Thursday, September 06, 2018

A Tree Is A Friend In Need

I don't have a credit for this graphic -- I've searched but found nothing definitive; it seems to have been shared around, which is how it came to me.
But I love what it says, and it's how I feel.

An essay I wrote called "The Trees Have Ears" was longlisted for a prestigious writing competition recently. This is the first time my work has made a longlist and I'm grateful for even that recognition of this special piece of work.
The essay was inspired by the clearcutting that has been going on around our rural Nova Scotia home for the past decade (similar to my Field Notes essay, "What Future Does A Tree Have"), and the "body parts" I found in the most recent cut next door to our house.

Here's an excerpt from the longlisted essay that describes my search for the spirit of a tree:

"The clearcut looked like a battlefield and it had been a one-sided war: tanks and machine guns against spears and rocks. The trees didn’t stand a chance.
     The first time I saw the circular, bark-covered hole of wood lying on the mossy ground of the former forest floor, I knew what it was: an ear.
     “I’m sorry,” I said.
     Thankfully, the logging company working next door didn’t have plans to supply the insatiable appetite of Nova Scotia’s biomass boiler, so I have a bag of tree ears, gathered from the clear cut after the machines departed and the trucks hauled the logs away.
     Like a scavenger on the battlefield, I wandered through the remains of the woods, climbing over stumps and limbs, and discovered body parts: ears, elbows, femurs, a pelvis, a heart. I have collected enough to create my own Frankentree.
     What I haven’t yet found is the spirit to animate it.
     I believe trees have spirits. Perhaps I’ve always believed this in that subconscious way we believe certain things about the mysteries of life. It became concrete knowledge for me after a local woodcarver sold me a Stick Santa designed from the branches of an alder bush.
      “The wood is carved green and as the wood dries and cracks, that’s a spirit coming into your house,” Faron Young told me. “It’s supposed to bring you good luck, health and fortune.”
       This was the proof I needed that spirits abide in trees, but I didn’t care about luck, health and fortune. If you could carve a slit in a branch and release a spirit, what happened when you cut an entire tree down in the woods? Where does the spirit go?
     When I interviewed Faron months later for a magazine article, he told me that trees have hearts. He explained that the heart is the hardest part of the tree.
     “When the wood dries, it’s the heart that cracks,” he added.
     In our basement, I looked at the wood piled inside to feed our wood furnace, to keep us warm all winter. The centre of every round log had a crack through it.
     That’s how the spirit escapes. Through the broken hearts of trees.
     But where does it go?"

Right now, as I share this, my husband is planting trees around the pond. My father was a tree planter and I married a man just like my father. 
How lucky am I? 
If we all planted a tree a year, we might save ourselves. For what is a tree but a saviour? 

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