This multi-part editorial series was based on the “Rise and Thrive: A Lives in Landscape Exhibition” created by Milwaukee artist Brianna Joy Seipel. The project was produced in partnership with LOTUS Legal Clinic and the Untold Stories program.

This small grouping of trees is found on a long and winding road in Maui. The main road is full of elevation inclines, sits atop cliffs without guardrails, and has hairpin turns. These particular trees, however, are found off the main road on a path deeper into the rainforest. The path is even and painless to walk, but without investing the extra time to explore, I would not have discovered this unique species’ beauty. The trees, called rainbow eucalyptus, display especially vibrant colored bark after a rainfall.

This painting represents forgiveness. Some people describe forgiveness as a choice, inferring that it occurs in a single moment. I believe that journeyed forgiveness holds much more depth than a simple choice of forgiveness.

To me, forgiveness feels more like a long and winding road. A road that at times, feels unprotected with no guardrails. These stretches can make us question whether we have forgiven. We can look over the cliff and see a gulch of anger, bitterness, and even hatred, causing us to fear we may fall into that chasm. I don’t believe those moments mean we haven’t forgiven. Those unguarded moments of intense emotion are the uncertain edges and elevation inclines we experience when we journey through forgiveness. By themselves, they may not feel beautiful, but they are part of the remarkable landscape of forgiveness. Other times, we experience a stretch of road that feels effortless, like the path these trees were on. When we invest time and explore a deeper level of forgiveness, there are moments of rewarding beauty and freedom.

We can choose forgiveness as a starting point, but we must journey through the process. When we do that, we honor the losses we experienced and stop discounting the harm that has been done. It is then that we can experience a beauty that is enhanced after a rainy or inclement season.

Brianna Joy Seipel: Artist Response: From a distance, eucalyptus trees appear gray, but the closer you get the more color you see. This painting was a joy to make, particularly because the nature of oil paint is perfect for the blending of color in vivid yet subtle ways. I love the heart of this writer’s voice. We don’t heal from any major life event overnight, but in time we realize we are more vibrant and more alive after the rain.

L. Anderson

Rainbow eucalyptus trees on The Road to Hana, Maui.

Brianna Joy Seipel
Through her Lives in Landscape™ Project, Brianna Joy Seipel has worked collaboratively, curating exhibitions that honor the stories of remarkable human beings in Milwaukee. By telling their stories through “landscape narratives,” her work highlights the wild beauty of the natural world that is a reflection of the true self we all share. LOTUS Legal Clinic empowers survivors of sexual violence and trafficking. They provide direct, comprehensive legal services, advocacy, and community education, and they invest in survivors as change agents. Serving the state of Wisconsin since 2013, their vision is to create a national model for restoring the dignity, rights, and voices of survivors. As of 2019, Legal Clinic has served 117 survivors through the Untold Stories project, empowering men and women alike to bear witness and share their stories as vehicles for powerful personal and social change. Rise and Thrive: A Lives in Landscape Exhibition is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board, with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.