness will lend itself to be true inspiration for others for many moments forward.


© Alessandra Nicole 2012, All Rights Reserved