Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Crying Tree

A gnarled tolkien-like box elder (or manitoba maple) used to live on our front lawn right beside the curb. It was a delight to our children - the perfect climbing tree, filled with dozens of burls and natural places to sit or stand, half sheltered from the street below. When one of our kids was really upset or angry, and we had used up our meagre bag of parenting tricks, we would take them out to sit up in the tree until they had calmed down. As they got older, we could sometimes just send them out to the Crying Tree when they needed a break from whatever was brewing inside the house.

Lu was just a baby when we first used the tree for Comfort. I set her down, wrapped in a blanket and screaming, on the first burl-ledge and stood there thinking about why I got so upset she got upset. The twilight and fresh air, the play of fall leaves above her, seemed to work almost instantly, and when we came inside we had a name for the tree.

The last formal visit to the tree belonged to Kate and Finn, who climbed up to the big fork to have a deep conversation about something, now forgotten, that was very important at the time. In between these mileposts, it was a fort, hiding spot, guardpost, cat-perch, and tower in a castle. In addition to children, it was host to many woodpeckers, especially in the last few years, and was part of the squirrel highway that allowed safe passage along the street, out of reach by cats.

The tree has been dying for few years, a victim of whatever had caused the teeming burls, and it became clear that we had to do something with it before the rot set in. The City of Prince George made our decision for us, and came with chainsaws and a woodchipper to take it down last summer. We salvaged as many burls as we could, and handed them over to a local woodturner (Greg Clarke) to dry the wood and work them into something we could keep. He fashioned 20 or more objects from the tree, most of which we received today.

The Crying Tree bore witness to our laughter and tears, to our street barbecues, to our comings and goings, and our attempts to make a Hobbit-home out of our house. It had the power to calm, and was a source of fascination for neighbours and strangers alike. They gave it names like the Booby Tree, the Gnarly Tree, and the Schmoo Tree. On account of the low growths and step-like architecture, many of the kids nearby had their first solo tree-climbing experience here. I can remember at least three conversations when we were all talking out on the street and some kid asks a parent "can I climb this tree?" and the parent looks at it for a bit and says "yeah, of course, why wouldn't you."

The Crying Tree was a staging area for many games and role-plays that I was never privy to, a source of secrets and schemes, but it was the Comfort it gave to my kids when they were sad that makes me most thankful. The tree will have to continue this important work now as the Crying Bowls; maybe there is still some role they will play in the emotional health of our family.

1 comment:

Rob Lewis said...

Nice bowls! Too bad the tree is gone it was the perfect compliment to the Thielmann clan but very cool way of letting it live on. Makes me think I should make a salad or something with the mushrooms that grow in my lawn.