I came to trees too late. There weren’t any where I grew up on the arctic tundra, often above the tree line, near Nome. .  It was as though the passports of the deciduous and the conifer had expired and could not venture where we were at Cape Prince Of Wales.  One day wind, (tree’s ancient lover), blew so strongly down the rough rocky beach where my parents were prospecting, it caught my sister. Being too young to walk, I was situated within an abandoned truck tire given some dried cod to gnaw and a doll with sealskin hair to keep me company.      But my older sister was being rushed helplessly towards the Bering Sea, being not more than forty pounds and the wind billowing her parka like a sail.    Fortunately, like everyone else in my exceedingly loud family, she had excellent lungs. My parents came running up the beach, abandoning the dig where 20,000 miners had found gold years before, rescuing her just before he was blown into those icy waters.   Then of course, they either had to fill her pockets with rocks or find a truck tire she couldn’t climb out of.  The wind is an indifferent babysitter.      A tree in the way would’ve been something to which she might’ve been tethered. But all along that stretch of dug up beach, there were no trees at all.      As early as I can remember I was plotting to get off that peninsula and out of there. Not to Siberia, which we could see across the strait, just as bleak and treeless but to a place that didn’t require a beaverskin parka and pants, a canvas parka underneath, then a lumpy hand-knit sweater, two shirts and a wool muffler wound ‘round the whole. A need to go to the bathroom was met with an impatient order to hold it.  Parkas these days, with air for insulation  are astounding in their unnatural hues of reds, oranges and plum, not to mention lightweight as a sigh.        But I came to trees too late. All I can see is bullies, forest mobs of predators.  One of me and acres of them, amassing their armies with every seedling dropped seemingly by accident into my garden and in my way. The old ones threaten to crush as they fall, the youngsters moan to the seductive passion of the wind.   These days the romantic wind has gone corporate, dragged off to power vast cathedrals of energy through great clumps of controversy.  Trees and wind, an unholy alliance with a sordid past. Look at their disgraceful behaviour in the southern hemisphere.  Weather bullying under the quasi-legitimate label of typhoon and hurricane.  Sticklike things purporting to be trees being whipped by the wind at anything that moves, called palms but looking like something constructed from paper Marché for a grade 8 diorama. And of course all of this described lovingly and in great detail by the weather channel, as though there was some romance inherent in this menacing, incessant roar culminating in your trailer being yanked from its moorings followed by your favorite cow. Real trees are broken-nosed bouncers, massive sentinels, root systems guarding their space in every direction, not friendly companions on the journey despite Robert Stevenson’s poem about apple trees and small boys.  The arctic poet, also a Robert S, knew the proper place of trees as firewood. Before he left the arctic permanently for the south of France, he set it out in The Cremation of Sam McGee.     In the interest of full disclosure, during the notorious east coast ice storm that preceded the millennium, trees came down on my power lines. I was out of my house nearly three months, losing my little out of print bookshop permanently. Trees, (the wimps) fell in every direction, one taking out a neighbour’s new car.  The park was a morass of broken limbs. Our streets were impassable. Chain saws drowned out every other noise for days as crews sawed and chopped the way back to civilization.  In spite of Joyce Kilmer, I’ve read hundreds of poems more lovely than a tree. All I know is the dread I feel when forced to walk in the woods and a panic-stricken voice screams, “Timber!”

1 Comment

  1. I enjoyed your visit to the Wally Elmer writing group and wanted to send my thanks and my appreciation.

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