October 4, 2012
I used to be the chair of Tree Canada because I have a passion for trees. I love them in every season although I feel most closely in touch with them in winter when they lose their fancy dresses and reveal themselves so eloquently against the sky. I don’t do anything weird like talk to them or hug them, but I feel their presence as an easing of the heart.
So this week, I have been off to London, Ont. to attend a meeting of the board of directors and have a presence at the biannual Urban Tree Conference. I had been especially looking forward to a field trip to the Carolinian forest, a little corner of Canada where quite tropical varieties grow.
The meetings were held and then the big moment came to grab a box lunch and board the buses. My staff had encouraged me to take my video camera to share the experience with you, so camera in hand, with an extra battery in tow, I set off with great expectations. Nor was I disappointed. There was a magnificent black maple, standing all orange and fiery reds right at the outset. There were hazelnuts, spice bushes, unusual oaks and a venerable and gigantic black poplar. As we walked through the woods, with me bringing up the rear and using my camera as an excuse for not being able to keep up the pace of the guide, I paused and took great shots of the multi-coloured leaves waving in the warm October breeze, of the shaggy bark of a shaggy barked sycamore, of the tough and craggy skin of the ancient poplar.
As we walked down, down, down, I pretty much kept up – staying within hearing distance of the guide when he stopped to identify and point out a special species. The afternoon was humid and warm, the tawny October sun painting the falling leaves on the forest floor with spangled light.
Giant beech leaves mingled with maple of equal size, red and gold. Then suddenly, the species changed and the leaves became small, the maples like coloured stars in an upside down world.
I could hear the tour in the distance. They had picked up the pace and now we were on the penalty side of that downhill stroll. I trundled along, ever upward, not sorry to be alone surrounded by tall straight trunks in an obvious plantation, much like the forests in Germany where order prevails – how dare it not? – among the trees.
I could feel my breath becoming laboured; the humidity triggered a bit of asthma and I regretted leaving my purse with its rescuer back in the bus. But mind over matter, I counseled myself, pausing to point and shoot videos less often now. I too tried to pick up the pace. I hurried along, eyes on the ground to watch for roots – I had almost taken a tumble at the outset. The air was very warm now – we had been following alongside a river and the humidity was stifling.
At last, the terrain leveled out and coming into a clearing I could see the bus in the distance across an open field. A very young parks person was waiting patiently for me in case I had somehow taken a wrong turn. It’s only 10 more minutes, he encouraged.
I was hot and tired, but smug with the thought of all my great movies to share with you. As soon as I boarded the bus, I called them up to relive the experience… but all I found was a group of images of my own feet hurrying along! I had mixed up the camera signal – counter-intuitively, green meant stop and red meant go!
Oh dear! Here is a tiny bit of what I salvaged. . . .