When I was a little girl I climbed a lot of trees. Our house was surrounded by a boreal jungle, and I considered it mine.
Wishart Conservation Forest, seen here in a picture borrowed from the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority, is exactly what I picture in my mind - that image - when I recall my earliest walks there with my father absorbing all he had to say about the plants, the trees, and blooms near our feet. He was an early riser, I think he's the reason I am, and I think that's why so many of my memories of Wishart are morning memories. Chickadees made the trees sing.
Wishart Conservation Forest was adjacent to the property line belonging to my parents. It was my father who wanted to own "everything he could see" - to avoid bad neighbours, of course (hah!). And that he did, but more importantly he sought serenity, away from everything. Eventually development caught up with him, although not directly; I can recall two events.
The first was the construction of a tower, some sort of television broadcasting transmitter, which disrupted the tree line along the hilltop horizon seen from our backyard. It was miles and miles away, across the Current River, through the forest, up over the hill. I think for a while he sought it, in his jeep - with myself along, sometimes my sister, driving the country roads around those hills between the river and Copenhagen Road. I'm sure he found it, but thankfully that memory isn't significant enough to recall. What my memories do recall are all the comments exchanged about how that tower changed that tree line, and how what was once not seen, now was.
The second is more distinct. It provoked me to identify with the trees, filling me with a protective appreciation for them. It was when the same tree line changed again after construction began on the other side of the hill. They started removing trees, White Pines, if you can believe it... it was those White Pines that made the tree line a tree line, without them it was a tree-top line.
There were three huge trees in the tear drop of our driveway, two Tamaracks and a Blue Spruce - huge. I climbed the Tamarack closest to the house most often; it had a great spread of branches, easy to navigate, (even in a dress) (I gave my mother heart attacks, she says). But, it was in these trees surrounded by that forest, I believe, that my interest in the natural world was founded.
I wandered away, through those woods for hours on end. The way I saw it, there was no way I could get lost (which was the worst thing I thought could happen, I guess bears didn't cross my mind then the way they do now *shrug*). I could wander south and bump into the Paquette dam ruins (that was one boundary I created), east I would hit the river. There I would stop to watch the beavers on a chunk of the dam ruins that was a few rock hops and two slightly wet boots into the river. I'd sit there quietly, often with Sam [DOG WHO WAS A WONDERFUL FRIEND] , and I'd sit there for long times sometimes waiting to see the flop of a beaver tail, and while I did I watched the trees and tried to remember things my parents told me about which one was which and how I could distinguish each better. For just as long I would watch them and think nothing but how beautiful they were, and I'd listen. Thankfully, I still make sure I do that.
West to the river was the road, and squaring off my boundary is the path through Wishart from the road to the river. Our house was near the middle-south of this rectangular playground. I'd be really curious to learn the footage of that plot I plotted. I can't remember a time in my life that I didn't wander around in there regularly, which only means that I've done that from my earliest memories which I'm beholden to (I make a point to think of it all, often, so as to not forget - ever).
I have these weird little snippets of mornings in Wishart with my father, looking at moss, or a Trillium, the forest floor. Bark was another thing he talked about, inadvertently-purposely creating files in my brain - if only he could know how I've been enjoying all his effort - and I recall on that when I try to tell one tree from another. I could wander through those trees, zig-zagging and going east to west in a web of directions, I saw so many. I think part of the reason I felt so safe was thanks to Sam, who ran in circles around me as I explored. He did that in the winter too, when I show shoed from my front door through to the entrance of something people drove to for what seemed forever.... to a place that was mine. I always wondered how many other people felt it was theirs and always hoped many people do in whatever way they imagined (as I had), and I'd watch them admiring the trees, and the sun shining through the trees, and I'd smile to myself because I felt so lucky to live there.
There was a creek just beyond the decrepit barn between our house and the forest between us and Wishart, I crossed it often. The ferns were thick, spotting fiddle heads was a game we played on muddy walks in April.
Because my memory isn't as snazzy as my camera, I will make a vow now to document as much as I can remember this year. I the process, I hope Hannah inadvertently-purposely creates a few files of her own in the process. I hope she listens to Natalie McMaster's fiddle while she does that too, because the music really suits the subject (I'm listening now and I like it).
I couldn't imagine living there now and functioning in my life properly, which only makes me admire it more and be thankful for it. I had memorized the trees, the topography, the relations - I knew that forest and I believe it defines a great part of what I admire, keep trying to recreate in some way or another. I will again.
I'm going to teach Hannah the art of climbing trees in a dress this summer. Heh.
Friday, March 30, 2007