Jasper’s Healing Tree Oil Painting

Jasper's oil painting

Healing Tree painting seems to dance with delight

Jasper Littletree loved to be creative. He created oil and acrylic watercolor paintings, made pottery, tie-dyed t-shirts, and did leather work. He also added many rooms to his family’s home in Kirtland, New Mexico. It started out as a mobile home, but by the time Jasper finished building, it was a spacious dwelling. His creativity had more time to blossom after he retired from his job as an electrician at the Four Corners Power Plant in 2001.

I got to know Jasper because his family attends the same church I do. They are a wonderful family and have added so much to our congregation. One day, Jasper came to a church yard sale after having a run-in with one of his chickens, a rooster determined to attack him. In an attempt to protect himself, Jasper tried to kick the rooster away. He stumbled and almost fell. After telling us about the incident, he said, “Anyone want a rooster?” We laughed. No matter what challenges life brought to him, Jasper always had a sense of humor.

Because I had purchased some of Jasper’s art work in the past, I knew what a good artist he was. I asked his wife, Carol, one day at church if he would paint a picture of a special tree for me. I sent her a picture of the tree when it was younger and healthier. The cottonwood stood beside an irrigation ditch near the house I once owned north of Aztec, NM. It was like a guardian, a grandfather to the other trees, and it made me feel good when I stood near it. It seemed natural to call it the Healing Tree, though several years later the name Grandfather Tree seemed to fit it as well.

Several years after I sold the property and moved to nearby Farmington, the irrigation ditch rider used a large piece of machinery to knock down the aging tree. A few months later when I learned what had happened, I felt like I’d lost a friend. Jasper agreed to create his own rendition of the tree. During the last few months of his life, he prepared a canvas and set out his oil paintings to capture the tree’s essence.

He worked even when he felt weak, and he finished the painting not long before he died Oct. 16, 2023 at the age of 85. When I went to his house a few days after he died, I asked the family what I owed them for the painting. Carol had asked Jasper the same question, and he had said, “Just give it to her.”

Carol handed me the painting, and I held it, a cherished gift. The tree looked like it was dancing, so full of life. Somehow, as Jasper’s health declined, he was still able to capture the essence of the cottonwood’s love of life. I had it framed. It hangs in my bedroom, where I can see it every morning and every night.

Though I miss the tree now that it’s no longer standing, Jasper’s painting reminds me that the essence of the cottonwood remains alive. The painting also reminds me of the amazing man that Jasper was. I am so glad that the brush strokes of his creativity live on in his work, Healing Tree.

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