Wednesday, April 16, 2014

growing a forest in the city

My little Emerald Ash Borer, Madge, and I attended the first class of the Citizen Pruner Program last night. By rare luck Rohan also happened to be in town (in fact his plane landed less than an hour before the start of class and I was there waiting with my boots on as he pulled into the driveway), so he also joined for the evening.
I am SO HAPPY I chose to do this. When I signed up I was literally sitting on my bathroom floor after long cry, sniffling and flipping through The Key when I saw the ad for this year's course. April seemed a long way away at the time, and I really wasn't sure if I would be up to being involved in ...anything...
I decided to sign up, on the off chance I'd feel like doing something by April.

Since that time...
....I've found myself back at work,
involved in other projects,
considering more..
So here I am in April, still crying, but back in it..., and loving this class. 

I've been wanting to learn more about trees. My knowledge of them is very book based and photography driven, but identification often escapes me and I didn't even realize how little I knew about their care until last night.
Many of the urban trees I've admired for years, photographed in seasons, are actually trees at risk, trees who haven't been properly pruned for life in the city. What we need to be striving for is to:
"grow a forest tree in the city." ~ Vince Rutter
Which means assisting trees to grow as they would in their natural forest setting, but in an urban jungle of concrete rivers and competitors for height. Trees in the forest grow tall, reaching their canopies to beyond one another. Urban trees don't compete for that sort of growth, height isn't their main concern.

Survival is really their only real motivation - sort of like grieving parents. Reach for the sky and reach for everything around you, hope for the best. 

The irony being that shortly before the class Madge and I admired some trees in famous Canadian paintings to get ourselves in "tree-mode".. 
Madge doesn't damage trees
she admires them in famous Canadian paintings
Very much in the theme of an earlier post about my desire for a "droopy spruce" for Finn's garden, in my mind I saw a White Pine in a forest - my favourite (with Tamaracks) ~ or something similar from a Tom Thomson painting when Vince spoke of those forest trees in the city. A tree as it should look, and what we admire as fine art. 

We don't have those kinds of trees in urban settings. Our city trees (with the exception of a few) are allowed to reach further than they grow tall. They find themselves developing extra limbs and unnatural growth - things that our human species would baulk at and insist on fixing immediately ... plastic surgeons make more $money$ than radiologists. Just sayin'. 

This class is going to help us take better care of all the trees in our new yard, and any new ones to be added. It has already taught me so much, and changed my perspective. I see trees with new eyes thanks to a few hours of an entertaining lecture ~ what can happen in another couple classes and some field work? A lot, I think. 

Madge, my rather incredible little bug, was hand crafted in clay by artist Heidi Hunter. Her creations are something intriguing, quirky, hilarious, sometimes a little grotesque (but I like that). I've been following her on Instagram, Twitter, and Etsy and enjoyed immensely the "construction" of the Emerald Ash Borers as she made them. She posted photos of their ceramic class anatomy being built from books of bugs - so gross but so interesting. Madge has all her little bug parts, she's a real EAB, just turned to stone and glazed pretty with sparkly eyes. 
Find Heidi by searching @elfguts

links to good stuff:

Vince asked us all to draw a tree at the beginning of class - what we thought what a "perfect tree" first drawing was similar to this, but without the roots. (and I added a bird's nest in my first tree) (can't find that drawing).. anyway, he suggested we try drawing another tree at the end of the class, and notice the differences.
In yoga, and during acupuncture I often visualise a tree - specifically the Oak in our front yard. I breathe through the roots, up the truck, through the branches, into the leaves reaching into the sky then back down through it all into the roots and into the earth. Why I left roots off my first drawing ...bothers me.. .My branches weren't as well "pruned" either - more like a city tree than a forest tree. These on my after-class tree may not be much better, it could be taller - with a better canopy.
I wonder what kind of tree I'll draw in a few months...

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